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UN Says Billions Needed to Help Poor Countries Deal with Climate Change

The United Nations is calling on developed countries to donate billions of dollars to help poorer nations deal with the devastating effects of climate change. Marianne Kearney has more from Jakarta.

A new report by the U.N. Development Program paints a dire picture of how poor people will be affected by climate change. The report calls on first world countries to pay for the damage their greenhouse gas emissions inflict on developing nations.

Two-thirds of the world's poor live in Asia. The U.N. warns they will be especially vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures, even if tough measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions are implemented now.

Hakan Bjorkman, the U.N. Development Program's country director for Indonesia, says more funding is needed to help poorer countries avoid loss of life and income as a result of droughts, flooding and food shortages.

"Only $26 million have been spent through the UNFCC mechanism on adaptation, while something like $86 billion is needed by 2015," he said.

Bjorkman says most of the funding to help countries deal with the effects of climate change has flowed to wealthy nations rather than poor ones.

In addition, the U.N. estimates that a fund of $25 billion to $50 billion a year is needed to help developing countries switch to cleaner energy sources.

The UNDP's report says a rise of just two degrees in the oceans' temperature would cause glaciers in the Himalayas to melt, affecting the food and water source for two billion people in Asia. Increased flow in the region's rivers would displace 22 million people downstream in Vietnam alone.

The UNDP also warns that rising sea levels would cause the collapse of coral reefs, affecting coastal communities in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia.

The report calls on developed countries to cut their greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050, and says India and China should cut their emissions by 20 percent in the same time frame.

Bjorkman says there is a stark difference between the ability of rich and poor countries to adapt to global warming.

"For example, in the United Kingdom where $1.2 billion is being used to prepare for flooding, in the Netherlands people are investing, with government support, in some kind of floating houses, so when the flooding comes they can actually float up," he said. "While in Ethiopia, adaptation is about women having to walk much further to get water and in Bangladesh its about people building flood shelters on bamboo sticks and in Vietnam there are swimming lessons for women and children.

The U.N. report also warns that in Indonesia, climate change has already helped lead to an increase in water borne diseases such as malaria and dengue, and in child malnutrition.