By Shipra Prakash
11 May 2008 [MEDIAGLOBAL]: If developing countries don’t adapt to climate change they could face serious setbacks to achieving poverty elimination goals. “Developed countries are much better prepared for climate change even if they have less risk of being impacted by climate change. In developing countries, the needs for adaptation are overwhelming,” Cecilia Ugaz of the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme, told an audience at the UN Secretariat today.
Last week, the Economic and Social Council’s President, Leo Merores, said that finding solutions to climate change would make achieving the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) easier.
Adverse climate change continues to plague nations. Salvano Briceno, Director for the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), recently delivered stunning figures: In 2007, 190 million people were affected by natural disasters. In 2006, the figure was 134 million. If this trend continues, a bad situation can only become worse.
“Increased frequency, intensity and unpredictability of extreme weather events, rising sea-level and temperature, increased societal vulnerabilities such as stresses on water availability, agriculture and ecosystems is becoming a new reality and making disasters more devastating than before,” Briceno said.
“The poor are the ones who are suffering the most,” said Ugaz. The countries of South Asia and Southern Africa could be particularly vulnerable. A 2008 study released in the journal Science reported that climate change could damage crops in these regions in the next 20 years: Africa could lose more than 30 percent of its maize by 2030, and South Asia could lose more than 10 percent of its rice, millet and maize.
David Lobell, the lead author of the study, highlighted how these projections were calculated. “To identify which crops in which regions are most under threat by 2030, we combined projections of climate change with data on what poor people eat, as well as past relationships between crop harvests and climate variability.”
Increasing agricultural output is a serious concern. Kathleen Abdalla from the Division for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs addressed the issue of future of agricultural potential and food security in Africa Friday at the UN, saying that although Africa has achieved satisfactory economic growth, there is little agricultural productivity. Increasing agricultural output is a very important consideration when working towards achieving the anti-poverty MDGs.
A 2008 World Development Report notes that “the world will need to increase agricultural production by 40 percent by 2015 to achieve the MDG targets on tackling hunger.” Peter Hartmann of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, an organization that tries to improve food security in Africa, admitted that the “productivity issue is a big challenge.” He told MediaGlobal that “the key word is access to finance, but the potential is there.”
In the South Pacific, the nine islands that make up Tuvalu are already showing signs of being particularly vulnerable to climate change. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted water levels will rise a half meter. This has disastrous consequences, as the highest point of the islands reaches just 4.5 meters above the waves.
Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, believes that developing nations can better adapt to climate change and tackle poverty with the help of the developed world. “There’s a close relationship between climate change and poverty. The wealthiest nations burn the most fossil fuels and are the cause of the problem. We must live up to our responsibilities, and help the poorer countries,” Nick Berning of Friends of the Earth told MediaGlobal.
The group claims that the World Bank puts around $1 billion into the oil and gas industries, while only six percent of the World Bank’s Energy Program goes to renewable energy. The Bank’s plan to utilize a Clean Technology Fund (CTF) does not significantly encourage developing countries to build low carbon economies, according to Friends of the Earth.
“There needs to be international efforts to fund CTF. But, should the World Bank be the one to oversee the money when in the past the World Bank has caused climate change and is friendlier to corporate interests?” Berning asked. Friends of the Earth takes the position that funds given for the purpose of adaptation to climate change should not go to the World Bank Climate Investment Funds, but should instead go to the UN Adaptation Fund.
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