People living in poverty are often directly dependent on natural resources such as forests, land, rivers and seas, and are therefore hit particularly hard by environmental pollution and climate change. This is why investments in environmental sustainability help people to continue using natural resources to lift themselves out of poverty.
Environmental sustainability is a prerequisite for sustainable economic development, democratic development, an equitable society, poverty reduction and for achieving the global goals.
Today, the links between human rights and the environment are obvious. When the environment is exploited in a manner that is not sustainable, it often leads to violations of human rights. There are many examples of natural resource exploitation leading to violations of people's right to life, health and safety. Violations of human rights can also have serious environmental consequences.
The planetary boundaries have been crossed
Research shows that four of the nine "planetary boundaries" have been crossed. The boundaries show the environmental processes governing the Earth’s stability and within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive in the future. Examples of these are biodiversity loss, including species extinction, climate change and eutrophication.
When we cross a boundary, we are over-exploiting a resource so that it is destroyed permanently or has difficulties recovering. Comparing this with personal finances, it could be said that if a person has used up all their savings and assets, they have no buffer and might go bankrupt.
We are dependent on ecosystem services
All human activity, even in the rich part of the world, is dependent on ecosystems and their services, such as access to clean water, clean air, soil for food production, insects for pollinating food plants, shelter, spawning areas for fish, coastal protection and climate stabilisation.
An increase in global temperatures, severe changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans and other effects of climate change have a particular influence on densely populated coastal areas, small island nations and on low-lying coastal countries where many of the least developed countries are found. The survival of many communities and the planet's biological support systems are in danger if developments continue in line with the current rate.
Climate change, over-exploitation of natural resources, and pollution of air and water have a greater impact on people living in poverty as they themselves have little opportunity to influence their situation. They are often directly dependent on the local ecosystems, often live in the worst environments and often have limited opportunities for an alternative income if the ecosystems collapse. Besides this, poor people are more exposed and vulnerable to drought and flooding, which are increasing due to climate change.
The environment is a political priority
An integrated environmental and climate perspective is one of five perspectives which the Swedish Government has decided that Sida's activities are to be built on and permeated by. Sweden and Sida have led the way in raising the environment and sustainable development on the global agenda. This includes strengthening and promoting environmental sustainability in different sectors and in dialogue with stakeholders at all levels.
Another important element is active work to ensure that the processes, actors and cooperations having the environment as a primary goal – ranging from climate negotiations to contributions for better waste management – are based on a poverty and rights perspective and involve the active participation of women.
Active support for environmental sustainability
Sida works to strengthen countries' own capacity and ability with regard to environmentally sustainable development and to create a strong ownership by decision-makers at different levels. Sida provides support to a wide range of actors, such as government agencies, non-governmental organisations and international bodies, and collaborates with the private sector and research.
Managing cross-border environmental issues, such as climate change and shared water resources, also requires cooperation between various stakeholders at the global, regional, national and local levels.
Sida's contributions - from research to small-scale grassroots projects
In Georgia, 40,000 volunteers have cleaned a 600-hectare area of land through a Keep Georgia Clean project. The management of emissions and waste has major deficiencies in Georgia. For this reason, Sida supports organisations working to increase understanding and create opinion in favour of environmentally sustainable waste management.
Sida supports Research for more sustainable agriculture CGIAR in order to, among other things, find crops that are more drought-resistant and climate-adapted, as well as to make better use of water resources. One result from this research is a new rice plant, "Scuba rice". It can withstand flooding that usually results from climate change. The plant sends up a shoot above the water surface, thereby securing sun and air.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, is an organisation that is adopting an increasing poverty and rights perspective. Sida is providing IUCN with SEK 120 million in the period 2013–2016. IUCN compiles and supplies scientifically based knowledge on the world's nature – such as the Red List of Threatened Species – and is a driving force in global policy processes such as the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. IUCN also works to strengthen people's opportunities to derive income from natural resources.
Sida also supports IUCN's work for integrated water resource management, forest management and coastal zone management in both Africa and Asia. IUCN has helped to improve cooperation and coordination between different actors at different levels. IUCN also works with gender equality and has, for example, helped to significantly improve this perspective in national climate adaptation strategies in Africa.
More results can be found under Results for Environment and climate.
An environmental and climate perspective should permeate all contributions
An environmental perspective is also to permeate all Sida's contributions, in all sectors. Contributions are assessed both on the basis of how they are affected by environmental changes – such as overfishing, deforestation, climate change and other environmental pollution – and how they can proactively contribute to an environmentally sustainable development.
The expected development potential is weighed against the risks of a negative impact on the environment. The goal conflicts that might arise are to be identified and made visible, and proposals produced for how these should best be managed.