Wealthier countries must take the lead in cutting carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic reversals in health, education, and poverty reduction for the world's poor, while providing incentives for developing countries like China and India to follow suit, according to the 2007/2008 Human Development Report (HDR) on climate change launched in Brasilia, Brazil on November 27.
Building on the recently-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) HDR, entitled Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world, sets out a pathway for climate change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, and stresses that a narrow ten-year window of opportunity remains to put it into practice.
If that window is missed, temperature rises of above two degrees Celsius could see the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers that provide water and food for over two billion people, the displacement of 22 million people in Vietnam and the destruction of 45 percent of Mekong Delta farmland as sea levels continue to rise, the collapse of coral reefs in Indonesia on which local fishermen depend, and annual damage costs of up to seven percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of small island states like Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu. Some could disappear completely, warns the Report.
"The carbon budget of the 21st Century -- the amount of carbon that can be absorbed creating an even probability that temperatures will not rise above two degrees -- is being overspent and threatens to run out entirely by 2032," says Kevin Watkins, lead author of the Human Development Report, "and the poor -- those with the lightest carbon footprint and the least means to protect themselves -- are the first victims of developed countries' energy-rich lifestyles."
The world's richest countries have a historic responsibility to take the lead in balancing the carbon budget by cutting emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, according to the Report. In addition, they should support a new USUS$86 billion global annual investment in substantial international adaptation efforts to protect the world's poor. Developed countries should also adopt a new mechanism to transfer clean energy technology to developing countries. The Report argues that with the support of such measures, developing Asian countries -- especially fast growing and industrializing countries like China and India -- should also play their part with total emission cuts of at least 20 percent by 2050.
A "nine-planet" lifestyle
Across the world, 1.6 billion poor people still rely on wood and animal dung for fuel -- 930 million of them live in East and South Asia. While they are left in the dark, rich countries are running up the energy bills. If each poor person on the planet had the same energy-rich lifestyle as the United States or Canada nine planets would be needed to safely cope with the pollution, says Fighting climate change.
The Report points out that even though China will overtake the US as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the next 10 years, a person in the US still emits on average five times more carbon dioxide than a person in China, or over fifteen times more than a person in India.
"The critical challenge for Asia in the face of climate change is to expand access to affordable energy, while at the same time decarbonizing growth," says UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis, "International cooperation is vital to unlock win-win scenarios that enhance both the climate security and the energy security that are vital for growth and poverty reduction."
The Report recommends establishing a Climate Change Mitigation Facility (CCMF), financed by developed countries and designed to provide incentives, including access to clean energy technology, to guide developing countries to a greener development pathway.
This is essential because developing countries will be responsible for an increasing share of emissions, say the authors. For example, the current level of power generation capacity in China is set to double by 2015 -- equivalent to current capacity in Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined -- and will rise another 60 percent by 2030. Coal is likely to account for three-quarters of the total increase. As such, the authors stress that addressing climate change effectively will require serious investment in the cleanest possible coal technologies coupled with an increase in the use of clean and renewable energy sources and maximum energy efficiency.
"Properly financed technology transfer from rich countries to poor countries has to be the entry price that developed countries pay for their carbon trail," says Mr. Watkins.
Fighting "adaptation apartheid"
As the climate changes, poor people are being forced to cope with increasing climate shocks and long term risks -- and the price of doing so is likely to leave their prospects for human development bankrupt, says Fighting climate change. Even if stringent emission cuts are put into place now, the two thirds of the world's poor that live in Asia will be increasingly vulnerable to rising temperatures. They must be given meaningful assistance now to adapt, stress the authors.
Yet the finance needed to support the adaptation initiatives to protect the poor is not available, stress the authors. In fact, says the Report, total current spending through multilateral mechanisms on adaptation in developing countries has amounted to only US$26 million to date -- roughly one week's worth of spending on United Kingdom flood defenses. This is nowhere near sufficient, says the Report, and it calls on the developed countries to support a new global investment of USUS$86 billion annually, or 0.2 percent of northern countries' combined GDP, in adaptation efforts to climate-proof infrastructure and build the resilience of the poor to the effects of climate change.
All About Climate change, Global warming(China.org.cn November 28, 2007)