“Compensation – in part, but certainly not only in the form of” loss and damage “- is essential and must be secured during the COP climate talks.”
Natalie Bennett is a Green Party colleague and a contributing editor of Left Foot Forward.
Estimates estimate the likely damage of the growing climate emergency (the world is now 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but threatens to reach 1.5 by the end of the decade) between $ 290 billion and $ 580 billion. per year. Think back to the year we had, even in the Northern part of the world – fires in the United States and Australia, floods in continental Europe – and it’s not hard to see how the total adds up.
But in the events of the COP, climate disasters that receive far less attention, both physical and social, are brought into focus with clarity. At a Green Party reparation event, I heard from a human rights lawyer Snigdha Tiwari on the Indian side of the Himalayas, they speak of local communities affected by massive floods, hundreds of deaths and many homeless. With She Changes Climate, I heard the climate activist Marinel Ubaldo from the Philippines on how, after the super typhoon, Haylan’s teenage girls were taken away from school and sent to the cities to work as housekeepers, due to the desperate financial straits of their families, which marked their prospects in life.
In the global South, governments have no disaster relief funds ready to pump into affected areas. In the North of the world, most people – although obviously often not the poorest – have insurance, but not in the South.
This is what the “loss and damage” payments agreed in the Paris climate agreement – known as the “Third Pillar” – would have to deal with. And also agreed was the establishment of the Santiago Network, conceived as a team of technical experts to provide support in times of crisis and help plan the recovery. The need for adaptation was also agreed – preparatory actions, from flood walls to land use change to more robust housing – to prevent climatic extremes from becoming disasters and saving lives if they do.
Yet adaptation has always been the poor relative in climate action. Mitigation – cutting greenhouse gas emissions – has received much more attention and funding. Of the climate funding allocated – again to meet the pledged $ 100 billion a year – only about 20 percent went to mitigation, a grossly inadequate sum.
And there are huge concerns about the nature of climate finance. Initially designed as a grant, it was converted into loans, and about 40% of the loans at commercial rates. It’s hard to see why it should be in this special category at all. It’s a money-making effort by the lenders.
To the Martin Ogindo of the Kenyan Green Congress said at a fringe event of the Green Party at the COP: “The global South is choking on loans.” There is a lack of fiscal space to get more out of it.
The Green Party event looked at “loss and damage” in a bigger picture, of reparations, something the party asked for at a recent conference, a recognition – and a reward for – the enormous damage done by colonialism and from neocolonialism, and from racism, against the South of the world and the minority communities of the North. The impact of the climate emergency is only one of the causes of more vehicle of destruction, after mining, raw materials taken at a price much lower than their true value and the exploitation of labor.
This is an account that it is time to pay off. It is the responsibility of the nations – as Green MSP Mark Ruskell noted in another fringe event – in Glasgow’s grand buildings, and even in the street names, that colonial legacy is all around the COP conference.
But Snigda Tiwari made a more direct statement. Since much of the climatic damage can be attributed to a small number of companies, why shouldn’t they be forced to pay the damage directly? The treatment of the Earth is criminal, as I reflected in another event that required the crime of ecocide to add to the Rome Statute, and many of those criminals are easily identifiable.
Whatever the mechanism, it is clear that reparations – in part but certainly not only in the form of “loss and damage” – are essential and must be secured in these COP climate talks. This must be shouted from the rooftops as the discussions enter their final stages.
The moral case is overwhelming, but even for those who reject it, there is a powerful practical argument: We can all be safe only in a stable world. And the current situation – where 20% of children under five are stunted due to malnutrition – is far from stable. Furthermore, it is likely that we will be able to meet the enormous challenges that await us in the coming decades only if we allow every human being on this planet to develop their full potential, to use their energies and talents for the common good.
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