The Heat Is Online

UN Chief to G-8: Warming Intensifies Food Crisis

UN chief to G8: climate change, food crisis linked


The Associated Press, July 4, 2008


The global food crisis will only worsen because of climate change, the U.N. climate chief said Friday, urging leaders of the world's richest countries meeting in Japan next week to set goals to reduce carbon emissions within the next dozen years.

Food security and soaring oil prices are likely to overtake climate change in the priorities of the G-8 meeting starting Monday, though global warming was the theme set by the host, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

Food and global warming are interconnected, said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. "They are not competing with each other on the international agenda."

"It is absolutely right that the food issue is receiving a lot of attention. That is a human crisis that's out there right now," De Boer said in a telephone interview from his office in
Bonn, Germany.

But in the long term, climate change will bring still higher food prices, worsening water problems and more drought. Ignoring the issue "will get you into deeper trouble down the road," he said.

De Boer said it was uncertain whether the industrialized countries would firm up the goal adopted a year ago to "consider seriously" halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But he said it was important to discuss more immediate goals. Knowing what the world's biggest economies intend to do by 2020 is critical for developing countries and business investors, he said.

"If you look at the signs of investment direction that the private sector is crying out for, that is the issue that is most critical," he said. He acknowledged, however, he expected no conclusions on emissions goals for 2020.

A Nobel prize-winning panel of U.N. scientists has said emissions must level off within the next 10-15 years and then start to dramatically decline to avoid a rise in average temperatures that could have catastrophic consequences.

Since the last G-8 meeting in
Germany, oil prices have doubled to surpass $140 a barrel, and de Boer said soaring prices were already having an effect on climate issues.

On the plus side, people were driving less, and renewable energy was winning more attention. For the first time, the International Energy Agency lowered its forecast for oil demand, he said.

At the same time, "very poor people who spend the bulk of their income on survival are not happy to see energy prices go up," he said.

De Boer welcomed the move by the board of the World Bank on Tuesday formally launching two special investment funds for climate change that could raise up to US$10 billion.

The funds have been sharply criticized by some environmentalists who distrust the bank's environmental record and say the money should be put in the hands of de Boer's U.N. organization.

"The Bank's new climate funds will undermine U.N. climate talks, increase debt and pay polluters," said the Friends of the Earth in a statement Friday.

De Boer said, however, the bank's funds had a clause that will phase them out when a new financial structure is adopted in a climate change treaty. That accord should be negotiated by the end of next year.

More than $200 billion will be needed annually by 2030 to bring the world's emissions down to 1990 levels -- and still more will be needed to reduce that by half over the next 20 years, he said.

"We will have to mobilize every possible financial channel to meet that challenge," he said.

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