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Human-induced climate change is already causing harm to the world’s poorest people, who are the least responsible for emissions and least able to adapt to climatic shocks, according to a new report published today ahead of the G8 summit by international agency Oxfam. The agency called on G8 countries to urgently take action to keep global warming below 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) and pledge to help poorest cope with the impacts.
“Poor countries should not have to pay for damage caused by the emissions of rich countries,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “As world leaders head to the G8 summit in Germany, they must be prepared to cut their emissions and to start helping poor countries to cope with the high costs of adaptation.”
The report, “Adapting to Climate Change: What’s Needed in Poor Countries and Who Should Pay,” estimates that poor countries will need around $50 billion a year to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change, a conservative estimate that will rise sharply if emissions are not cut drastically.
“Rich countries must find ways to help address the harm caused to those who are least responsible for the problem,” said Offenheiser. “It is important to not think of this as aid in a traditional sense, but as the world’s biggest and richest polluters covering the costs forced upon those who are most vulnerable—an entirely separate and added responsibility.”
Oxfam works in more than 100 countries with poor communities already on the front lines of climate change. Oxfam field staff and partners are seeing first-hand the harm that climate change is already causing poor people, particularly farmers. Adaptation costs are difficult to estimate because the scale of inevitable harm is still uncertain and will depend on how fast greenhouse gas emissions are cut. But according to the report, rich countries have only pledged “a fraction of a fraction” to date, just $182m for all developing countries, and even this small amount is taken from existing aid budgets.
“From the Peruvian Andes, to the deltas of Bangladesh, we are already seeing climatic stresses impacting people’s livelihoods and their ability to manage natural resources, Offenheiser said. “While some developed countries are starting to make important investments to adapt to climate change on the home front, they are stalling when it comes to helping poor countries to do the same.”