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  • UN: Rich countries driving 'ecological debt crisis'


Developed countries are failing to meet Kyoto Protocol targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and must drastically cut them for the sake of poorer countries, says a UN report.

The authors argue that rich countries are driving an "ecological debt crisis", which will affect the world's poor earliest and hardest.

The Human Development report of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), launched yesterday (28 November), calls for urgent action to align energy policies with commitments to cut emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.

While governments prepare to start negotiating the protocol's successor next week in Bali, Indonesia, the report notes that most OECD countries are not on track to meet Kyoto targets.

The authors point out that in developing countries, 1 in 19 people suffered from climate-related disasters between 2000 and 2004, compared with only 1 in 1,500 people in wealthy countries.

The main difference, say the authors, is that developed countries have the means to 'climate-proof' their infrastructure.

For example, the Netherlands protects flood-vulnerable people with an extensive climate-defence infrastructure, and the government is helping to build homes that can float.

In contrast, in the densely populated Mekong Delta in Vietnam, adaptation measures mean learning to swim and distribution of lifejackets.

The report calls for a global annual investment of at least US$86 billion by 2015 (or 0.2 per cent of northern countries' combined gross domestic product) in adaptation efforts that build poor people's resilience to changing climate. Examples might include dams or suitable housing.

In related news, China and the UN have announced a Climate Change Partnership Framework, to help China better mitigate and adapt to climate change.

This programme will involve several UN agencies, as well as the China National Development and Reform Commission and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. It aims to promote new technology and establish a 'green investment mechanism', encouraging low-carbon technological innovation and adoption.

Khalid Malik, UNDP resident representative in China, said at the launch ceremony in Beijing yesterday that the framework also aims to set up local pilots projects in clean coal technologies.

Malik said the framework will cost US$19 million, including funding from the Chinese government and the global private sector, and would begin activities next year.

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