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Climate change hitting developing countries worst: UN

January 30, 2007

JAKARTA, Jan 29: Climate change is having an increasing impact around the world, with developing countries the worst hit and least capable of defending themselves, a top UN climate change official said on Monday.

“I think there is no doubt that more and more impacts of climate change are already being seen around the world,” said Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

“What I personally find even more worrying is the extent to which these impacts could be a harbinger for far more extreme things to come,” de Boer added. He was in Indonesia to prepare for the 13th UN climate change conference to be held on the island of Bali in December.

Weather-related disasters killed almost 3,000 people and caused $27 billion in damage in China last year, he said, while the retreat of Himalayan glaciers is affecting water supplies in India and China.

In other countries drought is leading to lower crop yields.

“Over recent years the level of Lake Victoria in Africa has dropped by about 30 per cent affecting the livelihoods of 30 million people in one of the most unstable regions of the world who live around that lake,” he said.

“What you see around the world is that the countries least able to respond to the consequences of climate change, least able to act to defend themselves against climate change are experiencing the greatest impacts: the developing countries,” de Boer said.

The Bali conference needs to address developed countries' fears about climate change, developing nations concerns about growth, the worries of small island nations hit by climate change and the concerns of oil-producing countries, he said.

“Whereas climate change used to be purely an environmental issue, it's now becoming as much a economic, trade and political concern,” he said.

“How can you address the question of climate change, especially in a number of developing countries whose overriding concern is economic growth and poverty eradication?” Cooperation on climate change between industrialised and developing countries needed to result in investment that would allow developing countries to meet their economic growth and poverty eradication goals while also helping ensure a cleaner energy future, he said.

The Bali conference would aim to design a long-term approach to go beyond the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which governs actions by industrialised countries to 2012.

“Certainly I hope we're not going to get anything to replace Kyoto ... the question is how we build beyond that, what kind of long-term climate change regime do we put in place,” he said.

Recently there have been “encouraging signals” that political leaders want to come to grips with the issue.

Britain's presidency of the G8 produced the Gleneagles plan of action on climate change and last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated she wanted to bring proposals to Bali when Berlin takes over.

“These are some encouraging examples of the industrialised world beginning to wake up to this issue and beginning to respond,” de Boer said.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 participants from more than 100 countries are expected to attend the Bali conference.

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawat will also host a panel of finance ministers, economists and international lenders at the conference, a UNFCC spokesman said.—AFP