Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 15:27 UK

Bank urges climate 'action now'

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Floods in India
Extreme weather is straining poorer countries' finances, the bank says

Climate change will be a serious barrier to growth in poorer nations and must be curbed, says the World Bank.

The bank's World Development Report (WDR) urges a rapid scaling-up of spending on clean energy research and protection for poorer countries.

Even a warming of 2C (3.6F) - the G8's target - could reduce GDP in poor nations, the report concludes.

The bank urges governments to conclude an "equitable deal" at December's UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

That "equitable deal" should involve industrialised countries paying for the damage that their historical emissions have caused and will cause in poorer parts of the world, it suggests.

Development will get harder, not easier, with climate change
World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change

"Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change - a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared," said World Bank president Robert Zoellick.

"For that reason, an equitable deal in Copenhagen is vitally important."

Part of that deal, the report says, involves industrialised countries making rapid cuts in their greenhouse gas output, creating "emissions space" to allow for rising fossil fuel use in poorer societies.

Developing problem

The acceptance of "historical responsibility" found resonance among organisations that campaign for the relief of developing world poverty.

"A broad coalition from Bolivian President Evo Morales to the World Bank is united in saying that past emissions matter, and that rich countries have to confront this rather than avoid it," noted Tom Sherman, head of climate change with the charity ActionAid.

Carrying muddy water in Ethiopian drought
Water scarcity is a projected climate impact in many parts of the world

The report concludes that policy "cannot be framed as a choice between growth and climate change".

In fact, it says, "climate-smart policies are those that enhance development, reduce vulnerability and finance the transition to low-carbon economic growth".

The bank notes that some developing countries' outlay on coping with weather emergencies is already rising.

Poor countries in Africa and Asia could see their GDP fall by about 5% under a global warming of 2C - the target adopted by the G8 and a number of important developing countries during their summit in Italy in July.

"Grappling with climate shocks that are already hampering development will not be easy," said Rosina Bierbaum, co-director of the WDR and dean of the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment.

"But promising new energy technologies can vastly reduce future greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastrophic climate change."

Cash costs

The full financing package that the bank believes is likely to be needed annually by 2030 includes:

  • $75bn to help poorer nations adapt to, or protect themselves against, climate impacts
  • $400bn for mitigation - reducing emissions - in the developing world
  • hundreds of billions for energy research and development

And the vast majority, it concludes, must come from nations that have already industrialised through intensive fossil fuel use.

The bank's explicit conclusions - that climate change has to be curbed to aid development, and that richer countries have to pay - will harden the case that developing countries are making for more cash in the lead up to Copenhagen.

It parts company with some observers who argue that climate change should only be addressed once societies have become rich enough to solve it painlessly: "Development will get harder, not easier, with climate change".

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