April 12, 2007 / 1:11 PM / 10 years ago

Re-brand global warming as economic woe: U.N. draft

OSLO (Reuters) - A fight against global warming could work better if viewed as part of the world’s economic problems and not a purely environmental headache, a draft United Nations report says.

The report, due for release in Bangkok on May 4, says economic policies for everything from forestry to insurance can have big spinoffs in limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

“Framing the debate as a development problem rather than an environmental one may better address the immediate goals of all countries, and particularly developing countries and their special vulnerability to climate change,” the draft says.

Efforts to curb use of fossil fuels, for instance, can cut emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for stoking global warming. At the same time, such measures curb air pollution and improve energy security by reducing dependence on energy imports.

The study says developing nations -- such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil -- have cut the growth of their greenhouse emissions in the past 30 years by 500 million metric tons a year, for reasons other than climate.

“Many of these efforts are motivated by economic development and poverty alleviation, energy security, and local environmental protection,” it says.

Those cuts are more than those required by the Kyoto Protocol, the main U.N. plan for fighting global warming that binds 35 developed nations to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12, it says.

“The most promising policy initiatives ... seem to be those that capitalize on natural synergies between climate protection and development priorities to simultaneously advance both,” it says.

The 101-page draft technical summary, obtained by Reuters, is part of an authoritative U.N. series about global warming that will guide policymakers in coming years. It also concludes that measures to fight climate change can be inexpensive.

Insurers, for instance, could help by charging lower premiums for buildings away from areas at risk of floods, erosion, melting permafrost or rising seas. And protecting forests can help soak up greenhouse gases and slow erosion.

“In industrialized countries, climate change continues to be regarded mainly as a separate, environmental problem that is to be addressed through specific climate change policies,” it says.

It says a broad discussion about economic development and climate change had not seriously been initiated in rich states.

Government negotiations on ways to fight climate change after a first period of Kyoto ends in 2012 are stalled, with disputes about how far rich nations should cut emissions and to what extent developing states should brake emissions growth.

President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto in 2001, arguing emissions caps would damage the U.S. economy and developing nations are wrongly excluded until 2012.

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