UN Chief urges action on growing climate change risk
Agence France-Presse, May 17, 2009
MANAMA (AFP) -- UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for decisive action to reduce the growing impact of climate change as he launched a global assessment of ways to minimise the risks from natural disasters.
"Gulf countries have so far been less exposed to disasters but rising sea levels threaten Bahrain, Egypt and Djibouti. Many other Arab countries are stricken by earthquakes and drought," Ban said in Bahrain.
"As a result of global climate change, weather-related hazards are on the rise and we must act decisively," the UN secretary general said, urging governments to do more to reduce the risks, which affects most the poor.
Last year alone, 236,000 people lost their lives in over 300 disasters. More than 200 million were directly affected and estimated damage totalled over 180 billion dollars, Ban said.
"Reducing disaster risk can help countries decrease poverty, safeguard development and adapt to climate change. This, in turn, can promote global security, stability and sustainability," he said.
He noted that last year Asia was hit hard by natural disasters
"Nine of the top 10 countries with the highest number of disaster-related deaths were in Asia," he said.
The Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction launched at a two-day conference in the kingdom of Bahrain is timely, Ban said,
It is "the most comprehensive international effort to identify disaster risk, analyse its causes and show what we can do to tackle the challenge... (and) limit their potential for disaster," he added.
"We know that poor people and developing nations suffer the most from disasters. This new report catalogues just how concentrated this risk can be, and how similar exposure to hazard can kill many or a few," he said.
According to Ban "75 percent of those who die from floods live in just three countries -- Bangladesh, China and India" while "17 times more people perish due to tropical cyclones in the Philippines than in Japan."
He urged heads of governments and political leaders around the world "to invest more in disaster risk reduction."
"Taking action now to reduce disaster risk can be one of the best investments countries can make," he said.
The UN chief cited three main issues that needed to be dealt with -- unplanned urban development, vulnerable rural livelihoods and the decline of ecosystems.
He said governments should invest in upgrading squatter settlements and providing land for the urban poor, and protecting rural livelihoods and ecosystems.
He singled out the potential contribution that could be made by microcredit schemes like that pioneered in Bangladesh by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.
On Thursday, a report submitted to the UN called on donor countries to raise up to two billion dollars to help vulnerable, poor countries adapt to climate change.
"As a first step, we urge donors countries to mobilize one to two billion dollars to assist the vulnerable, low-income countries, which are already suffering from climate impacts," particularly in Africa and small island states, said the final study by the Stockholm-based Commission on Climate Change and Development (CCCD).
A UN-led conference in the Danish capital Copenhagen in December is meant to approve a new global warming treaty for the period after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's obligations to cut carbon emissions expire.
In November four Gulf OPEC members - Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, pledged a total of 750 million dollars to a new fund to tackle global warming through financing research for a clean environment.
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