Rich nations urged to act on climate change

By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-11-28 07:00

Wealthy countries are to blame for their failure to show international leadership on climate change and their refusal to accept responsibility for past carbon emissions, a report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said Tuesday.

They already spend billions adapting to the effects of climate change, but poor countries - which are not historically responsible for the emissions - are being made to deal with the impact of climate change on their own, said the global Human Development Report released in Brasilia by the UN body. "This represents a double standard."

The report calls for joint efforts to fight climate change, described as a great challenge for human development in the 21st century. "All countries must be part in international efforts to tackle climate change," it said.

In developing countries, one in 19 people was affected by climate-related disasters between 2000 and 2004, while the proportion is one in 1,500 for wealthy nations, the report said.

Although the per capita carbon footprint in China is limited, the report says that high growth in China, as well as in India, is "leading to a gradual convergence in aggregate emissions".

Most wealthy countries are failing to meet their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, the report said. It clearly recognizes that developing countries cannot be expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same rate or over the same timeframe as what is proposed for developed countries.

For developing countries, the report proposes international cooperation for transferring and financing new low-carbon technologies, and recommends that national governments include adaptation to climate change in their poverty reduction strategies.

According to the Human Development Index (HDI) prepared by the UNDP, China ranks 81 out of 177 countries and areas covered by the report, registering marked progress in basic human development indicators over the past 15 years.

The index published in the Human Development Report reflects long-term progress in three basic dimensions: Life expectancy, adult literacy and enrolment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary education, and per-capita GDP.

The report said China made great headway in all underlying indicators between 1990 and 2005, during which life expectancy at birth increased by nearly five years, GDP per capita nearly tripled, and adult literacy and school enrolment ratio grew by nearly 13 and 16 percentage points.

The HDI is calculated each year based on available data from international agencies. There is a two-year lag between the reference year and publication of the report, and so the index for 2007 refers to 2005.

China's 2005 figure of 0.777 is above the regional average of 0.771 for East Asia and Pacific countries, according to the report.

It is also above the average HDI for all developing countries of 0.691.

In the 2006 report, China also ranked 81 out of 177 countries and areas, with an HDI value at 0.768.

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