Wealthier countries must take the lead in cutting carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic reversals in health, education and poverty reduction for the world's poor, while providing incentives for developing countries like China and India to follow suit, according to the 2007/2008 Human Development Report (HDR) on climate change launched in Brasilia today.
Building on the recently-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) HDR, entitled Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, sets out a pathway for climate change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, and stresses that a narrow ten-year window of opportunity remains to put it into practice.
If that window is missed, temperature rises of above two degrees Celsius could see the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers that provide water and food for over two billion people, the displacement of 22 million people in Vietnam and the destruction of 45 percent of Mekong Delta farmland as sea levels continue to rise, the collapse of coral reefs in Indonesia on which local fishermen depend, and annual damage costs of up to seven percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of small island states like Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu. Some could disappear completely, warns the Report.
"The carbon budget of the 21st Century -- the amount of carbon that can be absorbed creating an even probability that temperatures will not rise above two degrees -- is being overspent and threatens to run out entirely by 2032," says Kevin Watkins, lead author of the Human Development Report, "and the poor -- those with the lightest carbon footprint and the least means to protect themselves -- are the first victims of developed countries' energy-rich lifestyle."
The world's richest countries have a historic responsibility to take the lead in balancing the carbon budget by cutting emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, according to the Report. In addition, they should support a new US$86 billion global annual investment in substantial international adaptation efforts to protect the world's poor. Developed countries should also adopt a new mechanism to transfer clean energy technology to developing countries. The Report argues that with the support of such measures,developing Asian countries -- specially fast growing and industrializing countries like China and India -- should also play their part with total emission cuts of at least 20 percent by 2050.