Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Call for Participation: 2018 edition of the Geneva Challenge-- Advancing Development Goals International Contest for Graduate Students “The Challenges of Climate Change”

At Prof. Martina Viarengo's suggestion, who is chairing the academic steering committee, I would like to pass along information for what ap`pears to be a quite interesting challenge and opportunity for graduate students--the 2018 edition of The Geneva Challenge - Advancing Development Goals international Contest for graduate students. This year, students are invited to develop analysis-based proposals on "The Challenges of Climate Change".

For more information:

Prizes: The ADG contest distributes 25,000 CHF in monetary prizes. The winning project is awarded CHF 10,000; the two teams in second place will receive CHF 5,000 and the two teams in third place, CHF 2,500. 
More information follows, including the Concept Note.

The 2018 edition of the Geneva Challenge is a project funded by Swiss Ambassador Jenö Staehelin and is supported by Kofi Annan, the high-patron of the contest. The Geneva Challenge aims to encourage interdisciplinary problem solving analysis among master students on advancing human development within the scope of a relevant topic.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and has become a critical concern for both developing and developed countries. As the key to this issue is an interdisciplinary solution, crossing traditional boundaries between academic disciplines, we are inviting graduate students from all academic programmes to provide helpful strategic recommendations. This year, we will distribute five prizes, one per continent.

Teams of 3-5 master students must submit an 8,000 word proposal which:

identify a challenge stemming from climate change;
construct an interdisciplinary analysis on how it affects different aspects of development in a specific (but transposable) context;

propose innovation at the policy, practice, process or technology levels turning the challenge into development opportunity.The Geneva Challenge 2018 will distribute 25’000 CHF in monetary prizes and the finalists will be invited to publicly present their work in Geneva before a panel of high-level experts. Networking opportunities are also envisioned as part of the prize package.

Registrations close on 16th April 2018.

Submission due by 20th August 2018.


The Advancing Development Goals International Contest for Graduate Students
“The Challenges of Climate Change”

“Climate change is the defining threat of our time. Our duty - to each other and to future generations - is to raise ambition. We need to do more on five ambition action areas: emissions, adaptation, finance, partners and leadership.” Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – UN Secretary-General António Guterres
“Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow.”1 – United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
Last year, 1’862 graduate students, representing 108 different nationalities, registered in 536 teams to take part in the Geneva Challenge 2017, with over 57 percent of the participants coming from a developing country university. Building on this success, the Graduate Institute continues to encourage interdisciplinary problem solving analysis among graduate students from all over the world. Thanks to the vision and support of Ambassador Jenö Staehelin, a long-standing partner and friend of the Graduate Institute, we are proud to launch

the fifth edition of The Geneva Challenge – Advancing Development Goals Contest, which in 2018 proposes discussions on
“The Challenges of Climate Change”

Climate change is undisputedly one of the greatest challenges of our time. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2015), each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850. The IPCC shows that both land and ocean temperature globally have increased in a linear trend and “show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06]°C2 over the period 1880 to 2012” (IPCC, 2015: 3). Human-induced climate change is caused by the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, the combat against climate change is core to goal number 13. Moreover, the 2030 Agenda stressed that the adverse impacts of this global challenge “undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.”2 Climate change impacts, adaptation as well as mitigation action needs to be considered for achieving most, if not all other 16 goals.3
1 Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform of the United Nations, “Climate change affects everyone”, http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climatechange/
2 Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform of the United Nations, “Climate change”, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/climatechange
3 Impacts World 2017, “Four key challenges for counting the true costs of climate change”,

Despite being vocalized strongly by researchers, media and civil society groups during decades, climate change and its effects on the environment have not often been at the top of political agendas. The Paris Agreement – a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – appears to be finally changing that. Its entry into force in November 2016 is moving the climate agenda forward. The last UN Climate Change Conference that took place in November in Bonn, was presided over by the Government of Fiji, a Pacific Island State highly vulnerable to climate change. The COP23 is planned to be the next step for governments to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate the transformation to sustainable, resilient and climate-safe development4. The challenge today is to establish fruitful synergies between the public, non-profit and business sectors in order to meet the set goals5 and to ensure a broad and continued societal and political support. As pointed out by the World Economic Forum, strengthening the global climate effort “requires new approaches that take a wider “systems view” of the interconnected challenges, and that involve a larger and more diverse set of actors” (WEF, 2014).
The issue of climate change and environment degradation “is a truly cross-cutting issue affecting many sectors and connected to other global challenges” (Feulner, 2015). The sources of greenhouse gas emissions and the continuous warming of our planet relate to many other environmental and humanitarian crises. Moreover, the degree of vulnerability to climate change can be characterized by considering the adaptive capacity in terms of wealth, technology, education, or infrastructure, the sensitivity to change and the degree of exposure to climate hazards (McCarthy et al., 2001). One of the most striking aspects of this global issue is that the causes and consequences in the chain of stakeholders encompass almost every company, every farm, every household and every single individual (EC, 2015).
Highlighted below are some issues and challenges related to climate change.

Effects of Climate Change on Food Security, Agriculture and Biodiversity
  • Climate change threatens the future of food security and food safety, especially in developing regions. It exacerbates the risks of hunger and undernutrition and is expected to affect all of the components that influence food security: availability, access, stability and utilisation (WFP, 2014). The Paris Agreement underlines in its preamble “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse effects of climate change”. Changing weather patterns can have immediate results on water access, loss of fertile land, loss of agricultural income, food scarcity, as well as endangering the natural flora and fauna in many regions of the world. Extreme droughts and heat stress increasing due to climate change will most probably modify “the composition, structure, and biogeography of forests in many regions” (Allen et al., 2010).
  • These effects are particularly substantial on the rural poor in developing countries, which show “limited resilience and diversity in their production
    4 COP23, “About COP23 – Bonn, 2017”, https://cop23.com.fj/about-cop-23/about-cop23/
    5 World Economic Forum, “Climate Initiative”, https://www.weforum.org/projects/climate-change- solutions

systems” (FAO, 2017: 11). For instance, 70% of Africans are relying on a rain-fed agriculture; their livelihoods are threatened by the increasing risks of floods and droughts (Connolly-Boutin and Smit, 2016; World Bank, 2009). The FAO (2017) stresses therefore the importance of “greater access to technologies, markets, information and credit for investment” in some regions in order to tackle the numerous challenges caused by climate change.

Effects of Climate Change on Water Management
  • The effects of climate change are primarily felt on water resources6. Notably, climate change impacts “the quantity, variability, timing, form, and intensity of precipitation” (Adams and Peck, 2008). The rise of water temperature, the increase in evaporation, earlier and shorter runoff seasons, and the reduction of snow cover will reduce the water supplies in many regions of the world, as well as causing increased risks of torrential rains, floods and droughts (Bates et al., 2008). The World Water Assessment Programme (2012: 541) is expecting that by 2025, situations of water stress will touch two-thirds of the world population. The water quality and sanitation are also heavily affected by climate change due to many forms of water pollution (Adams & Peck, 2008). Furthermore, water scarcity enhances the risks of illnesses, reduces economic productivity and threatens food security and the livelihood of people.
  • As the availability and demand of water becomes more and more uncertain, adequate and innovative water management policies are key to enhance resilience to climate change (OECD, 2013). Measures of adaptation with a transboundary and holistic perspective should be implemented to manage risks and reduce uncertainty (UNESCO, 2012). For instance, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2013), economic instruments such as adequate water pricing, flood insurance schemes or incentives for green infrastructures should be applied more systematically for an adaptive water management.

  • Effects of Climate Change on Health
According to the World Health Organization, tens of thousands people are dying every year due to the negative effects of climate change. The social and environmental determinants of health such as clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter, are severely disturbed by the phenomenon of climate change7. For instance, in Kenya, “children born in drought-prone areas are 50.4% likelier to be stunted and 71.1% likelier to be severely stunted” (WFP, 2014). The seasonal pattern or temporal distribution of diseases such as malaria, dengue, cholera and some other diarrhoeal diseases are strongly impacted by climate change (Confalonieri et al., 2007). Diseases linked to sanitation systems and the quality of water will also increase. Furthermore, food security’s vulnerabilities have a strong and
6 UN Water, “Water and Climate Change”, http://www.unwater.org/water-facts/climate-change/ 7 World Health Organization, “Climate change and health” http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/

indirect impact on malnutrition. The combat against these health issues is
already difficult and climate change will only exacerbate them.8
The likely impacts on labour productivity could also be one of the main economic consequences of climate change9. The increase heat exposure level has a negative impact on the economic output (Kjellstrom, 2014). According to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2012 report, this global impact “is already estimated to cost the world economy 300 billion dollars a year -around 0.5% of global GDP”.

Climate-Induced Migration, Displacement and Environmental Refugees
  • The interrelation between climate change and migration is nowadays undisputed (UNHCR, 2017). Climate change can both cause conflicts that induce displacements of populations, and aggravate existing situations of displacement (Türk, 2016). Climate change therefore undermines human security in the sense that it exercises adverse impacts on the livelihoods of people (Boano et al., 2008).
  • There is in average 25.4 million people displaced by natural disasters each year, which represents twice as many displacements due to conflicts (IDMC, 2016: 8). Climate change induced migration poses a significant policy challenge, as environmental circumstances do not confer a right to protect under international refugee law (Boano et al., 2008: 4). Environmentally displaced persons are therefore not recognized as refugees but as persons “who are displaced from or who feel obliged to leave their usual place of residence, because their lives, livelihoods and welfare have been placed at serious risk as a result of adverse environmental, ecological or climatic processes and events” (Gorlick, 2007). These populations are therefore facing severe protection gaps.
  • Additionally, the magnitude of climate’s influence on human conflict is substantial. As pointed out by the World Economic Forum (2017: 14), “changing weather patterns or water crises can trigger or exacerbate geopolitical and societal risks such as domestic or regional conflict and involuntary migration, particularly in geopolitically fragile areas”. It has been shown that with an increase in climate change, where there is warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, the estimates show that interpersonal violence rises of 4% and intergroup conflict of 14% (Hsiang et. al., 2013).
    Climate Change, Urban Planning and Green Infrastructure
In consuming 78 percent of the world’s energy, urban areas are driving climate change.10 At the same time, cities especially in low- and middle- income nations are also extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels pose key threats to cities located in coastal areas. Urban poor living in slums are more vulnerable to flooding or landslides. In addition, the threats of climate change can be increased by “social, economic and political processes, such as poor governance structures or inadequate urban design” (Carter et al., 2015).
8 Statement by WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, “The impact of climate change on human health”, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2008/s05/en/
9 Impacts World 2017, “Four key challenges for counting the true costs of climate change”, https://www.impactsworld2017.org/four-key-challenges-counting-true-costs-climate-change/
10 UN-Habitat, “Climat change”, https://unhabitat.org/urban-themes/climate-change/ CP 136 - CH-1211 Genève 21 | +41 22 908 57 00 | graduateinstitute.ch
However, “Cities are part of the climate change problem, but they are also a key part of the solution” (Kamal-Chaoui and Robert 2009:3). The management and control of urbanisation will have very large implications on the local resilience against climate change (Satterthwaite et al., 2007). Adaptive urban policies are essential and urgently needed. According to UN- Habitat, these measures “can range from “working with nature” (e.g., placing a greater emphasis on coastal resource management, or protecting mangrove and natural reef ecosystems), to a concerted “climate-proofing” of infrastructure, including storm-drainage systems, water supply and treatment plants, as well as protection or relocation of energy or solid waste management facilities”11.

Energy Security and Balancing the Energy Trilemma

The Energy Trilemma concerns the attempts to balance the energy security, environmental sustainability and energy equity as ensuring a sustainable energy system that balances both the environment impact and energy needs without further aggravation of the climate change (World Energy Council, 2015; IEA, 2016). This requires complex trade-offs between transforming energy supply, advancing energy access, addressing affordability, improving energy efficiency, and decarbonising the energy sector (World Energy Council, 2015). As put forward by the World Energy Council (2016), the challenge today will be to establish fruitful initiatives between public and private sectors in order to promote and develop technological innovations “to transform the way energy is produced and used.”

Climate Justice

The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed - the poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most.12 Although greenhouse gas emissions per person are higher in high-income countries, relative impacts of climate change are greater in low-income countries (IPCC, 2015). With the current trend of the climate change, the risk of abrupt and large- scale climate change is estimated to have a significant loss in global GDP, with poor countries suffering costs in excess of their GDP (IPCC, 2015). Furthermore, the disproportional distribution of environmental burdens and governmental protection only exacerbates poverty and inequalities (Schlosberg and Collins, 2014). In the least developed countries, mitigation or adaptation to the challenges of climate change are difficult “due to their poverty, low level of technological advancement, and high dependence on the environment for subsistence” (Reuveny, 2007: 657). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change acknowledges the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” among countries.
Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change
The wide-ranging impacts of climate change will change natural environments and have major social and economic consequences over the
11 UN-Habitat, “Climat change”, https://unhabitat.org/urban-themes/climate-change/
12 The Economist, “Climate change and inequality”, https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and- economics/21725009-rich-pollute-poor-suffer-climate-change-and-inequality

rest of this century and beyond. Climate mitigation policies require a strong international cooperation in order to face the rapid growth of the world economy (IPCC, 2014: 114). In this sense, an example of a milestone agreement is the one reached in 2016 to reduce international carbon emissions from aviation.13 Many renewable energy and energy efficiency projects have been implemented these past years, mostly in development countries, and showed promising results (UNEP, 2016). Based on the 2015 IPCC report, although reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other ‘greenhouse’ gases is essential to fight global warming, the climate will continue to change as a result of the emissions already in the atmosphere. However, this does not mean that it is not possible to have an effective defence and strategy to climate change in terms of adaptation to the climate change (Zilberman et al., 2012). Measures to increase resilience to the impacts of climate change have been introduced across different sectors and levels of society (OECD, 2015). Adaptive responses should take place from the international political arenas to the local context of autonomous individuals (Paavola and Adger, 2006). Based on the EU strategy to adaptation, “the cost of not adapting to climate change” would be at least 100 billion a year by 2020 and at least 250 billion a year by 2050 for the EU (European Commission, 2013).
In the light of the above, there is an urgent necessity for countries at all stages of development to “promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management” in order to enhance resilience to climate change.14
Overall, climate change concerns a multitude of groups and has a strategic impact on the economic growth, energy and food security, as well as human development and productivity on a global scale. Therefore, it is timely to have call for innovative and cross-cutting proposals that take into account the context and the multitude of potential actors involved.

This highlights the pivotal need for an interdisciplinary approach in confronting this global issue. The underlying idea here is that this pressing challenge provides scope of participation from various disciplines such as (but not limited to) – anthropology, development studies, economics, engineering, geography, history, international affairs, international development, law, management, political science, psychology and behavioral science, social policy, sociology and urban studies.

Hence we welcome students from diverse academic backgrounds to present their ideas and proposals to tackle this pressing issue.
13 Environmental Defense Fund, “Limiting aviation carbon pollution”,
14 The Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, “Sustainable Development Goal 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*”, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg13


Allen, C.D., Macalady A.K., Chenchouni H., Bachelet D., Mcdowell N., et al. (2010) “A global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests.” Forest Ecology and Management, Elsevier, 259 (4): 660 - 684.
Bates, B.C., Z.W. Kundzewicz, S. Wu and J.P. Palutikof (Eds.) (2008) “Climate Change and Water”. Technical Paper of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC Secretariat, Switzerland: Geneva.
Boano C., Zetter R., Morris T. (2008) “Environmentally displaced people: understanding linkages between environmental change, livelihoods and forced migration”. Oxford: Refugees Study Centre.
Carter J. G., Cavan G., Connelly A., Guy S., Handley J. and Kazmierczak A. (2015) “Climate change and the city: Building capacity for urban adaptation”, Progress in Planning, Volume 95, Pages 1-66.
Confalonieri, U., Menne, B., Akhtar, R., Ebi, K. L., Hauengue, M., Kovats, R. S., Revich, B. and Woodward, A. (2007) “Human Health”. In Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds M. L. Parry, O. F. Canziani, J. P. Palutikof, P. J. v. d. Linden and C. E. Hanson), pp. 273- 313. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Connolly-Boutin L. and Smit B. (2016) “Climate change, food security, and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa”. Reg Environ Change, 16:385–399.
DARA and Climate Vulnerable Forum (2012) “Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2nd Edition. A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet”. Madrid, Spain.
European Commission (2013) “An EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change.” European Commission. Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission (2015) “Climate Change Fact Sheet.” European Commission, November 2015.
FAO (2017) “FAO Strategy on Climate Change”. Rome, Italy.
Gorlick, B. (2007) “Environmentally-Displaced Persons: a UNHCR Perspective”, Presentation at Environmental Refugees: The Forgotten Migrants meeting, New York.
Hsiang S. M., Burke M. and Miguel E. (2013) “Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict.” Science, 341.
IEA (2016) “Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2016: Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 Excerpt, IEA Input to the Clean Energy Ministerial.” Paris, France.
CP 136 - CH-1211 Genève 21 | +41 22 908 57 00 | graduateinstitute.ch
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (2016) “Global Report on Internal Displacement”. Geneva, Switzerland.
IPCC (2014) “Climate Change 2014 - Mitigation of Climate Change. Working Group III Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. Cambridge University Press: New York, United States of America.
IPCC (2015) “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report”. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Geneva, Switzerland.
Kamal-Chaoui, Lamia and Alexis Robert (eds.) (2009), “Competitive Cities and Climate Change”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers N° 2, OECD publishing.
Kjellstrom, T. (2014) “Productivity Losses Ignored in Economic Analysis of Climate Change”, United Nations University.
McCarthy, J.J., Canziani, O.F., Leary, N.A., Dokken, D.J., White, K.S. (Eds.) (2001) Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
OECD (2013) “Water and Climate Change Adaptation: Policies to Navigate Uncharted Waters”, OECD Studies on Water, OECD Publishing.
OECD (2015) National Climate Change Adaptation: Emerging Practices in Monitoring and Evaluation. OECD Publishing, Paris.
Paavola, J. and Adger, W. N. (2006) “Fair adaptation to climate change.” Ecological Economics, Volume 56, Issue 4, 594-609.
Reuveny, R. (2007) “Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict.” Political Geography, 26: 656-673.
Satterthwaite, D. et al. (2007) “Adapting to climate change in urban areas: the possibilities and constraints in low and middle income nations”. Human Settlements Working Paper Series Climate Change and Cities, No. 1. IIED, London.
Türk, V. (2016) “A Minor Miracle: A New Global Compact on Refugees.” Launch Address, Grand Challenge on Refugees and Migrants, UNSW Sydney.
World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) (2012) “The United Nations World Water Development Report 4: Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk”. Paris, UNESCO.
United Nations Environment Programme (2016) “Renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing countries: contributions to reducing global emissions”.
United Nations World Food Programme (2014) “Climate impacts on food security and nutrition. A review of existing knowledge”. Devon, UK.
UNHCR (2017) “UNHCR and Climate Change, Disasters, and Displacement.” Geneva, Switzerland.
CP 136 - CH-1211 Genève 21 | +41 22 908 57 00 | graduateinstitute.ch
World Economic Forum (2014) “Climate Adaptation: Seizing the Challenge.” Geneva, Switzerland.
World Economic Forum (2017) “The Global Risks Report 2017 - 12th Edition” Geneva, Switzerland.
World Energy Council (2015) “World Energy Trilemma. Priority actions on climate change and how to balance the trilemma”. London, United Kingdom.
World Energy Council (2016) “World Energy Trilemma. Defining measures to accelerate the energy transition”. London, United Kingdom.
United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) (2014) “Climate impacts on food security and nutrition - A review of existing knowledge.” Devon, United Kingdom.
Zilberman D., Zhao J. and Heiman A. (2012) “Adoption Versus Adaptation, with Emphasis on Climate Change.” Annual Review of Resource Economics, 4:27–206.

No comments:

Post a Comment