U.S. must lead at G20 on climate, says group

WASHINGTON Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:26am EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States should show decisive leadership at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh this month and rally heads of state to prepare for the next global crisis -- climate change.

In a speech before the G20 meeting on September 24-25, Nancy Birdsall, president of the Washington-based Center for Global Development, said preparing for climate change was key because it was a new issue and because the world's poor will be severely hurt by it.

Influential think tanks in Washington typically schedule briefings and speeches ahead of big international gatherings in a bid to influence the agenda. This week, G20 ministers are meeting in Washington to finalize the agenda for Pittsburgh.

"To make this summit a success the heads of government must look beyond the current (financial) crisis and begin to prepare for the crisis next time," said Birdsall.

She proposed G20 leaders pledge to work together, before the next summit in Seoul, South Korea, on reaching agreement on ways to implement a future global climate pact.

International climate talks resume in December in Copenhagen where countries will try to thrash out a new international climate change regime beyond 2012 amid increased discord over the role development countries can play in reducing harmful green gas emissions.

Birdsall said the G20 should agree on the role the World Bank, the world's biggest development agency, should play in preparing the poor for the effects of climate change, she added.

She said the G20 should call on the World Bank and other development institutions to develop innovative risk management tools for poor countries, including insurance against natural disasters and bonds indexed to terms of trade.

"I believe that all parties can agree in principle on the importance of effective implementation of whatever (climate change) agreement is eventually reached," she said.

"Beginning now to identify the functions and appropriate institutional arrangements has intrinsic value and it can be a way of creating common ground that can help in getting to yes on a meaningful accord," she added.

She said the World Bank was poorly designed and ill-equipped to deal with such issues as combating trade protectionism and global epidemics to investing in research on renewable energy and climate-resilient crops.

Birdsall said focusing on the poor was especially important because they live in high-risk areas, poor families depend on agriculture for income and to feed themselves, and poor countries have fewer resources to manage and adapt to climate change risks.

"Irreversible climate change could wipe out much of the development progress of the past, and the put future progress, especially in the low-income countries that are not represented in the G20, at grave risk," Birdsall added.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Carol Bishopric)

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