Poor people tend to suffer the most from air and water pollution. They spend more of their household incomes on energy, yet the services they receive are often of low quality-such as biomass fuels burned in inefficient, polluting stoves, or kerosene lamps that cost more per unit of illumination than lamps powered by an electricity grid. Poor people are also the most vulnerable to environmental shocks and stresses, including floods, prolonged droughts and the emerging effects of global climate change…Moreover, they are the least capable of coping with such shocks and stresses...
Ignoring environmental sustainability, even if doing so leads to short-run economic gains, can hurt poor people and undermine long-run poverty reduction. The strong links between poverty and the environment call for a focus on the needs of people whose livelihoods depend on natural resources and environmental services. In policy and practice, environmental management should create income-generating opportunities, strengthening people’s property and user rights and fostering their participation in political decision-making.
The links between poverty and the environment also run in the other direction. Poor people are often deprived of the means and rights to invest in the sustainable use of environmental resources through improved water treatment and sanitation, cleaner energy technologies and so on.
Poor people also lack the money to invest in substitutes for environmental services. Ever-expanding consumption hurts the environment through polluting emissions and wastes. Growing depletion and degradation of renewable resources also undermine livelihoods....
Because of their larger contributions to global environmental degradation and their greater financial and technological resources, rich countries bear much of the responsibility for addressing environmental concerns. Rich countries also need to help poor ones pursue environmentally sustainable development.
Achieving the millennium development goals requires policies that stress the complementarity between sustainable development and environmental management and minimize the trade-offs. Indeed, ensuring environmental sustainability is essential for achieving the other goals.
Global climate change is expected to increase the economic disparities between rich and poor countries, especially as temperatures increase. The estimated damage for poor countries partly reflects their weaker adaptive capacity. Hence climate change is a major development issue. Climate change could lead to large-scale, possibly irreversible changes in Earth systems...Though the likelihood and scope of these effects are not well known, they will be significant and so must be reflected in policy-making. Potential effects include: Reduced crop yields in most tropical and subtropical regions and increased variability in agricultural productivity due to extreme weather conditions...;
Increased variability of precipitation during Asian summer monsoons, which could reduce food production and increase hunger; Reduced water availability in many water-scarce regions, particularly subtropical regions; Increased water availability in some water-scarce regions — such as parts of southeast Asia; Increased destruction of coral reefs and coastal ecosystems and changes in ocean-supported weather patterns; Rising sea levels...Increased exposure to vector-borne diseases (malaria, dengue fever) and water-borne diseases (cholera).