BEIJING, June 17, 2009 (AFP) - Climate change hits China's poor the hardest and also forces some of those lifted out of hardship back into it, activist groups Greenpeace and Oxfam said Wednesday.
The two urged the Chinese government to review its existing poverty alleviation policy to take climate change into account, in a report compiled with experts from the nation's Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
"Climate change is making poverty alleviation work harder... because as soon as there is a disaster in those places where the environment is very fragile, these return to poverty," Xu Yinlong of the academy told reporters.
According to Hu Angang, an economist at Beijing's Tsinghua University who wrote a preface to the report, China is one of the countries in the world most prone to natural disasters.
"More than 70 per cent of Chinese cities and over 50 percent of the population are located in areas susceptible to serious meteorological, seismic or oceanic disasters," he wrote.
And 95 per cent of those living in absolute poverty in China are living in ecologically fragile areas in the interior of the country, the report added, highlighting the correlation between hardship and a weak environment.
These places are now showing signs of climate change, including glacial retreat, an increase in droughts, enhanced soil erosion and frequent extreme weather events.
The report took three areas in China as case studies, including Yangshan county in the generally wealthy southern province of Guangdong.
In Yangshan, rain is falling with increased intensity but in fewer bursts, reducing the availability of water as a resource and leading to floods.
"Yangshan's agricultural production, livelihood and living conditions could further deteriorate," the report said.
Greenpeace and Oxfam urged China to take the lead in adopting a climate rescue treaty at a key meeting on climate change in December, and introduce measures such as elevating bridges and roads in flood-prone areas.