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CLIMATE : - Industrialized countries lead us to disastrous future-, says Oxfam

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ISTANBUL, October 6 -- New tension developed between the World Bank and Civil Society organizations at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) joint annual meetings this week in Istanbul, Turkey.

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The World Bank released in mid September its World Development Report (WDR) for 2010, which was presented to the Bank's members and press at various pre-conference meetings here.

The section of the report on Development and Climate Change has triggered the reactions of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) present at the annual meeting, which have been militating for a more equitable treatment of developing countries in respect to the financial burden that the various solutions proposed would impose on their respective domestic economies.

"This report shows that industrialized countries are leading the world into a disastrous future," said Caroline Pearce, Senior Policy Advisor with Oxfam International, one of the most outspoken NGOs dealing with climate change, in an interview Tuesday with OpEd News.

"Trillions of dollars were found to bail out banks in the financial crisis, but trifling sums are offered to poor countries that will suffer most from climate change damage. With 64 days to go until the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, the response from industrialized countries has been deeply disappointing," she added.

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The report warns that sustained effort is necessary by all countries and recommends that developed nations lead the way to a climate-smart world. It also acknowledges that developing states will be hit harder, but reassures that the costs for getting there will be high but still manageable. A key way to do this is by ramping up funding for mitigation in developing countries, where most future growth in emissions will occur, claims the WDR.

This is where one of the disagreements between Oxfam and the World Bank lies. For the NGO, the producers of emissions are by far the advanced economies, while the developing world is the victim of such emissions.

On the other hand, the Bank points to the fact that 1.6 billion people in the developing world lack access to electricity and one out of four persons lives on an income of 1.25 dollars a day. Any positive change in these conditions through economic growth will inevitably lead to additional carbon emissions. So the World Bank officials seem to be mostly concerned about responsibility sharing in the future, rather than the present, among developed and emerging economies.

Oxfam also seems to appreciate the dilemma between job creation, in the north and south alike, and improvement in the globe's environmental health. But the true debate, according to the organization, is who should be responsible financially for fixing the problem. The haves or the have nots?

"The World Bank has been doing a thorough job in analyzing the situation, and their various reports are increasingly rigorous. But we had enough of these analysis. Now is time for action, continued Pearce. We can't wait until the Copenhagen meeting next December to start talking. Developed countries must begin making concrete proposals and commitments before then. Copenhagen should be the venue for firm decisions, she said.

Solving the climate problem will require a transformation of the world's energy systems in the coming decades. The World Bank estimates that research and development investments on the order of US$100 - $700 billion annually will be needed--a major increase from the modest $13 billion a year of public funds and $40 billion to $60 billion a year of private funds currently invested.

Oxfam says it has a more pragmatic and ready-for-action approach. In two reports it published this year it proposes solutions that would start correcting the trends in emissions in the short term at an annual cost of $150 billion only.

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But action and financing have to start now, insisted Carolinde Pearce. Rich, industrialized world leaders have a choice. They can sit back and watch poverty and global temperatures spiral out of control; or they can reduce their emissions and can hand over significant new money to help poor people adapt to climate change," she concluded.

Oxfam International, formed in 1942 in England, is a confederation of 14 organizations working with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. (END/2009).


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J N Couvas is an academic, journalist, and an international corporate and political adviser, specialising in Middle East and Balkan affairs. He teaches international strategy and executive leadership at universities in the region.

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