Developing nations 'could face $1 trillion climate bill per year'

A woman posing for a selfie in front of Harbin's landmark San Sophia church, on a hazy day in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China, on Nov 3, 2015.
A woman posing for a selfie in front of Harbin's landmark San Sophia church, on a hazy day in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China, on Nov 3, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Developing countries could face a bill of US$790 billion (S$1.1 trillion) per year by 2050 for adapting to climate change, anti- poverty agency Oxfam has said.

Carbon-curbing pledges which form the cornerstone of a climate rescue pact to be sealed at a United Nations summit opening in Paris next week are insufficient, it said in a report yesterday.

Current commitments from some 170 nations put the world on track to warm by 3 deg C over mid-19th century levels - a full 1 deg C higher than the UN target.

Unless much more is done, developing nations will end up spending about 50 per cent more on climate adaptation by mid-century than they would under a 2 deg C scenario, the report said.

"World leaders need to step up. We need further cuts to emissions and more climate funding," said Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima in a statement.

CALL FOR MORE ACTION

World leaders need to step up. We need further cuts to emissions and more climate funding.

The human cost of climate change must be central to discussions in Paris so we get a better climate deal for poor people.

MS WINNIE BYANYIMA, executive director of Oxfam, which said current carbon-curbing pledges are insufficient

"The human cost of climate change must be central to discussions in Paris so we get a better climate deal for poor people."

In addition to the costly impact of flooding, droughts and extreme weather, the economies of developing countries stand to lose US$1.7 trillion annually by 2050 if warming breaches 3 deg C, according to the report.

A key test for Paris will be to include a mechanism in the pact to periodically review and improve the pledges until the 2 deg C goal comes into view.

Countries do not agree on how often reviews should be done, or whether there should be an obligation to automatically ramp up efforts.

Money will be a make-or-break issue at the talks. Rich nations have pledged to muster US$100 billion per year in financial support for poor countries from 2020.

A UN-commissioned estimate showed that international climate finance amounted to US$62 billion last year.

Developing nations want assurances that the flow of funding will be reliable and recession-proof.

And they want assurances that money will go not only towards "mitigation" programmes allowing their shift away from climate- harming fossil fuels, but also for shoring up their defences against climate impacts - "adaptation" in climate jargon.

Meanwhile, the UN weather agency said yesterday that this year is set to be the hottest on record and next year could be even hotter due to the current El Nino weather pattern.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said that global average surface temperatures this year were likely to reach what it called the "symbolic and significant milestone" of 1 deg C above the pre-industrial era.

"This is due to a combination of a strong El Nino and human- induced global warming," said the WMO in a statement.

The El Nino weather pattern, which is marked by warming sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, causes extreme weather such as scorching heat and flooding.

Meteorologists expect El Nino to peak between October and January and predict it will be one of the strongest on record.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Developing nations 'could face $1 trillion climate bill per year''. Print Edition | Subscribe