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Climate change slowing China’s drive to end poverty

From Reuters

By Emma Graham-Harrison


BEIJING, June 17 (Reuters) – Climate change is making some of the poorest people in China even more destitute and undermining the development that has been a cornerstone of Communist rule, academics and campaigners said on Wednesday.


The most poverty-stricken parts of the country are often also the most vulnerable to changing weather patterns, and farmers in these places are already feeling the pinch from floods and drought, a report from Greenpeace and aid group Oxfam said.


“The distribution of poor communities correlates very strongly to that of ecologically fragile areas,” prominent economist Hu Angang said in an introduction to the report which looks in detail at three communities which are already badly hit.


One county in southwestern Sichuan is grappling with an increase in torrential rains which have destroyed homes by undermining their foundations and damaged fields.


A second case study looks at a poor corner of southeastern Guangdong province that is troubled by a rise in droughts and flooding — because when rain does come it is much heavier — causing crop failure, damage to roads and other problems.


In northwestern Gansu, a third county is suffering from intensified drought that has forced some 34,000 people to leave their homes and left thousands more with limited drinking water.


“The impact of climate change on poor communities is a new phenomenon, a new challenge, in man’s fight against poverty,” economist Hu said.


The impact on people in areas like these, already grappling with problems like remote location and limited resources, may make it harder for Beijing to continue lifting ordinary Chinese citizens out of poverty, the report said.


“Environmental degradation, drought and increased disaster risk and incidence mean that in the future we will have to deal with more and more people falling back into poverty,” it said.


And the government will need to accelerate a shift away from the energy and resource-intensive development that powered much of the poverty reduction of the last three decades, but creates large amounts of the emissions that are perpetuating poverty.


Increased spending on cutting emissions and adapting to global warming could be at least partially offset in savings on disaster relief and reconstruction after events like flooding.


“The whole country’s economic development has felt the impact of rising disaster-related costs, which have become the main cause for certain groups becoming trapped by long-term recurring poverty,” the report said.


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