ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43
Financial Times  

End global poverty before global warming

Developing nations can accelerate their economic growth by harnessing the appropriate technologies for sustainable development, the chairman of the Board of Investment (BOI) has said.

Speaking at a recent panel discussion on “Climate Change” at the Foreign Ministry, Dhammika Perera said it was necessary to end global poverty before global warming and noted that ‘you can balance development with concern for the environment’.

He said in in order to alleviate poverty, economies need to industrialize. Industrialization leads to emissions. “In other words the equation is that a reduction in poverty leads to an increase in emissions,” he said.

Economies such as the United States enjoy a per capita income of US$45,594 whilst countries such as Sri Lanka are at US$1558. This means that through industrialization poverty reduction has been achieved in the United States. But the cost of this wealth, has been the accumulated emission of roughly 80% of the carbon dioxide build up, globally over the past few decades.

Perera said metric tones of CO2 emission per capita in 2004 for the US stood at 20.4, Singapore at 12.2, Japan at 9.84, emerging economies such as Malaysia also contribute 7.05 whilst Sri Lanka stands at 0.61 ranking at 159 in the global ranking.
He said industrialized nations believe that rapidly growing developing countries are the source of global warming. But the fact remains that development is a critical need for developing economies to reduce poverty. Since 1950, the US has emitted a cumulative total of roughly 50 billion tons of carbon, while China (with a population 4.5 times more) and India (with a population 3.5 times more) have emitted only 15 and 4 billion tons, respectively. Most other developing countries have far less emissions than India or China. In terms of per capita emissions, developing countries like India and China will not reach the US levels for decades or longer.

“The standard approaches of slowing growth, in order to reverse the trend of global warming, is always the first suggestion made by policy makers and environmentalists.

The arguments against slowing growth come from industry and the Third World, which is trying to develop economies that are self sustaining to improve conditions for their populations,” he said, adding: “The Third World depends on the development and availability of low cost energy in order to expand its economies.”

He said the trade-off for the Third World is one of short term survival as opposed to environmental protection. “The answer is always toward immediate survival. Should the industrialized countries engage in restricting this human right, the right to live now?” he asked.

Perera said there is a need to focus more on development because it has the potential to lead the Third World to be more concerned about the environment. “Only when people are rich enough to feed themselves do they worry about the environment and the future generations,” he added.


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