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ActionAid Warns Weak Climate Deal Could Worsen Hunger

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A global development agency, ActionAid, warned on Friday that a weak deal in Copenhagen would be the worst possible outcome for the one in six people going hungry around the world today.

According to the agency, with just days to go before the start of talks scheduled to create a comprehensive agreement on climate change, the risk of a weak deal is very real.

"Any form of agreement that doesn't ensure that rich countries make ambitious cuts to their emissions and provide developing countries with billions of dollars of new money will fail to tackle climate change or reduce hunger," said Tom Sharman, ActionAid's Climate Justice Coordinator.

"Rich countries need to begin to repay their climate debt -- which has been building up since the industrial revolution -- by cutting their emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 against 1990 levels," he added in a statement.

"They also need to come up with a minimum of US$200 billion a year by 2020 to enable developing countries to adapt to climate change and chart low-emission pathways out of poverty, including through investment in sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture."

Harvest failures due to increased droughts and floods have already helped to push more than a billion into chronic malnourishment.

Action to tackle climate change fairly and effectively is essential to stop hunger spiraling further out of control in coming years, ActionAid said.

With yields already forecast to decline by up to 50 percent in some African countries within the next decade, smallholder farmers who grow most of the food in developing countries are one of the most vulnerable groups on the planet.

"We urgently need a shift out of industrialized agriculture dependent on fossil-fuel based inputs toward low-input, climate resilient organic farming that reduces output of greenhouse gases," said Harjeet Singh, emergency advisor with ActionAid India.

Unless governments shift investment and focus towards sustainable, low-input farming, agricultural emissions are set to rise almost 30 percent by 2020, mainly due to increased fertilizeruse in the developing world, according to Britain's Stern Commission.

"There is still time for a climate-saving deal but Copenhagen will not produce one without a radical re-think by rich countries," added Singh.

And to make the point about climate debt, ActionAid's climate debt agents, dressed in red suits, will be on the streets of Copenhagen making their presence felt. Watch out for them.'

(Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2009)