(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Climate change to hurt poor people most

[Kenya] Opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 6 November 2006.
Siegfried Modola/IRIN

The effects of global warming threaten to reverse recent gains in the fight against extreme poverty in developing countries, Kenya's environment minister warned on Monday.

Speaking at the opening of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Nairobi, Kivutha Kibwana said: "Climate change is rapidly emerging as one of the most serious threats that humanity may ever face."

Kibwana, who is also president of the 6-17 November conference, added: "We face a genuine danger that recent gains in poverty reduction will be thrown into reverse in coming decades, particularly for the poorest communities on the continent of Africa."

More than 6,000 delegates attending the conference are expected to discuss ways of limiting the effects of climate change, as well as helping countries, especially in the developing world, contain the harmful effects of global warming.

"We expect countries to take decisions in Nairobi that will enhance action on adaptation on the ground," Yvo de Boer, the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary said.

Speaking at the conference, Kenyan vice-president Moody Awori told delegates: "Climate change is threatening the livelihoods of billions of the world's poorest people. The sub-Saharan economies are the most susceptible to climate change due to their predominantly agrarian structure. More than 25 percent of the GDP of these countries is derived from agriculture [and] it is from this sector that we produce for export and feed our people."

Awori added: "Climate change will adversely affect this sector and greatly reduce the gains made in recent poverty reduction programmes, particularly for the poor communities who depend entirely on agriculture. We must therefore resolve to protect our scarce resources. Reducing the vulnerability of those most at risk from the impacts of climate change will require substantial external financial resources."

Among other issues, the management of a convention adaptation fund will be discussed. Established under the Kyoto Protocol, it is intended to finance climate change adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries.

Parties to the protocol are committed to reduce economic activities that emit harmful gases which lead to climate change.

A representative from Greenpeace International, Steve Sawyer, said funding and technological transfer were essential if Africa was to adapt to climate change.

With the impact of climate change being felt across the world, the emphasis should be on the prevention of environmental crises caused by climate change, and not fundraising in response to natural disasters related to global warming, according to Jesse Mugambi, a delegate from the University of Nairobi.

A UN report released ahead of the conference noted that Africa was the region most affected by global warming, but is the least prepared to tackle the causes of climate change.

Rising sea levels could destroy an estimated 30 percent of Africa's coastal infrastructure, according to the report, which warned that coastal settlements in the Gulf of Guinea, Senegal, Gambia and Egypt could be flooded. By 2080, global warming could lead to a 5 percent fall in the production of food crops several Africa countries the report said.

Jn/aw/jm

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