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Aid agencies' warning on climate

The greenhouse effect could wreck attempts to lift the world's poorest people out of poverty and reverse human progress, campaigners say.
A report by a coalition of environment and aid agencies calls for urgent action to avert the threat.

The Working Group on Climate Change and Development says industrialised countries must cut carbon emissions massively by mid-century.

They must also help developing nations adapt to climate change, it argues.

A report by the coalition, Up In Smoke, says global warming threatens to make the Millennium Development Goals unattainable.

They are the internationally agreed targets for halving world poverty by 2015. The report says the warming could "even reverse human development achievements".

The coalition's 17 members include ActionAid, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oxfam and WWF.

Two other members, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the New Economics Foundation (Nef), organised the report's production, with the involvement of all the rest.

Climate nexus

The foreword to the report is by Dr RK Pachauri, director-general of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), India, who also chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

He writes: "Most notable as a major issue of concern is the nexus between climate change and the widespread prevalence of poverty in the world.

"As the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC clearly indicates, 'The impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor... within all countries.'"

Among those endorsing the report is Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel peace prize and former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town.

He said: "I urge governments, development and environmental organisations to work together to find sustainable solutions to avert a catastrophe that will exacerbate human suffering to a magnitude that perhaps the world has not yet seen."

The report's author, Andrew Simms of Nef, said: "Thousands of people are aiming to make poverty history, but global warming has been critically overlooked...

"To rescue the situation we need a global framework to stop climate change that is based on equality, and we have to ensure that plans for human development are made both climate-proof and climate-friendly."

Litmus test

The report says this means "every policy decision at every level must pass the test of whether it will increase or decrease vulnerability to the effects of climate change... planners must view all development decisions through the lens of risk reduction."

In his foreword Dr Pachauri writes: "It is unlikely that development can... be made climate-proof. But integrating the impacts of climate change in the form of adaptation measures within development strategies can certainly minimise the cost of such impacts."

The coalition says help for developing countries to adapt must acknowledge that "rich country subsidies to their domestic fossil fuel industries stood at $73bn per year in the late 1990s".

It says industrialised countries must cut their greenhouse gas emissions to 60-80% below their 1990 levels "to stop climate change running out of control".

It wants to see plans to relocate communities threatened by climate change, and a global risk assessment of the likely costs of adaptation in poor countries.

Faced by "the intertwined challenges of obscene levels of poverty and a rapidly warming global climate", it says, humanity has no choice.

"There is no either/or approach possible: the world must meet both its commitments."

Editorial Notes: MP notes: On page 13, the Up In Smoke report mentions "Hubbert's Peak", but doesn't go into a lot of detail on what it's all about. The report is available here: www.neweconomics.org/gen/z_sys_PublicationDetail.aspx?pid=196

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