Sustainable Development in Practice: A Handbook for Integrating Environment, Climate and Poverty Reduction.

Guest blog by Michael Stanley-Jones (2023). Sustainable Development in Practice: A Handbook for Integrating Environment, Climate and Poverty Reduction. United Nations Development Programme–United Nations Environment Programme Poverty-Environment Action: Nairobi

Poverty-Environment Action for Sustainable Development Goals, a joint project of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme, has since 2018 brought poverty, environment and climate objectives into the heart of government and private sector decision-making in eight least developed countries: Bangladesh, Lao Peoples‘ Democratic Republic, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, and Rwanda. It has contributed to further integrating poverty-environment, climate and gender objectives in three additional countries: Indonesia, South Africa and Tanzania—so as to strengthen the sustainable management of natural resources and to alleviate poverty. There are three stories from the four country impact studies: Malawi, Rwanda and Indonesia.

Building on the legacy of its predecessor, the Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), which operated in over 30 countries from 2005 to 2018, Poverty-Environment Action has helped the integration and implementation of pro-poor environmental sustainability objectives into national, subnational and sectoral development policies, plans, budgets and investment to contribute to poverty alleviation and an inclusive, green economy.

Reaching those most at danger of being left behind by traditional approaches to national development requires addressing inequalities, related notably to gender, which hinder development and entrench poverty. PEI and Poverrty-Environment Action addressed the multidimensional nature of poverty—not only income poverty, but also environmental deprivations such as lack of natural capital and environmental hazards such as climate change and pollution.

Eradicating multidimensional poverty is the indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Economic growth alone is not enough. It also requires improving management of the environment and natural resources—the “natural wealth” of the poor, who overwhelmingly depend on natural resources for their livelihoods.

Sustainable Development in Practice: A Handbook for Integrating Environment, Climate and Poverty Reduction provides guidance and concrete examples of how to do this, drawn from Poverty-Environment Action experience in Africa and Asia-Pacific, as well as from its predecessor PEI and other initiatives.  

This handbook is an updated edition of the PEI flagship handbook Mainstreaming Environment and Climate for Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development, published in 2015. In the ensuing years, global instability has increased under the pressures of the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss—further exacerbated by the global coronavirus pandemic and civil and international conflicts whose origins may be traced to the systemic failure to address the planetary crises.  

This new version of the handbook reflects lessons learned and updates on the Poverty-Environment Action integrated, programmatic approach to poverty-environment mainstreaming. It also draws on experiences from other endeavours aimed at mainstreaming climate change issues and incorporating an inclusive green economy.

This handbook is designed as guidance for policymakers and practitioners to integrate environment, climate and poverty objectives into key development decision processes: participation, planning, budgeting, financing and monitoring. These are the processes that can shape sustainable development.

Chapter 1: The Integrated Approach to Poverty, Climate and Environment provides a practical organizing framework for integration—organized around the typical decision-making cycle of planning, budgeting, investing, executing, monitoring, review and dialogue.

Chapter 2: Analysing Poverty-Environment Issues details PEI/Poverrty-Environment Action contributions to analysis, including the development of multidimensional poverty analysis linked to the environment and natural resources, environmental and natural resource economic analysis at the national level, and institutional analysis, along with other methodologies, notably in political economy analysis.

The handbook takes a deep dive in Chapter 3 into Dialogue and Engagement, detailing how a formal dialogue process is particularly helpful to bridge the analysis discussed in Chapter 2 with the planning covered in Chapter 4. This chapter focuses on engaging stakeholders in contributing to the big picture of poverty-environment policymaking at the level of vision and principles. It explains the range of dialogue functions, levels and types that bring different actors together into a safe space to exchange and generate knowledge and options; and explores ways to plan dialogues, tactics to engage specific stakeholder groups and methodologies that work for running dialogue sessions to facilitate collective action.

Chapter 4: Integrating Poverty-Environment Objectives into Plans offers guidance on integrating poverty-environment objectives into national, subnational, sectoral and thematic plans, focusing on the mainstream planning processes that are typically in place in a developing country.

Chapter 5: Finance for Poverty-Environment Objectives sets out guidance on integrating poverty-environment objectives into national budgets and public and private investment. It addresses an audience of environment and development professionals, helping them to understand budget and financial processes and a range of tools to achieve poverty-environment objectives.

Chapter 6: Communications on Poverty, Climate and Environment shows how to raise the profile of poverty-environment integration and catalyse engagement, share information, and influence policy outcomes.

Chapter 7: Monitoring and Evaluation of Poverty-Environment Integration delineates monitoring to track poverty-environment integration across the policy cycle and a robust set of relevant indicators.

Chapter 8: Building Integrated, Transformative Institutions rounds out the discussion by addressing the need for institutions to be much more integrated and transformative if collective poverty-environment goals are to be achieved at scale.

The handbook thus provides a model for action and a set of widely valid and credible approaches— particularly for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

A webinar covering the PEA Handbook for peer review was held in September 2022 and can be reviewed here.

There is an interview with Linxiu Zhand the UNEP-IEMP director for those that want to learn more here


— Michael Stanley-Jones
Senior Advisor, Circular Research Foundation
Parabita, Italy


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