The report, The Global Climate and Economic Development has been published by the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and argues there is a real risk of the chasm between rich and poor widening as the climate changes unless poverty and environmental degradation are dealt with as a single issue.

While this may seem an obvious premise to base action on, this study formalises the link and rekindles the debate in both the academic and political arenas.

The document considers the great tension between the need for economic growth in the developing world and the concern over increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

It looks at ways of promoting economic and social development, and improving the health of populations and ecosystems while slowing emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

In his forward to the report Dr Rajendra K Pachauri, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says trying to tackle problems independently cannot work.

“The impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor persons within all countries,” he said.

“It will therefore exacerbate inequalities in health status and access to adequate food, clean water and other resources.”

The report advocates a combination of technology and grass roots action in both the developed and developing world to combat the problem.

With climate change and poverty both high on the political agenda at the moment, the report’s release is timely.

“With each passing year the world comes closer to a formal consensus on two major issues: the reality and the potential harm of climate change induced by human activity and the need to alleviate the human devastation and social inequity of extreme poverty,” it says.

“The level of danger and specific risks associated with global warming may be debatable but serious changes are inevitable.

“Although we have much to learn about how best to address the alarming rates of poverty facing much of the world’s population, the need to act is no longer debateable.”

The report outlines indubitable examples of climate change and its effects on the developing countries and points out that 200 years ago individuals in the wealthiest countries were earning somewhere in the region of five times the income of those in the poorest.

Now that figure is nearer 50 times and the gap continues to grow while changes in the climate gather pace.

Its central conclusion is that development programmes tend to be more successful and sustainable when they take climate change into account while programmes to mitigate and adapt to climate change work better when geared to fit in with a country’s development framework.

“These issues can no longer be dealt with independently,” says the report.

“They need to be solved together.”

By Sam Bond

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