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Tackling climate change to cost 1.6 percent of GDP: UN

By AFP (Agence France Press) - November 27, 2007

Climate change could have apocalyptic consequences for the world’s poor and tackling it will require cuts in greenhouse gases costing 1.6 percent of global annual GDP, the UN Development Program said in a report Tuesday.

Entitled “The Struggle Against Climate Change,” the UNDP report paints an alarming picture of the climate change problem and urges richer countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, with cuts of 30 percent by 2020.

The proposed reductions in emissions are “stringent but affordable,” the report said.

Between now and 2030, the average annual cost would amount to 1.6 percent of global GDP, said the report to be presented Tuesday at a ceremony attended by UNDP chief Kemal Dervis and Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“This is not an insignificant investment. But it represents less than two-thirds of global military spending. The costs of inaction could be much higher,” the UNDP report said.

On its first page, the document states that “climate change is now a scientifically established fact. We know enough to recognize that there are large risks, potentially catastrophic ones.”

In the study commissioned by the UNDP, a panel of experts examined how climate change could play out, considered how to tackle the crisis and asserted the cost of fixing the problem will not be the same for every country.

“Those who have largely caused the problem — the rich countries — are not going to … suffer the most in the short term,” the report said.

“It is the poorest who did not, and still are not, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions that are the most vulnerable.”

Addressing the disparity in costs represents the most difficult challenge for policy makers and the authors warned: “We should not allow distributional disagreements to block the way forward.”

An eventual rise of three degrees Celsius in global temperatures will bring drought, tropical storms and a rise in sea levels that will hit the economies of developing countries hardest.

“In terms of aggregate world GDP, these short term effects may not be large. But for some of the world’s poorest people, the consequences could be apocalyptic,” it said.

In analyzing possible steps to alleviate climate change, the report argues that the effort must include drastic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions along with adapting to the effects of global warming.

“Adaptation is ultimately about building the resilience of the world’s poor to a problem largely created by the world’s richest nations,” it said.

For poor countries, climate change will bring a deterioration in agricultural production, declining access to health and education services, and less access to markets — generating yet more poverty, it said.

The aim of the UN report was to encourage countries to confront the problem, said Ken Watkins, a member of the expert team that prepared the document.

“We are issuing a call to action, not providing a counsel of despair. Working together with resolve, we can win the battle against climate change,” Watkins said.