The real level of world inequality and environmental degradation may be far
worse than official estimates, according to a leaked document prepared for the
world's richest countries and seen by the Guardian.
It includes new estimates that the world lost almost 10% of its forests in
the past 10 years; that carbon dioxide emissions leading to global warming are
expected to rise by 33% in rich countries and 100% in the rest of the world in
the next 18 years; and that more than 30% more fresh water will be needed by 2020.
The background paper for last month's Organization for Economic Co-operation
and Development pre-Johannesburg meeting on sustainable development draws on many
previously unseen UN, World Bank, World Trade Organization, and academic papers.
Although the governments of the world's 22 richest nations who make up the
OECD have seen the document, many of the calculations are new and considerably
different from their own.
It calculates that less than 0.1% of of the average income of the 22 members
of the OECD actually finds its way to the world's low income countries and just
0.05% went to the least developed countries. Recent US and EU initiatives, it
says, "will not meet targets at any time soon".
Donor assistance for environmental protection and basic social services has
declined to less than 15% of all aid compared with 35% at the time of the last
earth summit in 1992.
The OECD paper calculates that rich countries now subsidize their industries
by up to $1,000m a year, including more than $300bn in agriculture. This, it says,
is having increasing effects on the development of poor countries. and on environmental
degradation. If unrestricted market access were given to just the four richest
economies in the world, it would increase per capita incomes of more than 2 billion
people in the world's most populated countries by 4% a year.
Meanwhile, the paper finds that foreign assistance from western European countries,
including private funding and direct investment encouraged through national policies,
was more globally oriented in 1900 than it is today.
It says that if the EU, Canada, Japan and the US allowed migrants to make up
4% of their workforce, the returns to poor countries could be $160bn to 200bn
a year - far more than any debt relief could provide.
The paper's calculations of environmental degradation suggest the many conventions,
treaties and intergovernmental agreements signed in the past decade have had little
or no effect on stopping the rush for timber and mineral resources in the developing
world and that extinction of species is now reaching 11% of birds, 18%-24% of
mammals, 5% of fish, and 8% of plants.
Over the next 18 years, says the report, global energy use is expected to expand
by more than 50%, and by more than 100% in China, east Asia and the former Soviet
Union. Transport is by then expected to account for more than half of global oil
"The non-renewable fossil fuel resource base is expected to be sufficient to
meet demand to 2020 though problems beyond that point are foreseen for natural
gas and possibly oil," the report says.
It adds that OECD countries subsidize the emission of global warming gases
by $57bn - almost exactly what the report estimates it would cost to meet international
targets. The paper suggests that investing the money in reducing climate change
emissions would have next to no effect on the global economy. "Through the provision
of subsidies on fossil fuels governments are effectively subsidizing pollution
and global warming as more than 60% of all subsidies flow to oil, coal and gas."
Environment and development groups yesterday reacted to the report with horror.
"The rich world knows this is happening," said the chair of Friends of the
Earth International, Ricardo Navarrez. "We in poor countries have always known
the climate is changing, aid does not come, and the poor are getting poorer. The
richest countries are here in Johannesburg to keep the system going."
Depleted resources: Key facts from OECD report
· Nearly 50% of all fish stocks are fully exploited, 20% are overexploited
· Only 2% of global fisheries is recovering from overfishing
· On current trends by 2025 15% of all forest species will be extinct
· 60% of the world's population lives in ecologically vulnerable
· 3 million people die each year due to air pollution and 5 million
due to unsafe water
· 80% of global finance flows went to rich countries in 2000, with
the entire African continent receiving less than 1% of direct foreign investment
· In 1914 40% of western European investment went to Africa, Latin
America and Asia. In 1990 less than 20% went to those regions
· Global water withdrawals are expected to rise 31% by 2020
· Most groundwater resources are being replenished at a rate of
between 0.1% and 0.5%
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002