Climate change will incur considerable costs. That much is inevitable, but what has become clear in the past few years is that developing nations cannot be burdened with paying those costs alone. Development goals are still paramount, and indeed the best defence to prepare for a changing world.
That, at least, is the thinking that seems to have framed this year's UN climate change summit in Cancun. As part of a modest package of agreements, nations have pledged to start a "Green Climate Fund" to help developing countries curb greenhouse gas emissions and respond to climate impact.
Voicing his support, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, said the UAE would pledge $350 million (Dh1.3 billion) to developing countries and small island states, as we reported yesterday. This commitment is not without precedent. This summer, Sheikh Abdullah presided over a meeting between the Arab League and the Pacific Small Islands Developing States to discuss the environmental impact of desertification and climate change.
Such collaborative efforts between resource-rich countries and poorer nations are vital to securing long-term results in the fight against environmental degradation. Funds may be used to encourage smart development that will allow nations to better anticipate, prepare for and guard against the negative impact of climate change.
It is development that must be the bedrock of any sound environmental policy. Building infrastructure and institutions will equip countries to handle a rise in sea levels, extreme weather patterns, and erratic temperatures. Transferring clean-energy technology, as another summit measure is intended to do, will also help to combat the negative consequences of climate change.
In some quarters, the Cancun summit will be criticised for not setting binding emissions limits or renewing the Kyoto Protocol. There clearly is more work to be done ahead of the next climate change summit in South Africa next year.
But measured steps make more sense than sweeping commitments that could do more harm than good. By focusing on development, a far more realistic outcome may be achieved.