UN official calls for funds for climate change

Developing countries will need tens of billions of dollars each year to cope with the effects of climate change such as floods and drought, the global head of the U.N.’s development arm said.

About 100 world leaders will be in Copenhagen next week for a summit on global warming, and the U.N. climate chief, Yvo de Boer, has told reporters that rich countries “must put at least $10 billion a year on the table.”

Helen Clark, the administrator of the U.N. Development Program, said though that scientists and others believe that between $75 billion and $100 billion a year is needed to help poor nations cope with climate change.

“Developing countries are bearing the brunt of climate change now. It’s not something that might happen in 10, 20, 30 years time,” Clark told The Associated Press late Tuesday.

More than two years ago, a panel of hundreds of scientists commissioned by the world’s governments released a report that said the poorest parts of the world, especially Africa and Asia, would be hit hardest by climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says temperature rises will result in increased droughts and flooding in poor nations. Subsistence farmers in Africa and Asia are expected to be particularly hard hit.

In a report earlier this year, the International Food Policy Research Institute predicted 25 million more hungry children over the next four decades because of climate change’s impact on crop production.

Negotiators in Copenhagen will seek a new agreement to curb emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases. The key question is how to divide the responsibility for reducing emissions globally, with developing countries saying they should not be forced to commit to binding targets.

The conference had originally been intended to produce a final global warming treaty, but that now seems out of reach. Most leaders now hope the conference can produce a framework agreement, leaving only details, technical arrangements and legal language to be concluded over the next six to 12 months.

Clark, however, said that climate change also should be related to other issues, such as improving the living standards of billions of people in the world.

She said one way this can happen is by providing financial and technical support to poor nations, allowing them to meet their energy needs while producing little or no greenhouse gases.

With such support, “we will have the ability to bring energy to the huge numbers of people in our world, up to 2 billion people, who do not access have energy at the moment, who don’t have electricity,” Clark said.

Last month, the U.N. Development Program and World Health Organization released a report that described 2 billion people as lacking natural gas, propane or other modern fuels used for cooking or heating their homes. The report also said 1.2 billion more people live entirely without electricity.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.