The dilemma of “Climate Cash”

The idea of “loss and damage” compensation has been under debate since the beginning of the early 1990s as rich countries have not wanted to discuss who pays.

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These photos illustrate the impact of the worst flooding in 60-years in Bentiu and the larger Unity State, that since February has washed away harvests, cattle and left villages under water. [ Photo: UN Photo]

A day of reckoning has arrived at COP 27 as world leaders and other environmentalists gathered at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for the African Continent’s turn to host the annual UN Climate Change Conference.

Amid a cost of living crisis, the Developed World is under pressure “to agree to a costly deal on reparations, at the same time as plans are being drawn up for sweeping domestic rises and spending cuts in UK,” said the Daily Telegraph.

By contrast, it is predominantly countries in the developing world particularly in Africa, (famine and drought); in South Asia ( floods) and small island nations like Maldives and Sri Lanka, and Islands in the Pacific (low sea levels) that are particularly most vulnerable to climate disasters, despite having played with partly causing them.

History has been made

History has been made at the beginning of COP 27 to include talks on “loss and damage payments to nations impacted by climate change. With costs estimated to reach a possible $1 Trillion by 2040, for past emissions and for global warming, according to Al Jazeera. This sum is in no comparison to the $30 Trillion spent controlling COVID-19.

Public opinion in rich economies has we hear, has softened also according to Daily Telegraph. This was seen in the stance of UK which has suggested it is open to paying “Climate Change Reparations”.

The idea of “loss and damage” compensation has been under debate since the beginning of the early 1990s as rich countries have not wanted to discuss who pays.

The Floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh

The unimaginable flooding last month (September 2022) which left large parts of Pakistanliterally underwater, submerged, causing more than 1,700 deaths and 33 million people ousted from their homes, has somewhat woken the world. The ravages of global warming according to the Financial Times, have put Pakistan at the forefront of the evolving new thinking of who should foot the bill for global warming.

While Bangladesh is among the countries leading calls for loss and damage payments. World Bank reports state one-third of its agriculture could be lost by sea ingress damage and its GDP could fall 9% by 2050.  Sohanur Rahman, Executive Director, of” Youth Net for Climate Justice” has clamoured for loss and damage financing. He is quoted as saying:

“We are not asking for charity or debt from developed countries, but rather reparations for their historical legacy in the climate change crisis”.

The priority given to nations at the “Conference of the Parties” COP 27, was noticeable in the photo opportunity at the beginning of the sessions in Egypt.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif and the President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, were accommodated in the back row far apart, for the photo opportunity of all leaders attending, on the opening day of the Conference. There were more African Presidents and Arab leaders in prominence, in front.

Why Africa is now the paramount chief in the Climate change conundrum?

During the two-week conference, government and non-party stakeholders will deliberate to ensure a transition to a net zero global economy. Representatives of over a billion Africans are represented at COP27.

While China, India and Australia among the major consumers of fossil fuels are notably absent at COP 27, 54 African voices of the African Union are taking centre stage. The grievance of Africa is put on a show at COP 27.

The African delegates are quoted to state: “Delegates from each regional bloc of the world will enter the conference to protect its self-interest. The West’s strategy will not be to take responsibility for their complicity in causing climate disaster. Though the West will acknowledge the astronomical cost of the transition to net zero as a manifestation of the “white saviour” industrial complex, they will offer to help by giving loans or aid, which will no longer compensate for the damage done. Africa must present a united front embracing the spirit of Pan Africanism to negotiate from a position of strength.”

Africa the epicentre in litany of Climate Crisis today?

“The African Continent has become a global epicentre of climate crisis ranging from the unprecedented rising of extreme weather, severe storms, and erratic rainfall, catastrophic flooding, outbreak of water-borne diseases, displacements, armed conflicts, desertification, abject poverty, biodiversity loss and drought, to mention a few”.

The African Continent contributes the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions compared to its counterparts of the EU, Asia and the USA, due to their industrial and Large Combustion Plants (LCP). Yet it is unfortunate that climate disasters are its greatest concern.

United Nations is the conscience of the world and Climate Change is more than a disaster for poorer nations of the world, particularly in Africa. Will COP 27 help Africa more than the world is a conundrum on the minds of all Africans?

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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