Christian Aid, the UK-based churches' international relief and development agency, is urging the British government and other rich countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions - but also to repay their effective carbon debt in order to help the poorest countries develop sustainably and without increasing their own emissions.
The way in which poor countries industrialise and develop will make or break the planet, says Christian Aid, responding to the latest chapter of the UN’s climate change report, which was published yesterday (4 May 2007).
The report of the third working group of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers how world emissions of greenhouse gases must decline in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Christian Aid believes poor communities in the regions most vulnerable to climate change will struggle to cope even with this level of warming, but that anything greater would spell catastrophe.
"Poor people have a right to development and to a life of dignity and opportunity. But because industrialised nations such as the UK and US have spent the global carbon budget on their development, they will be denied that right unless we completely rethink what development means and how it is done," said Paul Brannen, head of campaigns at Christian Aid.
He added: "The old ideologies of economic globalisation must now be replaced with a new focus on human development and well-being achieved within environmental constraints."
"The [lastest IPCC] report underlines the absolutely Herculean effort that is now required if global warming is to be kept below 2 degrees, but for the sake of the world’s poorest, this must be our aim," said Mr Brannen.
"But the message is one of optimism; if world leaders seize the initiative and agree a crash programme of emissions reductions then the 2 degree target is still possible", he remarked.
"Rich countries have to redouble their efforts to reduce emissions and must aim to make cuts of at least 80 per cent by 2050," explained Mr Brannen.
"But the fresh challenge spelt out by the report is that of clean, sustainable development in poor countries. Without this, the climate system, many species and habitats and also the lives of millions of poor people are under profound threat."
Yesterday was also a significant day for global reflection on climate change because the issue is being discussed at a crucial preparatory meeting for the G8 summit in Germany in June 2007.