Rising temperatures could drive 100m into extreme poverty, World Bank warns

Rising temperatures could drive 100m into extreme poverty, World Bank warnsEfforts to curb climate change must be twinned with programmes to cut poverty, warns a study of the threat posed by global warming to food security.

The world must pair efforts to stabilise climate change with programmes to eliminate poverty if vulnerable people are to be kept from falling back into hardship as rising temperatures wreak havoc on food security and livelihoods, a report has said.

As many as 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty because of rising temperatures, which are caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank report said. The bank’s most recent estimate puts the number of people living in extreme poverty this year at 702 million, or 9.6% of the world’s population.

Climate change has led to crop failures, natural disasters, higher food prices and the spread of waterborne diseases, creating poverty and pushing people at risk into destitution, according to Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, released on Sunday.

Efforts to stabilise climate change should incorporate strategies to eradicate poverty, said Stéphane Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank’s climate change group and co-author of the report. “The policies, the investments, the financing, all of that should be integrated. Otherwise, we’re just less efficient.”

Poor people need social safety nets and universal healthcare to sustainably eradicate poverty, according to the report. Programmes to lessen the impacts of climate change should not create new vulnerabilities and they should inform development policies by taking into account future climate conditions.

“When we [build] infrastructure, for instance, [we need] to make sure it’s in a safe place today but also in a safe place with sea level rise and the change in rainfall and so on,” said Hallegatte.

He added that the world needs to take urgent action to reduce the impacts of climate change if the sustainable development goal on eradicating extreme poverty is to be met.

“We really want to reduce poverty before people get affected by even bigger climate impacts. It’s easier to get people out of extreme poverty now rather than doing it later,” said Hallegatte.

Without proper planning, efforts to stabilise the impacts of climate change can undo decades of progress in lifting vulnerable people out of poverty, the study warned. Environmental taxes, designed to reduce emissions, can raise the cost of fuel and food, which hit poor people hardest.

“These same policies can be designed to protect, and even benefit, poor people – for instance, by using fiscal resources from environmental taxes to improve social protection,” the report said.

Ethiopia’s social protection and Rwanda’s health coverage have boosted long-term poverty reduction efforts in both countries, making it less likely that poor people will fall back into poverty as a result of climate change.

“In most cases, what we want is a package of policies – the climate polices themselves and additional policies to smooth the transition and to support poor people in the transition,” said Hallegatte.

Hallegatte is optimistic that world leaders will take urgent action to stabilise climate change, which he says will boost efforts to eradicate poverty.

This year, a series of high-profile meetings took place, creating a sense of gathering momentum around the battle against global warming. A key step was the adoption of the global goals – which set a 2030 deadline for the eradication of poverty in all its forms and sought to galvanise action to combat climate change and its impacts – at the UN general assembly in September.

Other milestones have included the Addis conference on financing for development and the Sendai conference on disaster risk reduction, while next month world leaders will convene in Paris for the 21st session of the conference of the parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“You can see there is a convergence – these conferences have been designed as a package and you can feel the urgency,” Hallegatte said.

But many challenges remain. According to the report, the world needs to find $1tn (£645bn) more each year to boost key infrastructure if the goals are to be met. Climate summits have in the past been thwarted by the US and China, which have been reluctant to sacrifice economic growth for reduced emissions.

Expectations for next month’s climate summit have been buoyed by fruitful talks held last year in Beijing, where China pledged to bring its emissions to a peak “around 2030”, and the US said it would cut its emissions by 26-28% of their 2005 level by 2025.

Hallegatte said: “Now there is the implementation, and that’s really the challenge – to translate this willingness to act into something that makes a difference on the ground.”

Source: Guardian
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