Cameron, Bono link poverty, climate at AP debate

January 24, 2014 - 3:34 PM

Switzerland Davos Forum

British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and rock star Bono speak during the panel discussion "The Post-2015 Goals: Inspiring a New Generation to Act", the fifth annual Associated Press debate, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Global leaders argued Friday that efforts to eradicate poverty must be linked to climate change, saying that rising temperatures will have widespread effects on everything from food supplies to education.

Panelists at two separate sessions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — among them Bill Gates, Al Gore and U2 frontman Bono — underlined the importance of the issue. The United Nations is also making climate change a priority at Davos this year, pushing for a U.N.-brokered internationally binding climate treaty in Paris in 2015.

At a debate sponsored by The Associated Press, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the next U.N.-led campaign to eradicate extreme poverty must make the climate a top priority. More than one billion people live in extreme poverty by the World Bank's definition, living on less than $1.25 a day.

"We do need to prioritize, but I would argue if we do want to help the one billion, we need to put in climate change," Cameron said.

The AP's debate also featured Bono and officials from Nigeria, Save the Children International and Prudential Plc. It was looking ahead to the expiration of the U.N.'s "millennium goals" to reduce poverty, hunger and child mortality and combat disease by 2015, and to envision what goals should be set for the next 15 years. The session was moderated by AP Senior Managing Editor Michael Oreskes.

Cameron was co-chair of a high-level U.N. panel that recommended 12 goals to replace the eight millennium goals. He asked Bono to help create a marketing campaign to help eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2030 — a request Bono took up with a note of irony.

"Extraordinary things happen in Davos — no more extraordinary than an Irish rock star complimenting a Conservative British Prime Minister for his leadership in the fight against extreme poverty. Anything can happen," Bono said, before turning directly to Cameron. "Thanks dude. I'm a top-line melody guy, and I will try and help with the assignment. But I have a feeling it's people not in this room that are going to execute it."

Good governance and fighting corruption are key. "Capitalism ... is not immoral, but it is amoral," Bono said. "We need to give it some instructions."

"We need to talk when companies misbehave," agreed Prudential Plc Group Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam. "Corruption gets in the way of mobilizing resources."

At a separate debate on climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments that there is little time to address the issue.

"The time you must be very, very serious," he said. "Look beyond your borders."

Other panelists included Gore, Gates, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who also appeared on the AP panel.

Delays in cutting man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases will delay efforts to eradicate poverty, they said.

"We're trying to look at everything we do through a climate lens," said Kim. He is calling on government leaders at Davos to put a price on carbon and have financial regulators require that companies assess and disclose their exposure to climate risks.

He also is urging that market for green bonds be doubled to $20 billion this year and $50 billion in 2015 to encourage more clean energy use.

Gates expressed some caution, however, about a convergence of themes. "I don't think that focusing on climate change should take away from the development agenda," he said.