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Rising Emissions Threaten Goal of Poverty-Free World

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

If the world is to end extreme poverty and stop it returning, climate-changing emissions must peak by 2030 and fall to near zero by 2100, researchers said.

A new global action plan to eradicate poverty over the next 15 years, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, was adopted at the United Nations on Friday.

A child sits amongst the remains of a house destroyed by Typhoon Rammasun in a coastal village of sea gypsies, also known as Badjaos, in Batangas city, south of Manila, July 17, 2014. 
Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro

But the impacts of global warming - such as worse floods and droughts - could draw as many as 720 million people back into extreme poverty between 2030 and 2050, a report from the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) warned.

"Poverty eradication cannot be maintained without deep cuts from the big GHG (greenhouse gas) emitters," said Ilmi Granoff, one of the report's authors and an expert in green growth.

The study noted that nearly all scenarios outlined by a U.N. climate science panel indicate the global economy must reach zero net emissions before the end of the century to keep average temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The costs of adapting to more extreme weather and rising seas "simply become implausible" beyond that temperature limit, the report warned.

The policies of major-emitting countries - especially industrialised nations - would be incoherent if they supported poverty eradication while failing to shift their own economies towards zero net emissions, it said.

Zero net emissions means not pumping out more carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases into the atmosphere than can be absorbed or offset by reductions elsewhere.

"Developed countries that want to show leadership in fighting extreme poverty globally need to cut domestic emissions to deliver on their ambition, and also redouble their efforts to support developing countries to achieve low-carbon, resilient development," the report said.

Efforts to curb rising emissions in poorer countries are also needed, and would not harm growth as some governments fear, the researchers said.

In regions that are home to extreme poverty, most emissions reductions required by 2030 can enhance growth by between 1.4 percent and 3.9 percent, the ODI study said.

It noted the progress already made in reducing the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day in the developing world - those considered extremely poor - from 43 percent in 1990 to around 17 percent in 2011.

Ending extreme poverty is achievable by 2030 through growth and reductions in inequality, the report said.

"However, climate change may limit or even reverse these gains," it warned.

The researchers said their estimates of how many people climate change could pull back into poverty considered only the most measurable impacts if emissions trends continue toward a temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Those included food prices, child malnutrition and increased droughts.

Bringing in other projected effects of global warming, such as sea-level rise, urban vulnerability to disasters and an increase in airborne diseases, would likely push the number of people set to fall back into poverty much higher than 720 million, they said.

Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering


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