Sunday, November 4, 2007

Warning of 'crisis of inequality': Poor most at risk as countries lack means to tackle problem, says UNDP

The Nation (Thailand): In the lead-up to the United Nations' summit on climate change in Bali next month, the UN Development Programme has called for a fair approach to changes across the globe to lessen the impact on poor and vulnerable people. "Unless the world can tackle inequalities in adaptation, it will become one of the biggest causes of inequity and poverty in the 21st century," Kevin Watkins, director of the UNDP's Human Development Report Office, said on Friday.

The world's 2.6 billion poor living on less than US$2 (Bt68) a day are at risk of firsthand impact from dangerous climate change in increasing frequency and intensity of drought and floods, he said. Almost all of the poor live in developing countries that lack the financial means and technology to tackle climate change. "The effect on poor people is far worse than on others because the poor are not in a position to manage added risks. When there's a drought, they sell their seeds and livestock, they withdraw their children from school, the whole family starts skipping meals," he said. Watkins was speaking to Asian journalists gathered for the UNDP's climate change workshop in a city northwest of New Delhi, the capital of India.

As an example of the world's "double standards", Watkins compared what developed countries have done to adapt in their own countries and what they have done to help developing countries. Britain has spent $1.2 billion a year on flood defence along the Thames River while the Netherlands and New York also use up millions of dollars to cope with rising sea levels caused by global warming. But multilateral funds for adaptation to climate change in the entire developing world amounted to just $50 million so far, he said.

Concern about the impact of climate change on humans and inequalities in the global response are a focal point of this year's UNDP Human Development Report, titled "Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world", which will be launched in three weeks.

Watkins, lead author of the report, said it stresses that the entire world should work harder to address and implement adaptation strategies to truly fight against climate change as the world was currently only focusing on mitigation. He called for commitment from developed countries to cooperate with developing nations in terms of finance and technology transfer.

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