[BEIJING] Dramatic cuts to poverty in China will not continue unless the country helps its poor communities adapt to climate change, according to a report.
The report, 'Climate Change and Poverty: a case study of China' — commissioned by Greenpeace China and Oxfam Hong Kong and carried out by organisations including the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) — says that China should redefine its poverty alleviation strategy in light of climate change.
Comprising climate data analysis, a literature review and case studies, the report found a strong correlation between poverty and climate change vulnerability — with 95 per cent of poor people living in ecologically-fragile areas most vulnerable to climate change.
"[Poor people] are more vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources and their limited capacity to cope with climate variability and extremes," said Lin Erda, a climate researcher with CAAS, in the preface of the report.
Chinese government figures show that the number of rural people in absolute poverty dropped from 250 million in 1978 to just under 15 million in 2007.
But climate change will make it harder for China to continue with its poverty reduction efforts, which are mainly focused on income improvement, said Xu Yinlong, a researcher at CAAS and co-author of the report, at a press conference.
The report details climate change impacts in areas of Gansu, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces, showing that these communities are already grappling with floods, droughts, landslides and storms — which are having a detrimental effect on their livelihoods.
It urges China to prioritise climate change adaptation measures, such as cultivating drought- and flood-resistant crops and improving infrastructure, and recommends a poverty-alleviation fund to help vulnerable areas cope. Others policies include promoting access to non-farming jobs in small rural towns.
Xu said this adaptation effort is critical. "Money helps only those people who are living in ecologically favourable regions," said Xu. "It doesn't help much for those in the sensitive regions as increasing natural disasters often push them back into poverty."