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Poverty and high consumption are key forces causing climate change, says UNEP

Bonn, 2 November 1999 - The grinding poverty of billions of the world's people, combined with the extremely high consumption levels of millions living in industrialized countries, are the two major causes of climate change and other environmental degradation, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said here today.

Addressing delegates at the Bonn climate change conference, Toepfer said that the regions that will suffer most from climate change impacts are those where the poorest of the poor live and where the rate of population growth is highest.

"Fighting poverty must therefore be our highest priority," he stated. "At the same time, it is also imperative to change consumption patterns, transport structure, and lifestyles in the industrialized world."

The urgency of taking action is demonstrated by UNEP's newly published Global Environment Outlook 2000, an assessment of the status of the world's environment at the beginning of the new millenium. GEO 2000 confirms that there are many inspiring examples of past and current success in combating environmental degradation and that there is no excuse for giving up. However, the environmental gains that have been achieved through better management and technology are being outpaced by the damage caused by the growing poverty of the majority of the Earth's inhabitants and the excessive consumption by a minority.

Industrialized countries need to take immediate action to stimulate higher energy efficiency and to promote and use renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass. By taking domestic action to reduce emissions they can help to stimulate the development of new climate-friendly technologies. For example, governments can use green taxes and other signals to the market to encourage a price structure for energy and transport that reflects environmental costs.

"We have to make sure that the Kyoto Protocol is really a landmark step forward in the right direction and that it enters into force no later than 2002 - ten years after the Rio Earth Summit where the Climate Change Convention was signed by over 150 governments," said Toepfer. "The Rio + 10 conference can only be successful if we are able to demonstrate concrete steps here in Bonn."

Note to journalists: For more information, contact Michael Williams in Bonn on +41-79-409-1528,
In Nairobi, contact
Tore Brevik, UNEP Spokesman on +254-2-623292,
Robert Bisset on tel: +254-2-623084,

UNEP News Release 1999/120

See GRID-Arendal Vital Climate Graphics for the COP5 convention in Bonn

Tuesday 02 Nov 1999
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