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Climate change pushing 26 mn lives into poverty annually: World Bank

Marrakech, Nov 14: In a shocking revelation, the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) was informed that while the economic and human cost of the extreme natural disaster has been underestimated by 60 per cent, it annually forces about 26 million people into poverty.

According to the report presented before the delegates from across the world, the impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to a $520-billion global loss in annual consumption. It reveals that the combined human and economic impact on the poor and affected has been “underestimated by 60 per cent”.

The report, “Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters”, was presented by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

“Storms, floods, and droughts have dire human and economic consequences, with poor people often paying the heaviest price. Severe climate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.

The report comes at a time when the global climate diplomacy is underway at Marrakech through several negotiations, which so far has seen reservations from the developing countries, especially in the agriculture.

It underlines the importance of the urgency for climate-smart policies that better protect the most vulnerable.

“Poor people are typically more exposed to natural hazards, losing more as a share of their wealth and are often unable to draw on support from family, friends, financial systems, or governments,” the report said.

The analysis was done in 117 countries and the effect on well-being, measured in terms of lost consumption, is found to be larger than asset losses.

The report added that because disaster losses disproportionately affect poor people, who have a limited ability to cope with them, the impact on well-being in these countries is equivalent to consumption losses of about $520 billion a year.

“Building resilience to disasters not only makes economic sense, it is also a moral imperative,” Kim said.

Citing an example of an extreme event, the report gives example of Myanmar’s 2008 Cyclone Nargis, which forced up to half the country’s poor farmers to sell off assets including land, to relieve the debt burden following the cyclone.

“Economic and social repercussions of Nargis will be felt for generations,” the report said.

The report points out that the resilience-building intervention, like early warning systems, improved access to personal banking, insurance policies and social protection systems (like cash transfers and public works programmes) would help countries and communities save $100 billion a year and reduce the overall impact of disasters on well-being by 20 per cent.

It says that such measures could help people better respond to and recover from shocks.

“Countries are enduring a growing number of unexpected shocks as a result of climate change. Poor people need social and financial protection from disasters that cannot be avoided,” said Stephane Hallegatte, a GFDRR lead economist, who led preparation of the report.

By Kushagra Dixit

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