Who will be held responsible for the loss of climate change and damage to the planet?

by DW

Written by Louise Osborne

Eric Ngojuna is angry. The 20-year-old environmental activist witnesses the devastating changes the planet is bringing in rising temperatures in Kenya. People are losing their livelihoods, homes and many, even their lives, to the worst drought the region has experienced in the past 40 years.

“The influences make us thirsty. It makes us hungry for food. I feel the anger does not come from my knowledge of it, but from its influence. Knowing that we did the least we could to cause this, but our nations bear the brunt,” Ngojuna said. DW From the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Kenya is among the countries in the global south hardest hit by extreme weather associated with global warming. But it is by no means the only one. Drought is pushing millions of people in the Horn of Africa to the brink of famine, while more devastating storms hit the Philippines.

(And this summer, about 1,500 people lost their lives when the intense monsoons inundated large swathes of Pakistan.

“There is something we can adapt to, but as the climate crisis intensifies, there is something we cannot adapt to that has to be paid for,” he said.

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Global North vs Global South

Calls are growing for wealthier countries to provide compensation in the form of a fund to cover the costs of severe damages and losses.

This controversial issue is set to play a major role in the discussions that will take place over the next two weeks at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh. Delegates agreed, Sunday, to address funding losses and damages and add them to the summit’s agenda for the first time.

The concept of loss and damage was first introduced by AOSIS at the international climate negotiations in Geneva in 1991 with the proposal of an insurance scheme against rising sea levels with costs covered by industrialized countries.

But it was not seriously considered again until 2013 at the COP19 climate conference in Warsaw, Poland.

Never ending delays

The Warsaw International Loss and Damage Mechanism was created with the aim of enhancing knowledge of the issue and finding ways to deal with it.

There has been little movement since then.

At last year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators rejected a proposal made by members of the Group of 77, which includes more than a hundred developing countries, and China over official financial loss and damage.

Instead, the Glasgow Dialogue has been set up to allow further discussion of funding “in an open, inclusive and non-prescriptive manner”.

‘Excuse for delaying further action’

But Zoha Shu, a scientist who researches losses and damages at the Stockholm Environment Institute, says some countries have criticized the dialogue as “an excuse to delay further action”.

While historically, developed countries bear the most responsibility for emissions leading to global warming – between 1751 and 2017, the US, EU and UK were responsible for 47 percent of cumulative CO2 emissions compared to just 6 percent of continental Africa And South America as a whole – has been slow to make financial contributions to mitigate the impact on the worst-affected countries.

In 2010, the countries of the Global North agreed to pledge $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change, for example, by providing farmers with drought-resistant crops or paying for better flood defenses.

But according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which tracks financing, rich countries pledged in 2020 just over $83 billion. This was a 4 percent increase over the previous year, but still less than the agreed amount.

building resilience

The rich countries that created the problem should “provide the needed funding” because insufficient funding has a destabilizing effect on countries already struggling, says Marilyn Ashokki, co-leader of global policy on climate justice at Care International.

“Instead of addressing the issues of poverty and education, they should take steps to address the issues of climate change,” Ashuki said. “They have to look for resources and funding to try to build communities’ resilience.”

Fifty-five of the 58 countries included in the Group of 20 at risk, a group of developing countries including Kenya, the Philippines and Colombia, suffered climate-related economic losses of more than half a trillion dollars in the first two decades of this century, according to a report from the Loss Collaboration. And Damages, a global group of researchers, activists, lawyers and policy makers appear.

Non-economic losses

But there were also non-economic losses, including the disappearance of areas of cultural and traditional significance.

“If you have an area where you perform religious or cultural rituals on the beach or something and it gets submerged and removed, that is a loss,” Shaw said.

“Many of the communities most vulnerable to climate change are also indigenous and face the majority of the losses.”

Although the need to address loss and damage is widely recognized by developed nations, some argue funding through existing climate funds, insurance schemes, and humanitarian aid.

The European Union, for example, said in a briefing that it is “open to discussing L&D (loss and damage) as a topic but is reluctant to create a dedicated L&D fund.”

divided house

“I think there is a fear that if they open up that space to admit the need for additional funding, for losses and damages, it will expose them to liability and compensation claims, which will have a huge cost associated with them,” Shao said. .

She added that if a bridge collapses due to a flood, or homes are destroyed as a result of a hurricane in a developing country, for example, there is a fear among developed nations that they will “then take responsibility for paying for it.” .

Some countries decided to go their own way.

Earlier this year, Denmark pledged more than $13 million in damages to developing countries including the Sahel, and at last year’s COP 26 climate conference, Scotland also committed at least $1 million.

Xu said the measures taken by individual countries are a good way to counteract the urgency of losses faced by developing countries. “It’s an easy way for states to show that they are doing something without committing to something that will hold them accountable, such as financial facilities.”

But as temperatures rise and rich countries fail to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the effects of climate change will continue to affect poorer societies.

“The window for action is closing. The impacts we are experiencing with a warming of 1.2 degrees are very severe and there is still serious work on the horizon,” said Ngojona.

Countries agreed to make stronger commitments this year, including updated national plans with more ambitious goals. However, only 24 of the 193 countries have submitted their plans to the United Nations so far.

Glasgow has also seen many pledges made inside and outside the negotiating rooms regarding net zero commitments, forest protection and climate finance, among many other issues.

According to the Presidential Vision Statement, COP27 will be about moving from negotiations, and “planning to implement” all those promises and pledges that have been made.

Egypt has called for full, timely, comprehensive and wide action on the ground.

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