The UK and other rich nations must pay billions of pounds to help poorer countries tackle global warming if millions of people around the world are not to be consigned to endless poverty, international development agency Christian Aid says in a new report.
The annual bill for the UK alone could amount to at least £25 billion (€35.6 billion), with EU countries collectively paying €235 billion (£164 billion) and the US $414 billion (£198 billion) each year.
The massive payments are needed to help emerging economies cut greenhouse gas emissions and focus their resources instead on sustainable development.
Report author Andrew Pendleton, senior climate change policy analyst at Christian Aid, says: "To keep temperature rises worldwide below 2°C and avoid widespread catastrophe triggered by flooding and drought, developing nations as well as the industrialised world must cut greenhouse gas emissions."
Pendleton continued: "Emerging economies may well be reluctant to take the necessary steps for fear they will be denied a chance of future prosperity. Nations that have grown rich in part by polluting without facing the costs of doing so, must now repay their carbon debt to the developing world."
The Christian Aid report, Truly Inconvenient: Tackling poverty and climate change at once is intended to inform debate at a UN climate change conference in Bali in December, where representatives from 180 nations will discuss an international strategy for reducing global warning. It is published ahead of the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, due later this week.
The charity has calculated the cost to the industrialised world by using an economic framework devised by the US climate think tank EcoEquity, intended to hold global warming below 2ºC while safeguarding the right of people everywhere to reach a 'dignified level of sustainable human development.'
The Greenhouse Development Rights framework assesses each nation’s historic responsibility for carbon production, and its capacity to pay to put things right, which allows the global costs of cutting emissions and dealing with the impact of climate change to be divided up according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
"The immediate concern in Bali is how countries at different levels of development will line up to negotiate an agreement that stands a decent chance of avoiding climate catastrophe," says Mr Pendleton.
He adds: "The Greenhouse Development Rights framework gives a fair and transparent means of sharing the burden. We sincerely hope it will illuminate the discussions at Bali and beyond."
Last year Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on the economics of climate change suggested that one percent of gross world product (GWP – the growth of the world’s economy) must be spent on cutting carbon emissions and building defences against climate change.
Christian Aid has welcomed Stern’s findings that action taken now will lead to major savings later, by stopping climate change spiralling out of control, but believes that the real cost of maintaining warming caused by global emissions below 2ºC could be at least twice as high as he anticipated.
Full report available here (*.PDF/Adobe file): Truly Inconvenient: Tackling poverty and climate change  (1.7 mb)