The United Nations yesterday urged countries to set higher targets for carbon emissions cuts to tackle climate
change and help avoid catastrophic consequences such as sea level rises, extreme weather events and poverty.
The U.N. Human Development Report, released yesterday by the United Nations Development Program, issued a
stern warning to the international community on the consequences of global warming and urged nations to take
immediate collective action to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The report, "Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World," comes ahead of a U.N. climate
summit scheduled for next month in Bali, Indonesia.
"In the long run, climate change is a massive threat to human development and in some places it is already
undermining the international community's efforts to reduce extreme poverty," the report said. "The danger is that it will
stall and then reverse progress built up over generations not just in cutting poverty, but in health, nutrition, education
and other areas."
For high-income countries such as the OECD nations, the U.N. proposed setting emission-reduction targets at least
30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. It also suggested a 20 percent cut for developing nations by 2050, adding
that the rise in global temperatures must be limited to 2 degrees Celsius.
Since the advent of the industrial era, world temperatures have increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius, the report said.
"The world will have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by half by 2050 relative to 1990 levels," it said.
"Between now and 2030, the average annual cost of cutting emissions would amount to 1.6 percent of global GDP."
The report also found that an increase of 3 to 4 degrees Celsius in global temperatures could displace 330 million
people through flooding and affect over 98 million people in Bangladesh, Lower Egypt and Vietnam.
Between 20 to 30 percent of land species could face extinction with an increase of 3 degrees Celsius and an
additional 220 million to 400 million people could be exposed to malaria - a disease that already claims 1 million lives
Although climate change is projected to have a visible impact on developing countries rather than wealthy
countries, all constituents must take part in the effort to fight the international crisis, the report said.
One in 19 people in developing countries were affected by climate-related disasters from 2000 to 2004, whereas
only one in 1,500 people were affected in wealthy nations, it said.
"Looking to the future, no country - however wealthy or powerful - will be immune to the impact of climate
change," the report said.
"There is a window of opportunity for avoiding the most damaging climate change impacts, but that window is
closing - the world has less than a decade to change course."
Human solidarity, collective action and social justice are key to meet the challenges posed by climate change,
according to the report.
The report provided some solutions, including carbon pricing, strengthening regulatory frameworks and supporting
the development of low carbon energy provision. It also presented international cooperation on finance and technology
transfer and called on wealthy nations to put the focus on climate change adaptation for poverty reduction.
"The priority is to define a sustainable carbon budget for the 21st century and to develop a strategy for budget
implementation that recognizes the 'common but differentiated responsibilities of countries,'" it said.
The report stated that the global carbon budget for the 21st century must be set at 1,456 gigatons, or around 14.5
gigatons per year.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international community's entire 21st-century
carbon budget could be exhausted as early as 2032 with its current emissions.
"Climate change mitigation is about transforming the way that we produce and use energy. And it is about living
within the bounds of ecological sustainability," the report said.
To combat climate change, long-term international cooperation agreements with stringent near-term targets are
needed as well, it added.
"We must see the fight against poverty and the fight against the effects of climate change as interrelated efforts," it
said. "Countries will need to develop their own adaptation plans but the international community will need to assist
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