Urgent measures needed to stop climate change trapping world’s poorest – UN

Claes Johnasson

27 November 2007 – Without immediate action, climate change could have a disastrous impact for the world’s poorest people and reverse any gains made in poverty reduction, nutrition, health and education, according to the annual United Nations Human Development Report released today.

The world’s 2.6 billion people living on less than $2 daily have contributed least to global emissions. But they are “paying a high price for the actions of others,” Claes Johansson of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which prepared the report, told reporters in New York.

“Therefore, developed nations have a historic responsibility to cut emissions, to climate-proof their growth and to invest in efforts that can help prevent catastrophic reversals in human development,” he added.

Developing countries, in turn, must do their part to reduce their own emissions, but cannot do so without the help of wealthier nations, Mr. Johansson observed.

The report – entitled “Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world” – was released as governments prepare for next week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, where delegates are expected to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding pact limiting greenhouse gas emissions that is due to expire in 2012.

The potential toll on humans of climate change has been understated, the report concluded, pointing out that meteorological shocks such as droughts, floods and storms, whose intensity and frequency are only increasing, contribute greatly to poverty and inequality.

“For millions of people, these are events that offer a one-way ticket to poverty and long-run cycles of disadvantage,” it said. A “twin track” approach merging mitigation efforts to limit global warming this century to under 2°C with bolstered global cooperation on adaptation measures was recommended.

On mitigation, the report urged developed countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050, and promote carbon taxation, more stringent cap-and-trade programmes and energy regulation, among others.

If developed and developing nations are able to cut emissions overall by 50 per cent by 2050, “this gives us a 50-50 chance of avoiding dangerous climate change so this is an absolute minimum required reduction in emissions,” Mr. Johanssen noted.

For rich nations to help poor ones achieve this goal, the report proposed a Climate Change Mitigate Facility at a cost of $25-$50 billion per year to finance development of low-carbon energy systems in developing nations.

Regarding adaptation, the disparity in ability between rich and poor countries to respond to climate change are creating even larger inequalities both between and within countries, the report warned, calling on developed nations to make global warming a main priority in their international partnerships to reduce poverty.

Currently, only $26 million has been spent multilaterally for adaptation measures, which the report noted is the equivalent of one week’s worth of spending on flood defences in the United Kingdom.

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