U.N. chief urges climate change help despite slowdown

DHAKA (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged developed countries not to neglect climate change as they tend to a global economic slowdown and called on rich nations to help poor countries prone to global warming.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon talks during a news conference in Dhaka November 2, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

“The leaders of the developed countries should not neglect the issue of global warming,” he told a news conference at the end of his two-day visit to Bangladesh on Sunday.

“A one-metre rise in sea levels would displace 30 million Bangladeshis and deal a catastrophic blow to economic growth and development,” Ban said.

Experts say climate change will hit Bangladesh’s nearly 150 million people from all sides over the next 50 years with sea levels rising in the south, droughts in the north, river erosion as glaciers melt and disease risk growing with greater humidity.

Ban said Bangladesh had been at the forefront of disaster prevention, and was a good example of how a vulnerable developing country can stengthen its resilience against catastrophic events such as super cyclone Sidr.

Cyclone Sidr ravaged southern Bangladesh killing some 3,500 people and displacing some two million on Nov. 15 last year, following twin floods that killed some 1,500 people and damaged about 2 million tonnes of food.

Aid organisation Oxfam said urgent help and a comprehensive climate deal were crucial to Bangladesh where production of staple foods is forecast to drop steeply by 2050 due to accelerated melting of Himalayan glaciers from global warming.

Ban also visited a disaster management project run by the U.N. and the Bangladesh government, at a river island near Sirajganj district 150 km (94 miles) northwest of the capital Dhaka, on Sunday.

Referring to the upcoming Dec. 18 election, he said, “The opposition must engage constructively with the new government to consolidate the reform begun by the current caretaker government -- particularly those dedicated to fighting corruption.”

Ban arrived in Dhaka on Saturday to assess preparations for the election under the guidance of the army-backed interim government.

“... the U.N. will dispatch a small team of highly capable and prominent individuals who will visit in the coming weeks to assess the conduct of the election and report to me,” Ban said.