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The United Nations has opened its World Food Summit in Rome, saying a deal on climate change is crucial to fight global hunger. About 60 heads of state or government are attending the three-day meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the World Food Security summit in Rome by calling for a single global vision to address the plight of one billion hungry people.
Mr. Ban said the human cost of the food crisis has been enormous. Millions of families have been pushed into poverty and hunger. In the past year, food insecurity has affected about 30 countries.
The U.N. secretary general said there can be no food security without climate security.
"The food crisis is a wake-up call for tomorrow. By 2050 our planet may be the home of 9.1 billion people, over two billion more than today," he said. "At a time when the global population is growing, our global climate is changing. By 2050 we will need to grow 70 percent more food, yet weather is becoming more extreme and unpredictable," he said.
Mr. Ban said a comprehensive agreement is needed at a climate change summit next month in Copenhagen. Such an accord, he said, must provide a firm foundation for a legally binding treaty on climate change.
FAO Director General Jacques Diouf gave a clear picture of the numbers involved.
"One billion hungry people, that is one of every group of six persons in the world, 105 million more than in 2008, five children dying every 30 seconds. Beyond numbers this means suffering for each of these human beings," he said.
Despite the concerns expressed by leaders addressing the summit, there is a sense of skepticism, augmented by the fact that only one G8 leader was present: the Italian prime minister.
Latin American and African leaders turned out in large numbers. Among them: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told the summit hunger is the most devastating weapon of mass destruction on our planet. He said it does not kill soldiers, but innocent children.
For the first time, Pope Benedict personally addressed representatives at an FAO World Food Summit. He warned against the greed of speculators in cereal markets. He also criticized those forms of aid that do grave damage to the agricultural sector.
The summit approved its final declaration on the first day. Countries pledged to substantially increase aid to agriculture in developing nations, so the world's hungry can become more self-sufficient. But they did not commit to the $44 million a year for agricultural aid FAO says will be necessary in the coming decades.
The final declaration also included a pledge to halve the number of hungry people by 2015, a target that was set in the year 2000.