WASHINGTON, DC—Oxfam America president Raymond C. Offenheiser, issued the following statement in response to President George W. Bush's speech on climate change today:
“Just days after recognizing the plight of poor people impacted by increasing food prices, President Bush missed the opportunity to offer real solutions to tackle one of the major threats to food security worldwide. In fact, the initiative he announced today could make matters worse.
"Scientists predict that climate change will result in more frequent droughts. It is clear that droughts in places around the world and the shift from food to fuels for commodities like corn and soybeans are partly responsible for the meteoric rise in food prices over the past year. With food shortages causing social unrest in dozens of countries, the President needs to offer more than a short term fix to the food crisis while doing little to curb our dangerous emissions. Aggressive action is urgently needed to reduce CO2 emissions and the effects of climate change on poor people and their ability to feed themselves.
"The shift to biofuels may exacerbate the problem if major investments are not made to encourage the production of non-food based energy sources such as cellulosic ethanol. The President points to ingenuity and enterprise as keys to the solution, but ingenuity without investment capital won't get it done.
"We also need to recognize that it's not just polar bears and glaciers that are affected by climate change. Climate change is affecting people throughout the developing world. The UNDP estimated that it would cost $86 billion a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change. Yet the President made no mention today of the need to help them adapt to the effects of global warming.
"While technology may be part of the solution to our climate crisis, we need to be certain to focus some of this technological innovation on helping developing countries meet their growing energy needs without substantially increasing greenhouse gas emissions. It is not fair to ask poor countries to sacrifice their economic growth because of potential climate impacts. It is reasonable, though, to help them grow in more carbon neutral ways. Providing this support is one of the foundations of the Bali roadmap, and financing should be an essential part of that negotiating process.
"What we need now is a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as assistance to poor communities here and abroad to adapt to the severe consequences of global warming already taking place. In this respect, high food prices may simply be the tip of the iceberg.
"It's been nearly a year since the major emitters process was kicked off. Unless this week's meeting sets out constructive proposals that will advance UN negotiations under the Bali Roadmap, it will be apparent that this Bush initiated process is simply a distraction from the global task at hand.
"The reality is that US leadership is sorely needed to reduce our impact on the planet and to help those who are suffering the consequences of our unwillingness to cut our own greenhouse gas emissions. If not, food scarcity will increase, food prices will continue to soar, and nations large and small will suffer the consequences."