G8 Meeting to Address Poverty, Climate Change

With the next meeting of the G8 in Gleneagles, Scotland just a few weeks away, a variety of critics are already weighing in on the proposed themes of African poverty and climate change. The Independent has an interview with world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, who’s prepared for something less than concrete results from the conference:

“Don’t let the leaders [of the G8 countries] leave Scotland without offering serious plans for ending poverty and climate change. They are not going to Gleneagles for a game, or for a little vacation, not for photo-ops, not for smiles. They are there to set us on a real path to ending extreme poverty. Give them a serious warning – don’t leave here without doing your work. Don’t leave here without putting in place solutions to these problems.”

Sach’s analysis of the issues that face poverty-stricken nations is fascinating and perceptive, and based in analysis of the systems at work in countries like Malawi (his example).

Sachs isn’t the only one insisting that G8 leaders understand the link between Africa’s impoverishment and climate change: A group of British aid agencies and environmental groups has issued a report, Africa — Up in Smoke that claims

All the rich nations’ efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa will fail unless climate change can be checked,…

More favourable arrangements for African debt relief, aid and trade – the point of the rock star’s forthcoming Live8 concerts and items on the agenda for the Gleneagles G8 summit – will count for nothing unless the effects of global warming are countered, say the development and green groups in a hard-hitting new report.

To combat climate change, rich countries must cut their greenhouse gas emissions further, far beyond the targets laid down in the Kyoto Protocol, they say. But more than that, aid policy for Africa as a whole needs a complete rethink in climate change terms, because the continent is uniquely vulnerable to climatic shifts, with 70 per cent of its people being immediately dependent on rain-fed, small-scale agriculture.

Aid needs to be targeted in a new way, they insist, and what will be vital in the future will not be big development projects, such as industrial-scale agriculture, so much as steps to make small communities more resilient in the face of potentially devastating rises in temperature or drops in rainfall…

The report details the impact that climate change is soon to have, or indeed is already having, across the continent.

It says the 14 African countries already subject to water stress or water scarcity will be joined by a further 11 nations in the next 25 years. Rainfall is predicted to decline in the Horn of Africa and some parts of the south by as much as 10 per cent by 2050, while the land may warm by as much as 1.6C, all of which is likely to affect the crop harvests for hundreds of millions of people.

If, for example, temperatures rise by as much as 2C, the report says, large areas of Kenya currently suited to growing tea would become unsuitable and the impact on Kenya’s economy would be enormous. (Tea provides nearly a quarter of the country’s export earnings.)

The G8 and Tony Blair have set an ambitious agenda. Let’s see what steps they actually take to address these monumental issues.

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