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COP26 climate summit must act to ‘save humanity’: UN chief Guterres

The COP26 climate summit must act to “save humanity” and protect the planet, UN chief Antonio Guterres said Monday, warning that currently “we are digging our own graves”.

“It’s time to say: enough,” the United Nations Secretary-General told world leaders gathered in the Scottish city of Glasgow for the conference.

“Enough of brutalizing biopersity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.”

‘WHO call on emergency nod for Covaxin in September’

A WHO official has said the agency’s assessment of made-in-India Covaxin is at an advanced stage and a decision on emergency authorisation for Bharat Biotech’s vaccine is likely by mid-September. Covaxin is still to be authorised by Western authorities.

A top vaccines official at the World Health Organization says the agency expects to make a decision next month on an emergency authorization for the Indian-made Covid-19 vaccine made by Bharat Biotech, a shot that has yet to be authorized by any Western regulatory authorities.

Dr. Mariangela Simao, a WHO assistant director-general for vaccines, says the UN health agency’s assessment of the Bharat Biotech vaccine was”quite advanced” and officials hoped for a decision by mid-September.

Simao says WHO is also considering other versions of vaccines already licensed by the agency, including one made by Sinopharm. She expects they’ll begin evaluating vaccines made by Sanofi Pasteur and Novavax in September. “There are many, many vaccines in the final stages of the pipeline,” Simao says.

Last week, the US makers of Novavax said they would prioritize seeking authorization in developing countries and from WHO before getting the green light in the US and European Union.

India records greatest increase in number of children not receiving first dose of DTP-1 vaccine in 2020: U

India recorded the greatest increase in the world in the number of children not receiving a first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis combined vaccine in 2020, the UN has said, noting with concern that 23 million children globally missed out on basic vaccines through routine immunisation services last year due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN children’s agency UNICEF showed that 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services in 2020, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019.

This latest set of comprehensive worldwide childhood immunisation figures, the first official figures to reflect global service disruptions due to COVID-19, show a majority of countries last year experienced drops in childhood vaccination rates.

“Concerningly, most of these – up to 17 million children – likely did not receive a single vaccine during the year, widening already immense inequities in vaccine access,” it said, adding that most of these children live in communities affected by conflict, in under-served remote places, or in informal or slum settings where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic health and key social services.

“Even as countries clamour to get their hands on COVID-19 vaccines, we have gone backwards on other vaccinations, leaving children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases like measles, polio or meningitis,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure every child is reached,” he said.

India recorded the greatest increase in the world in children not receiving a first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis combined vaccine (DTP-1). In 2019, 1.4 million children in India did not receive the first dose of the DTP-1 vaccine and this number rose to 3 million in 2020, the UN said.

“India is experiencing a particularly large drop, with DTP-3 coverage falling from 91 per cent to 85 per cent,” the agencies said.

They added that disruptions in immunisation services were widespread in 2020, with the WHO Southeast Asian and Eastern Mediterranean Regions most affected.

“As access to health services and immunisation outreach were curtailed, the number of children not receiving even their very first vaccinations increased in all regions,” they said.

As compared with 2019, 3.5 million more children missed their first dose of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP-1), while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose.

“This evidence should be a clear warning – the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions cost us valuable ground we cannot afford to lose – and the consequences will be paid in the lives and well being of the most vulnerable,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were beginning to lose ground in the fight to immunise children against preventable child illness, including with the widespread measles outbreaks two years ago. The pandemic has made a bad situation worse. With the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we must remember that vaccine distribution has always been inequitable, but it does not have to be,” Fore said.

CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Seth Berkley said these are alarming numbers, suggesting the pandemic is unravelling years of progress in routine immunisation and exposing millions of children to deadly, preventable diseases.

“This is a wake-up call – we cannot allow a legacy of COVID-19 to be the resurgence of measles, polio and other killers. We all need to work together to help countries both defeat COVID-19, by ensuring global, equitable access to vaccines, and get routine immunisation programmes back on track. The future health and wellbeing of millions of children and their communities across the globe depends on it.”

The UN agencies said that even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, global childhood vaccination rates against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles and polio had stalled for several years at around 86 per cent. This rate is well below the 95 per cent recommended by WHO to protect against measles -often the first disease to resurge when children are not reached with vaccines – and insufficient to stop other vaccine-preventable diseases.

“With many resources and personnel perted to support the COVID-19 response, there have been significant disruptions to immunisation service provision in many parts of the world. In some countries, clinics have been closed or hours reduced, while people may have been reluctant to seek healthcare because of fear of transmission or have experienced challenges reaching services due to lockdown measures and transportation disruptions,” they said.

As countries work to recover lost ground due to COVID-19 related disruptions, UNICEF, WHO and partners like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance are supporting efforts to strengthen immunisation systems by restoring services and vaccination campaigns so countries can safely deliver routine immunisation programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic and helping health workers and community leaders communicate actively with caregivers to explain the importance of vaccinations.

The agencies are working with countries and partners to deliver the ambitious targets of the global Immunisation Agenda 2030, which aims to achieve 90 per cent coverage for essential childhood vaccines; halve the number of entirely unvaccinated, or ‘zero dose’ children, and increase the uptake of newer lifesaving vaccines such as rotavirus or pneumococcus in low and middle-income countries, they said in a statement.

India can be business hub to achieve Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring clean energy: UN chief

United Nations: India can be the “business hub” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring affordable and clean energy for all, UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Friday, expressing confidence that the Indian government’s decision to raise its target of renewable energy capacity will attract more international investors.

The Secretary-General underlined that like all countries, India is at a “crossroad” and yet despite the significant challenges the country faces in bringing shared prosperity to its population, it has in many ways embraced clean technology and a sustainable energy future.

“India can be the business hub to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7,” Guterres said as he virtually delivered the 19th Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) on Friday.

Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar delivered the Presidential address.

SDG 7 entails ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

“The advantages of India’s renewable energy resources are plain to see. They are low cost, protected from volatile commodities markets, and offer three times the job potential of fossil fuel power plants,” Guterres said, adding that they can improve air quality at a time when the world’s cities are literally choking.

Guterres applauded India’s decision to take forward the International Solar Alliance in the form of One Sun, One World, One Grid.

“And I commend India’s plans for a World Solar Bank that will mobilise USD 1 trillion of investments in solar projects over the coming decade,” Guterres said at the memorial lecture organised in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for connecting solar energy supply across borders giving the mantra of ‘One World One Sun One Grid’.

Under the One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) programme, India envisages to have an inter-connected power transmission grid across nations for the supply of clean energy.

The vision behind the OSOWOG mantra is ‘The Sun Never Sets’ and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time.

Guterres described India’s 37 gigawatts of installed solar electricity as only the beginning, saying he is “inspired” by the Indian government’s decision to raise its target of renewable energy capacity from the initial 2015 goal of 175 gigawatts to 500 gigawatts by 2030.

“I have no doubt this decision will attract more and more international investors, such as the sovereign wealth funds and pension funds like the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec or the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority,” he said.

Guterres described India as a “pioneer” in driving innovation for access to electricity and on clean cooking and called on the country and all its innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders to spearhead the global search for a solution to solar cooking at the household level.

Recalling the launch of the Leadership Group for Industry Transition by India and Sweden at the Climate Action Summit last year, Guterres said this partnership of key public and private sector stakeholders is committed to achieving net zero emissions by mid-century in sectors that collectively account for 30 per cent of global emissions.

Lauding companies such as Dalmia Cement and Mahindra for driving innovation, he added that there is a need for many more to join them.

Guterres also highlighted that India, with its vast size and ecological persity, is already experiencing many of the worst impacts of climate change.

Referring to the recent floods in the country, he said the natural disaster has upended the lives of millions of people.

“Climate change hits the most vulnerable hardest, undermining the remarkable progress of economies like India in bringing millions out of poverty,” he said.

Guterres pointed out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement reveals that if this temperature limit is breached, India will face the brunt of the climate crisis.

“The country will endure more intense heatwaves, floods and droughts, increased water stress and reduced food production, all undermining progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” Guterres said underscoring that the challenge is urgent and clear.

In order to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, global emissions need to be halved by 2030 and the world will need to be carbon neutral before 2050.

Asserting that these goals are still achievable, Guterres underscored that as governments mobilise trillions of dollars to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, their decisions will have climate consequences for decades.

“These choices can either propel climate action forward, or set us back years, which science says we cannot afford,” he said.

The UN chief urged governments to take six climate-positive actions to recover better from the pandemic – invest in green jobs, do not bail out polluting industries, end fossil-fuel subsidies, take climate risks into account in all financial and policy decisions, work together and most importantly ensuring that no one is left behind.

Need to explain to people what climate change means in daily life: UN environ chief

NEW DELHI: United Nations environment chief Erik Solheim has said spouting “doom and gloom” while talking about climate change will not work and stressed that there was a need to present it in a “simpler” language that explains to people what it really means for them in their daily lives.

He also noted that plastic pollution is similar to climate change and if steps are not taken to curb it now, reversing it will be “almost impossible”.

As far as India is concerned, he said, it views environmental issues very much as a moral obligation and has got what it takes to lead the world into this change.

Solheim said a lot of people find the topic of climate change “boring”.

“The problem with climate change is that it’s a long-term phenomenon involving some quite complex science. It does not surprise me that a lot of people find the topic boring, and frankly we are never going to bore people into action. And if we continue to spout doom-and-gloom, then people just switch off,” he said.

He said that when the issue of climate change is discussed mostly the focus has been on the problem and the risks and that needed to change. “People want to see solutions, and to understand how they can contribute. It is time for a global mass movement for the environment, one that has never been seen before.”

“For this to happen, we have to speak in a different language that is simpler and breaks down the science to explain to people what climate change really means for them, in their daily lives, here and now,” the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) told PTI.

“We have to make it a dinner table conversation,” he said, “in other words, we need to help people connect with this issue in a way that makes it personal, and not abstract.”

It could be about things like house prices, the cost of insurance policies, the impact on food prices or the link to mass migration, he said.

Solheim was in India for a week where among others, he signed a letter of intent on India hosting the World Environment Day on June 5.

On the issue of plastic pollution, he said it has been caused by “laziness and a failure” of imagination and innovation which needs to change. He said an astounding amount of plastic is produced every year, much of which is often used for a few seconds and discarded.

“Plastic pollution is similar to climate change. If we don’t step on the brakes now, it will be almost impossible to reverse.”

He pointed out that this year an estimated 360 million tonnes of plastic will be produced and one-third of this will be non-recyclable.

“So imagine where this plastic is going. It is in our oceans and water bodies. It is in landfills and on our beaches. This year World Environment Day will bring the focus on plastic pollution, calling on people all over the world to ‘refuse what you cannot re-use’,” he said.

Tackling plastic pollution requires one to make a big push on three fronts, he said.

Firstly, people need to know that there are many simple steps they can take to reduce their own plastic footprint like “do we really need straws or apples wrapped in copious amounts of plastic? We don’t and we can change that.”

“Second, 40 per cent of used plastic currently goes to landfill, when it could serve countless other uses. We need to recycle and re-use whatever we can. Thirdly, and this is where business comes in, we need to look at the whole life of a product and our consumption and trade systems.”

“It is no longer possible for us to design products that are thrown away immediately after use,” he said. “We need to re-think designs…and there are tremendous opportunities for businesses here.”

Talking about efforts being made in India in this direction, he expressed his delight that the country is the global host of World Environment Day 2018 and will be leading the push to save the oceans and the planet.

“India has very high rates of recycling, and in recent years, some of the biggest citizen action movements have happened in this country- for example, the Versova beach clean up in Mumbai,” he said.

“So India has what it takes to lead the world into this change,” he said.

“It is a booming economy with the innovation and business expertise to change the way we make and use products. And it is a country that views environmental issues very much as a moral obligation, to give back to people, nature and the world,” he added. PTI TDS TIR AAR AAR – 25021116 NNNN

‘Taj Mahal Declaration’ adopted to fight plastic pollution near monument

AGRA: Ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, Union minister for culture and environment Mahesh Sharma on Sunday administered a pledge to Agra residents for making areas around Taj Mahal, in a radius of 500 metres, free of litter and polythene and reducing the presence of single-use plastic products near and around the monument.

At a programme of ‘Taj Declaration to Beat Plastic Pollution’, the Union minister said this decision was taken by the central and state government and a similar rule would be applied to 100 “adarsh” monuments across the nation. The pledge was taken in the presence of Erik Solheim, executive director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), goodwill ambassador and actress Diya Mirza, local MPs, MLAs and administrative officials, among others.

Sharma said the entire world is facing the problem of pollution caused by excessive use of plastic. “It is a historic moment that the message of ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ is being given from the iconic monument Taj Mahal to the people across the world,” he said.

“It is the dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to achieve ‘Swachch Bharat’. It is an appropriate occasion to spread his message from the Taj Mahal to reduce plastic use, re-use, recycle, re-collect, re-design and re-manufacture it and to demonstrate our commitment to reduction of pollution caused by plastic.”

Solheim expressed happiness that the UN slogan of ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ for this year’s Environment Day was being highlighted from the Taj Mahal – a global symbol of love. “The coming together of the Centre, state, local administration and all other stakeholders is heartening and I hope that Agra will soon take the shape of a smart, green city,” he said.

Goodwill ambassador Diya Mirza also expressed happiness that all agencies were together taking forward the message of a pollution-free Taj Mahal. “Bringing down the negative impact of pollution by reducing plastic use in their everyday lives is the responsibility of each inpidual,” she added.

Earlier, Sharma, Solheim and Mirza also participated in the Clean Yamuna Programme on the riverfront along the Taj. This was followed by a quick tour of the monument.

100 environment ministers to attend UN environment assembly in Kenya

NAIROBI: Environment ministers from about 100 countries are gathering in Nairobi from Monday to issue a clarion call against air, land and water pollution blamed for some nine million deaths in 2015. The ministers under the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) will finalise a global declaration vowing to combat rampant pollution as a growing threat to human life, economies and ecosystems.

The main focus at this assembly would be how the world can curb air pollution. Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme said, “The UN Environment Assembly is where the world comes together to tackle issues that threaten the health of our planet and all of its people and wildlife. This year, we are targeting pollution, with governments, business leaders, civil society and leading experts all joining forces to see how we can achieve a pollution free planet.”

Over three days, the world’s top decision-making forum for the environment will explore how our growing and more prosperous societies are polluting air, water and soil with chemicals and waste to a degree that threatens our health and Earth’s natural systems.

The leaders are expected to issue a powerful joint declaration on the need to combat pollution. To turn the tide, leaders are expected to issue a powerful joint declaration on the need to combat pollution and outline urgent and realistic steps to protect human health and the natural resources on which we depend. Delegates are also expected to consider a number of resolutions, including on topics such as marine litter, food waste, coral reefs, and the links between conflict and pollution. The assembly is supported by an array of high-level events, including several that highlight strategies and opportunities to combat pollution.

Ibrahim Thiaw, deputy executive director of UN Environment said, “Over the next three days, 193 countries will discuss new measures to beat pollution – everything from the deadly particles in our city skies to the chemicals in our lakes and rivers and the plastic in all of our oceans. We hope to agree on a new pollution pact as well as specific resolutions that will help keep the planet safe for generations to come.”

At the UN assembly scientists, policymakers and business chiefs will identify opportunities for green investment driven by science and technology, empowering policies and innovative financing. During the assembly, UN environment will launch the 2017 edition of its flagship frontiers report. The report flags emerging concerns including antimicrobial resistance and nanomaterials which risk becoming the global environmental problems of tomorrow.

Western Ghats’ biodiversity ‘faces threat’, says report

KOCHI: Biopersity in India’s iconic Western Ghats is facing a threat from forest loss, encroachment and conversion, says a global environment agency in its report.

It also put the hills in “Significant Concern” category in its new outlook in the conservation prospects of natural World Heritage sites.

The report, released recently by IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the UN climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, says pressure from the human population in the Western Ghats region is greater than that faced by many protected areas around the world.

The new report – ‘IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2’, which assesses for the first time changes in conservation prospects of all 241 natural World Heritage sites, warns that climate change will probably exacerbate a system already under pressure and has the potential to impact the large-scale monsoonal processes which the Western Ghats influence.

Moderating the region’s tropical climate, the site presents one of the best examples of the monsoon system on the planet.

A network of 39 separately managed sites in Western Ghats was inscribed as World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2012.

It says ongoing pressure for development would continue to place the Western Ghats under high threat.

Traditionally conserved by small populations of indigenous people leading sustainable lifestyles, the area is under increasing population and developmental pressure, requiring intensive and targeted management efforts to ensure that not only are existing values conserved, but that some past damage may be remediated, it says.

The report said pressure from human populations in this region should not be underestimated. Fifty million people are estimated to live in the Western Ghats,”resulting in pressures which are orders of magnitude greater than many protected areas around the world.”

Evidence suggests that forest loss, encroachment and conversion continue to affect the property, it said.

It, however, acknowledges the initiatives taken by the government to protect the biopersity of Ghats.

“The challenges are many, but the will by both government and non-governmental groups to ensure the conservation of the Western Ghats is high,” it says.

However, until more data is accumulated (on conservation trends and protection and management aspects), and given the number and level of threats that this property faces, its conservation outlook is still assessed as of Significant Concern, says the report.

Older than Himalaya mountains, the Western Ghats, spread over Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, represents geomorphic features of immense importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes.

The report says each of the 39 component parts of the property has its own management system and protective measures that vary throughout this complex serial site that stretches over a distance of some 1,600 km from north to south.

“There is a priority need to articulate a clear overarching management framework that harmonises policy and management practise across the various clusters and states. Functional corridors that assure wildlife movement and ecological connectivity between the clusters of component protected areas are also required,” it says.

The global World Heritage Outlook in 2017 remains similar to 2014 with a positive conservation outlook (“good” or “good with some concerns”) for 64 per cent of sites, “significant concern” for 29 per cent and “critical” status for 7 per cent.

These results are for the 241 natural World Heritage sites listed as of November 2017,including new sites which have been inscribed on the World Heritage List since the previous report.

India’s poverty will fall from 51% to 22% by 2015: UN report

UNITED NATIONS/NEW DELHI: As many as 320 million people in India and China are expected to come out of extreme poverty in the next four years, while India’s poverty rate is projected to drop to 22%, says a UN report.

The UN Millennium Development Goals Report, however, suggested that even though progress has been made in reducing poverty, Southern Asia continues to lag in terms of nutrition, sanitation and gender equality.

“In Southern Asia, however, only India, where the poverty rate is projected to fall from 51% in 1990 to about 22% in 2015, is on track to cut poverty in half by the 2015 target date,” the report said.

Those living on less than $1.25 a day are considered poor.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi today, UN World Food Programme‘s representative and country director Mihoko Tamamura said, “Despite impressive economic growth in India in the last few years, inequalities persist among people based on class, gender and cast.”

“If India does not meet Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the world will not…,” she noted.

According to the report, China and India combined, the number of people living in extreme poverty between 1990 and 2005 declined by about 455 million, and additional 320 million people are expected to come out poverty by 2015.

By 2015, it is expected that global poverty rate will fall below 15 per cent, well under 23% target.

Legislators won’t wait until December on climate change

COPENHAGEN: The time to act is now, whether or not there is a consensual international agreement on climate change at the UN Copenhagen talks in December, say the 100-odd legislators from major economies representing major political parties — including the US, UK, France, China, Brazil, Mexico and India.

The lawmakers have converged at the Danish capital at a GLOBE International and COM+ meeting held over two days from October 24-25 at the Folketing, the Danish Parliament in preparation to the UNFCCC meeting in December that is expected to find an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol that is to conclude in 2012.

The legislators have signed up to key guiding principles set out by Chinese Congressman Chairman Wang Guangtao, chairman of the steering committee on environment and resources protection, National People’s Conference, China and US Congressman Edward Markey to enable the enacting of climate change legislation in their respective countries.

The Wang-Markey principles outline energy standards, forestry preservation, and renewable energy that could see 70 per cent of the emissions cuts needed by 2020 if the global average temperature rise is to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius. They include standardized action on building and appliance standards; renewable energy; vehicle fuel and efficiency standards; and forestry. Such coordinated action ��� especially in areas like domestic, transportation and industrial energy efficiency ��� will result in cost savings and increased competitiveness, they say.

Coordinated action on appliance and fuel standards will create huge economies of scale, sending a strong ���market signal���. Together, it is hoped that these actions will drive the move to a global low carbon economy.

The overriding theme has been to stress the need to accelerate domestic legislation that bind national governments to short, medium and long-term targets for emissions; a commitment to ���climate compatibility assessments��� for major government policies; a duty on governments to report to parliament regularly on their progress in meeting targets; and a commitment to a regular review to ensure that policies are consistent with the latest science.

US Congressman Markey (co-sponsor of the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill that has passed in the House of Representatives and is now awaiting approval of the Senate), Chairman Wang Guangtao of the Chinese National People���s Congress; and Michael Jay, of the UK Parliament are coordinating the adoption of these principles through the legislatures of the world���s major economies.

The Forum was addressed by the Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Rassmussen, Chair of the COP, Minister Connie Hedegaard of Denmark and by the Speaker of the South African National Assembly, Max Sisulu, and the Vice President of the Brazilian Senate, Senadora Serys Slessarenko and by video by the Speaker of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi. An Indian delegation comprising legislators from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as well as Air Marshall A K Singh, an expert on the military (security) perspective on climate change contributed to the debates and discussions.

The legislators also agreed on a joint statement for the COP 15 in December that would state that the COP15 should agree to emissions targets for developed countries for 2030 and 2040 in addition to 2020 and 2050 to ensure that successive governments remain focused on delivering an interim emissions reduction target. It was agreed that deforesting countries must be given incentives to make immediate and dramatic reductions in their deforestation rates by paying them credits dependent on their performance against an agreed ���reference emissions��� rate agreed on a country-by-country basis.

The forum stressed the need to ���protect and share��� frameworks for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in which financing would be provided to developing countries to strengthen their domestic IPR protection regimes in return for government-to-government guarantees that investors��� rights would be protected. There was agreement of the need for an international monitoring and verification system that would apply to all countries.

The GLOBE forum agreed that at least $100 billion per year in financial assistance would be needed in financial assistance from public and private sources including developed countries to meet the cost of adaptation to a changed climate in developing countries.