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  • Campaigning groups unite to call for climate action


Leading environmental and development organisations have joined forces to demand action on climate change.

The groups say that unless action is taken, the UN millennium development goals — which aim to half global poverty by 2015 — will be impossible to achieve, and that human development achievements could even be reversed.

The alliance — which includes Oxfam, Christian Aid, ActionAid, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and 15 other organisations — launched a report today (20 October) in London outlining the steps it says must be taken.

"It's too late now just to wish climate change away," says Christian Aid's director Daleep Mukarji. "We must do all we can to prevent it getting worse and we must help developing countries and poor people, who are already the most affected, to prepare themselves for what's coming."

The report, Up in Smoke, demands a global risk assessment of the costs that adaptation to climate change will have in poor nations.

It also calls for greenhouse gas emissions in rich countries to be cut to 60-80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. This goes far beyond goals set by the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for industrialised nations to reduce their emissions by an average five per cent below 1990 levels, by 2012.

Some of the costs that poor countries will have to bear in order to adapt to climate change should be borne by rich countries, says the report, stating that wealthy nations subsidised their domestic fuel industries to the tune of US$73 billion each year in the late 1990s.

Among other recommendations, the report calls for small-scale renewable energy projects to be scaled up and reproduced, and for seed banks to be established for use by communities threatened by climate change.

Implementing the report's recommendations will require new models of development and nature conservation, considerably increased funding and political commitment, say its authors.

The World Bank, they say, will have to significantly shift its priorities. In 2003, fossil fuel projects represented 83 per cent of the World Bank's spending on energy, while renewable energy projects received just 14 per cent. 

"Every policy decision at every level must pass the test of whether it will increase or decrease vulnerability to the effects of climate change," says the report.

Also at the launch, participating organisations stressed the greater impact that climate change will have on poorer countries, citing communities being displaced, interrupted education, and the suicide of farmers in India due to failed monsoons.

R. K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says science will have to play an important innovating role in stopping and reversing the effects of climate change.

"We will have to spend a lot more time developing solutions for those who rely on rain," he says. "We will need more drought-resistant crops, and more salt-resistant crops."

Pachauri, author of the report's foreword, adds that it is "critically important" that the knowledge gap between North and South is bridged.

Endorsing the report, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said "Those working in the field of science and technology can provide governments with vital information as to how global warming might be reduced and to limit its potentially devastating effects".

Up in Smoke

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