Environment: A New Marriage with Development

Oct 20 2004

Sanjay Suri

LONDON, Oct 20 (IPS) – Environmental and development groups have come together to warn that global warming threatens the Millennium Development Goals.

Environment and development have been cousins of sorts so far, but the new report ‘Up in Smoke’ released Wednesday by several groups spanning both areas points to the need for the two to come closer together.

The new alliance includes Oxfam, Christian Aid, ActionAid, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, World Vision, Tear Fund and 13 other organisations. At the heart of this new marriage is the belief that climate change caused by global warming will hit the poorest the most.

The report cites hurricanes in the Caribbean and suicides by Indian farmers let down by failed monsoons as instances of the impact that global warming is having on the poor already.

”This summer has been marred by the havoc wrought across the Caribbean by the hurricanes Jeanne and Ivan, and the worst flooding in recent years in Bangladesh,” the report says. ”In a world in which global warming is already happening, such severe weather events are likely to be more frequent, and extreme.”

Leading environment and development charities have therefore ”come together for the first time to highlight their joint concern about the serious impact that global warming is already having on some of the world’s poorest communities,” the report says.

In the wake of such disasters the aim of halving global poverty by 2015 under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be unattainable, the report warns.

The London-based New Economics Foundation, a think-tank that seeks to bring environmental issues into economic thinking took the lead in putting the coalition together. Andrew Simms, policy director of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) was the lead author of the report.

”In the past you’ve had individual environment and development groups come together to raise the spectre of climate change but this is the first time they have all come together like this in one voice,” Ruth Potts from the NEF told IPS.

”This is very significant, and this will be an ongoing coalition that will continue to discuss and to look at how development agencies can better implement policies that are climate proof and climate friendly,” Potts said.

”The MDGs are a fine aspiration but if we are to get anywhere near achieving them, development groups have to take the impact of climate change into consideration,” she said. ”Otherwise the good work they are doing is simply being swept away.”

The report was endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa, Desmond Tutu.

”I urge governments and development and environmental organisations to work together to find sustainable solutions to avert a catastrophe that will exacerbate human suffering to a magnitude that perhaps the world has not yet seen,” he 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,” he said in his message at the launch of the report in London Wednesday.

A group of Christian churches have simultaneously launched Operation Noah, a new campaign to curb global warming.

The new coalition is calling for a global risk assessment of the likely costs of adaptation to climate change in poor countries. It is calling also for cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases by industrialised countries in the order of 60 to 80 percent relative to 1990 levels by the middle of this century, far beyond the targets of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for industrialised nations to reduce their emissions by an average five per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The alliance is asking for new funds and other resources made available by industrialised countries for poor countries ”bearing in mind that rich country subsidies to their domestic fossil fuel industries stood at 73 billion dollars per year in the late 1990s.”

The new alliance is calling for ”small-scale renewable energy projects promoted by governments and community groups which can help to both tackle poverty and reduce climate change if they are replicated and scaled-up.”

The report points out that ”this will require political commitment and new funds from governments in all countries, and a major shift in priorities by the World Bank and other development bodies.”

Last year fossil fuel projects represented 83 percent of the World Bank’s spending on energy, while renewable energy projects received just 14 percent, the report says. ”Every policy decision at every level must pass the test of whether it will increase or decrease vulnerability to the effects of climate change.”

R. K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who wrote an introduction to the report said it is ”critically important” that the knowledge gap between north and south is bridged. He also said ”we will have to spend a lot more time developing solutions for those who rely on rain. We will need more drought-resistant crops, and more salt-resistant crops.” (END/2004)

“Other News” is a personal initiative seeking to provide information that should be in the media but is not, because of commercial criteria. It welcomes contributions from everybody. Work areas include information on global issues, north-south relations, gobernability of globalization. The “Other News” motto is a phrase which appeared on the wall of Barcelona’s old Customs Office, at the beginning of 2003:â€?What walls utter, media keeps silentâ€?. Roberto Savio

site admin