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Friday 24th March 2006

Global warming

Roger Harrabin reports on how greenhouse gasses emitted from rich countries like Britain are harming the poorest.

An internal report from the development Department Dfid says climate change driven by emissions from rich nations is harming the poorest people in the world. The report obtained by BBC News under the Freedom of Information Act says more than half of the overseas aid flowing into Bangladesh ($1bn) could be wiped out by climate change as sea levels and temperature rise.

It forecasts that global warming threatens to reduce India 's farm output by as much as a quarter - just as its population is booming. In Africa the number of people at risk from coastal flooding is likely to rise from 1 million in 1990 to 70 million by 2080.

The Dfid report will increase pressure on the Prime Minister. Next week the government publishes its review of Climate Change Strategy. It's committed to cutting emissions by 20% but under Labour emissions have actually increased by 1.9%.

The report is Dfid's contribution to the UK government's review of climate economics by Nick Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank. The Dfid report points out that natural disasters cost donors $6 billion annually. 73% of them are climate related so the bill will almost certainly soar as extreme weather events are forecast to get much worse with climate change.

Dfid says the world will need to adapt to some degree to an inevitable measure of change fuelled by greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. But it says all international development policies must be framed with climate change in mind. It urges a target to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations (a difficult goal as the US refuses to discuss any such target). And it complains that the price of carbon is too low internationally to prompt cleaner development.

Until recently the debate over climate change economics tends to have been dominated by industry lobby groups worried about the effect of clean-up measures on economic growth. I understand that the Stern review is likely to predict that it will be much cheaper to reduce emissions than to attempt to deal with all the consequences of climate change.

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