Rich have reneged on pledges to the poor, says church agency

By agency reporter
November 25, 2007

Rich countries have utterly reneged on their promise to pay £200 million (US$410m) a year to help poor countries cope with climate change, international development agency Christian Aid claims. Had the promise been kept, wealthier countries would have now contributed £584 million (US$1.2bn).

The payments were agreed in 2001 by the UK, other member states of the European Union at the time, along with Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, says Christian Aid.

Due to start in 2005, new figures reveal that less than £146 million (US$300m) has actually been pledged to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which funds poor countries' attempts to adapt to climate change, and cut their own emissions. And, by the end of September, GEF’s three operational climate change funds had only actually received £86 million (US$177m).

This "betrayal of the poor" is highlighted in a new Christian Aid report The Human Face of Climate Change, released in the run up to next month’s UN climate change conference in Bali. Download the full report (PDF)

Highlighting the devastating impact that climate change is having on poor communities around the world, the report gives a voice to communities already seriously affected.

Intense heat is 'burning' crops, rains are erratic and sometimes torrential, there are new plagues of animal pests and freak hailstorms that destroy crops. Those who once had surplus produce to sell now have too little even to feed themselves, leading many to migrate to cities or even further afield, in desperate attempts to survive.

In the Ancoraimes area of western Bolivia, people in the community of Calahuancane told Christian Aid: 'The world is upside down and is trembling…the earth is drying as if hanged up to dry in the sun'.

In Bangladesh, already exposed to flooding and extreme weather conditions such as the recent cyclone that killed more than 1,000 people, the sea level is rising so fast that salt can be tasted in previously fresh water 100 kilometres inland.

Minu Basar from Kayabunia village in the south-west has to travel 20 kilometres through forest to get fresh water for her family. 'It can take up to a whole day,' she says.

Christian Aid’s senior climate change policy analyst, Andrew Pendleton, said: "Suffering due to climate change is a reality. The figures in the report reveal a shocking failure by rich countries to honour their pledge to help poor countries with sustainable development and adaptation to climate change, which has been largely caused by the rich.

"The greatest challenge next month at the UN climate change conference in Bali will be to get the industrialised world to face up to its responsibilities.

"The record of broken promises shows that a new approach is urgently needed, in which developed countries’ historic responsibility for climate change by emitting carbon is directly linked to the resources they are required to contribute to help poorer countries.

"Industrialised nations that have signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are legally obliged to help developing countries cope with the costs of adapting to and mitigating climate change.

"They could raise a portion of the money by placing levies on carbon emissions at home, some of which would be spent abroad. Cancelling the debts of the developing world would also play a significant part.

"There are also ways in which the carbon debt could be paid in kind, allowing emerging economies free access to technologies that would help them implement sustainable development and providing them with pro bono technical assistance."

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