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Poverty to soar without climate action: World Bank

Poverty levels will drastically increase across the world if governments fail to take action against climate change, a new World Bank report claims.

"Hard-won" gains in poverty reduction will be irreparably lost, particularly in Africa and South Asia, if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions aren't curbed, the report suggests, potentially dragging 100 million more people into poverty by 2030.

It goes on to explain that the world's poorest are already at high risk of falling victim to environmental shocks and losing a greater amount of their assets than their wealthier counterparts.


Ricardo Funari | Brazil Photos | Getty Images

The report comes as global leaders gear up for COP21, the global climate change conference set to take place in Paris from November 30 to December 11 this year. It's expected to deliver a legally binding agreement between over 190 countries that would aim to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

The World Bank report is calling for "an all-out push" to reduce GHG emissions which would help alleviate climate change and the dangers it poses for the world's most disadvantaged.

However, it makes clear that any climate-targeted policies shouldn't disproportionately impact the poorest citizens, asking governments instead to reinforce or implement social safety nets like universal healthcare, and invest in flood defenses, warning systems and climate resistant crops.

"The future is not set in stone," World Bank Senior Economist and report leader Stephane Hallegatte said. "We have a window of opportunity to achieve our poverty objectives in the face of climate change, provided we make wise policy choices now."

Extreme weather caused by climate change could increase the frequency of drought and irregular rainfall, leading to crop yield losses totaling 5 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2080, according to World Bank models.

This would deal "a crippling blow" to households that already see 60 percent of their income put towards food. Food prices in this case would soar 12 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by the year 2080, it said.

Higher temperatures will also increase the rate of disease and health problems like malaria, diarrhea and stunting, the report explained.

Climate solutions for the world’s poorest

It's important to remember that richer countries won't be immune to the impacts of climate change either, Chris Hope told CNBC in a phone interview. Hope works in policy modeling at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, where he's known for his expertise on climate change impacts.

"The problem is that these parts of the world that are richer will be able to adapt more, but not completely. There are bound to be some impacts in places like Europe and America," Hope said.

But developed countries also need to be prepared to help poorer states make climate-friendly changes, too. The World Bank says they will need help with upfront costs, such as implementing public urban transit systems and energy infrastructures that will more quickly ween developing nations off of transport and power programs that yield higher carbon emissions.

Ultimately, climate-friendly policies will be one way of contributing to state growth and pulling citizens out of poverty, Hope said.


An example provided by the World Bank would be redistributing cash from nixed fossil fuel subsidies into assistance schemes for poor families, helping to offset high fuel costs.

"People think that if we try to work towards climate change, it will be harder for these countries to grow. But all the research shows that this isn't true. In fact if you do the climate policies in the right way, typically by putting taxes on greenhouse gasses and generating revenues, it then allows you to reduce other areas of the economy's taxes," Hope said.

Hope added that exporting renewable technology to poorer countries earlier would also notably aid development rates.

"There's no contradiction in wanting to tackle climate and bringing these countries out of poverty," he added.