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The climate of poverty: facts, fears and hope

Tens of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa could die of disease directly attributable to climate change, is the main finding of this NGO report. Calling on the United Kingdom Government in particular to lead rich countries in taking urgent action to reduce global warming, the report also offers a vision of a different future, whereby alternative development thinking could see the poor using renewable energy to support their livelihoods.

A switch by sub-Saharan Africa away from development based on fossil fuels to one using energy sources like solar, wind and water would not only have environmental benefits but also result in increased jobs, better health and enhanced opportunities for learning. Rolling this out to every household on the continent would cost no more than the region’s oil bill for the next decade, the authors claim. Furthermore, investment in clean technology could even transform the world’s most impoverished continent into a net exporter of clean energy.

Among others, the document calls for the UK government to:

  • institute a strict ‘carbon budget’ which will reduce emissions, year on year, by two thirds of 1990 levels by 2050
  • lead developed countries in offering new financial support to developing countries, by way of compensation for the damage already inflicted on the environment
  • help to establish and fund programmes to provide renewable energy to poor communities

The report also documents two country case studies in Kenya and Bangladesh. The African case demonstrates how climate change is fuelling violence in northern drought-hit areas. In Bangladesh, a predicted rise in sea levels would leave countless people displaced and dispossessed, and increased runoff from the Himalayan region is already having adverse impacts on livelihoods.