Global warming to hit poor worst, says U.N.'s Ban

By Daniel Wallis
Monday, February 5, 2007; 8:18 AM

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The world's poor, who are the least responsible for global warming, will suffer the most from climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told environment ministers from around the world on Monday.

"The degradation of the global environment continues unabated ... and the effects of climate change are being felt across the globe," Ban said in a statement after last week's toughest warning yet mankind is to blame for global warming.

In comments read on his behalf at the start of a major week-long gathering in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Ban said all countries would feel the adverse impact of climate change.

"But it is the poor, in Africa and developing small island states and elsewhere, who will suffer the most, even though they are the least responsible for global warming."

Experts say Africa is the lowest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for rising temperatures, but due to its poverty, under-development and geography, has the most to lose under dire predictions of wrenching change in weather patterns.

Desertification round the Sahara and the shrinking of Mount Kilimanjaro's snow-cap have become potent symbols in Africa of the global environment crisis.

U.N. environment agencies have been lobbying Ban to play a leading role in the hunt for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gases, which expires in 2012.

Ringing in the ears of delegates at Monday's start of talks attended by nearly 100 nations was last week's warning by a U.N. panel that there was a more than 90 percent chance humans were behind most of the warming in the past five decades.


Governments are under huge pressure to act on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which forecast more storms, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.

U.N. officials hope the report will spur nations -- particularly the United States, the top emitter -- and companies to do more to cut greenhouse gases, released mainly by cars, factories and power plants fuelling modern lifestyles.

Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori told delegates it was now clear Africa would face the "most severe impacts" of climate change, and he called on the United Nations to devise special initiatives and action plans for the continent.

Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) hosting the talks, said globalization was eating world resources while not delivering the benefits expected of it.

But there were many examples of sustainable management from the certification of resources like timber and fish to avoid illegal exploitation, to "creative" financial mechanisms such as the rapidly-expanding carbon market, Steiner added.

"We need to harness the power of the consumer, match calls for international regulation from the private sector and set realistic standards ... for the globalize markets," he said.

As well as globalization, this week's UNEP Governing Council talks will focus on the growing threat from mercury pollution, the rising demand for biofuels and U.N. reforms.

And for the first time, it drew officials from other agencies, including World Trade Organization boss Pascal Lamy.

"Sustainable development is no longer an option, it is a must," Lamy said. "The WTO stands ready to do its part."

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