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Tuesday December 4, 2007

Poor still losing out

EVEN with the most stringent measures to mitigate climate change, the world will continue to warm for the first half of this century, thanks to all the greenhouse gases spewed a century ago with the advent of industrialisation that still lingers in the atmosphere. 

Hence many of us in our lifetime will feel the effects of global warming; there is no alternative but to adapt to these changes. 

Rich countries, recognising the need to adjust to future climatic shocks, are investing heavily in climate- defence infrastructure. 

As global temperatures rise, this Indonesian girl is doomed to inherit a world with a host of environmental problems – unless rich countries change their ways and help poorer ones battle greenhouse gas emissions.
Britain spends US$1.2bil (RM4.2bil) annually on flood defences. Many in the Netherlands are investing in homes that can float on water. The Swiss alpine ski industry is investing in artificial snow-making machines. 

Developing countries, however, face far more severe adaptation challenges. In the Horn of Africa, “adaptation” means that women and young girls walk further to collect water. In the Ganges Delta, people are erecting bamboo flood shelters on stilts. And in the Mekong Delta, people are planting mangroves to protect themselves against storm surges, and women and children are being taught to swim. In Bangladesh, there are efforts to construct homes on earthen platforms and provide hand pumps and latrines to secure clean water and sanitation for dwellers in low-lying areas prone to floods. 

Yet, the finance needed to support such practical initiatives to protect the poor is often not available, says the latest United Nations Development Fund Human Development Report titled Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world. The total current spending through multilateral funds on adaptation in developing countries amounts to US$26mil (RM91mil) – roughly what Britain spends a week on its flood defences. 

This is nowhere near sufficient, says the report, and it calls on developed countries to support a new global investment of US$86bil (RM301bil) annually, or 0.2% of northern countries’ combined gross domestic product, in adaptation efforts to climate-proof infrastructure and build the resilience of the poor to the effects of climate change. 

“The world’s poor cannot be left to sink or swim with their own resources while rich countries protect their citizens behind climate- defence fortifications. Social justice and respect of human rights demand stronger international commitment,” says the report. 

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