MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Delegates gathering for United Nations climate talks in Mexico next week must consider the disproportionate impact that climate change has on poor people in their negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol arrangements, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President Ursula Schaefer-Preuss said today.
"Poverty is inextricably linked with environmental issues, and climate change is making the situation worse," Ms. Schaefer-Preuss said in New Delhi, India, on the eve of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16) negotiations in Cancun. "Negotiators in Mexico must recognize that climate change aggravates the plight of the poor and work to ensure that poverty reduction is central to a post-Kyoto agreement."
Asia and the Pacific is home to two-thirds of the world's poor people. Their livelihoods depend on the climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, forestry, and traditional fishing that bear the brunt of climate change impacts such as flooding, drought, rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
In the past two decades, the region's booming economies and rapid industrial expansion have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but this progress has exacted a heavy environmental toll.
More than half of the region's poor live in environmentally degraded areas, where declining farm and coastal productivity now threaten basic livelihoods. This in turn is forcing a mass migration into urban slums that are polluted, congested, and vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.
Speaking at an international conference held in New Delhi, Ms. Schaefer-Preuss also called for countries in the Asia and Pacific region to recognize that continued growth and environmental sustainability can go hand-in-hand.
"While tackling the problem of environmental degradation, governments and international agencies must collaborate with the private sector to create green jobs and new livelihood opportunities for the urban and rural poor," Ms. Schaefer-Preuss said.
"Green technologies being developed and deployed to tackle climate change could be harnessed to produce the triple benefit of reducing poverty, addressing climate change, and protecting the environment and cleaning polluted areas."
The New Delhi event, "The Environments of the Poor in the Context of Climate Change and the Green Economy: Making Sustainable Development Inclusive," is organized by ADB and 14 development partners, and gathers about 150 experts from the government, private sector and think tanks.