World must cut carbon to save the poor, says UN

Posted: 29 November 2007

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, warns the latest United Nations Human Development Report just released. ENS reports:

Rich countries - deep carbon footprints
Rich countries - deep carbon footprints
Rich countries - deep carbon footprints. Per capita CO2 emissions in 1990 and 2004. Click on image for full-size graph.
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," said Claes Johansson of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) which prepared the report.

The potential toll on humans of climate change has been understated, the report concludes, pointing to meteorological shocks such as droughts, floods and storms, whose intensity and frequency are increasing, adding to existing poverty and inequality.

"For millions of people, these are events that offer a one-way ticket to poverty and long-run cycles of disadvantage," the UNDP said.

The UN agency recommended a "twin track" approach merging mitigation efforts to limit global warming this century to under 2°C with bolstered global cooperation on adaptation measures.

On mitigation, the report urged developed countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent 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," Johanssen declared.

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

"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," said Johansson.

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

The report, "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.

Halving emissions
Halving emissions
Halving global emissions by 2050 could avoid dangerous climate change. But to achieve this, rich countries would need to cut emissions by 90%. Click on image for full-size graph.
Regarding adaptation, the disparity in ability between rich and poor countries to respond to climate change is creating even larger inequalities both between and within countries, the report warned.

The UNDP calls 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.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All Rights Reserved.