By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS - Helping the world‘s poor adapt to more floods, droughts and other changes from a warming planet will cost the richest nations at least $86 billion a year by 2015, an expert panel warned Tuesday.
Half the cost, $44 billion, would go for "climate-proofing" developing nations‘ infrastructure while $40 billion would help the poor adapt how the live to cope with climate-related risks, says the panel‘s report. The other $2 billion would go to strengthening responses to natural disasters.
The Bush administration said in a statement that one of its top priorities is "to alleviate poverty and spur economic growth in the developing world by modernizing energy services."
It adds a dire economic perspective to previous U.N. scientific findings that carbon and other heat-trapping "greenhouse gas" emissions must stabilize by 2015 and then decline. Without the money, the panel found, a warmer world "could stall and then reverse human development" in the countries where 2.6 billion people live on $2 a day or less.
According to development officials, the consequences include women and young girls having to walk farther to collect water in the Horn of Africa, and people erecting bamboo flood shelters on stilts in the Ganges River delta.
Olav Kjorven, head of the U.N. Development Program‘s bureau for development policy, called the financial aid a sort of "climate-proofing" for the poor that is only natural "when we know that the frequency of droughts and floods is going up."
The development panel says the greatest financial responsibility lies with the U.S. and other rich nations most responsible for the accumulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, mainly from man‘s burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels.
Developed countries, meanwhile, are failing to meet their targets under the current climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, for cutting greenhouse gases by 2012, the report said. France, Germany, Japan and Britain have reduced their emissions somewhat, it said, but the European Union is falling short of its goal of a 20 percent cut by 2020.
Petsonk said developing nations‘ carbon-trading markets have the potential to generate large flows of private capital that could help provide much of the development money the U.N. recommends to help the poor adapt to global warming.
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