Globe and Mail
UNITED NATIONS — Rich countries must provide some $86 billion by 2015 to help the world’s poor adapt to global warming, an expert United Nations panel warned Tuesday.
The nearly 400-page Human Development Report comes just a week before a major new world conference convenes in Indonesia to negotiate a successor climate treaty to the 1997 Kyoto Accord.
It adds a dire economic perspective to previous United Nations scientific findings that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions must be stabilized by 2015 and then reduced.
Without the money, 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 the UN Development Program panel.
Scientists have reported that temperatures have risen an average 0.7 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years, bringing the prospect of a century of extreme weather, rising seas, widening drought and disease and harm to fisheries, forests and farmland.
According to development officials, the consequences include women and young girls walking further to collect water in the Horn of Africa, people erecting bamboo flood shelters on stilts in the delta of the Ganges River in India.
“These impacts … go unnoticed in financial markets and in the measurement of world gross domestic product (GDP),” the panel’s report said.
“But increased exposure to drought, to more intense storms, to floods and environmental stress is holding back the efforts of the world’s poor to build a better life for themselves and their children.”
Olav Kjorven, head of the UN 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.”
Because of global warming, he said, 600 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa will go hungry from collapsing agriculture, an extra 400 million people will be exposed to malaria and other diseases and an added 200 million will be flooded out of their homes.
The development panel says the greatest financial responsibility lies with rich countries most responsible for the growing level of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, mainly from man’s burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels.
“The countries of the world that are the principal culprits, if you wish, for creating this problem in the first place need to act strongly to safeguard the future of those that have done nothing to cause this problem but are the most vulnerable,” Mr. Kjorven said.
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 overall the European Union is falling short of its goal of a 20 per cent cut by 2020.
Canada signed on to the Kyoto accord under the previous Liberal government. However, the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper have increasingly distanced themselves from the treaty.
This week at the Commonwealth summit in Uganda, Harper described the Kyoto accord as fatally flawed because it failed to slap binding emissions targets on all major polluters, including developing countries like China and India.
Mr. Harper vowed Canada would not support any deal if Indonesian conference that failed remedy that concern.
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