Yet these disasters and their fallout are not evenly distributed. The Global South – low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean – is suffering disproportionately, as climate scientists say, for years to come.
If indeed it is global warming that is causing or even simply worsening these extreme weather events, as scientists generally agree, then the increasingly angry nations of the South are quite right to demand that the regions richest people in the world – those who are ultimately responsible for this -the-crisis-of-the-developed-world – paying for their losses. In particular, the biggest sinners of historical emissions – the United States and Europe.
But these poorer countries should not count on it, because not only do most countries in the North deny their oversized role in creating the crisis, but they are strongly opposed to the principle of responsibility.
Pakistan is currently suffering from this catastrophe – let’s call it “climate degradation”, since that is what scientists say is happening – more intensely than anywhere else in the world. More than 1,300 people have lost their lives and 33 million more are affected in what Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif last week called “the worst [monsoon season] in the history of the country.”
The grim images of homes swept away, refugees stranded, children and the elderly in raging floodwaters starkly underscore the stark inequalities of the crisis reverberating in the Global South. Indeed, many of the 3.6 billion most vulnerable people who bear the worst of climate degradation live in the Global South.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, extreme weather resulting from rising temperatures is pushing millions of already poor people into hunger. The current figure of 828 million people going hungry every night in the world will skyrocket if global warming is not checked, the report says.
While the human cost is not quantifiable, the economic price is not. In Pakistan, a third of the country is under water. The torrential rains and floods, now in their second month, have destroyed a million homes, about 2,200 miles of roads and submerged a third of the country, including more than two million acres (809,371 hectares) of agricultural land, depriving the inhabitants there. of their livelihoods. Damage to date is estimated at more than $10 billion, or 4% of the country’s annual gross domestic product, according to Pakistani officials.
Emission sinners should pay
If one is convinced that climate degradation is man-made, as scientists agree, namely a product of emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels, then it is impossible to say that countries like Pakistan themselves are responsible for this destruction.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan accounts for less than 1% of the global warming gases in the world. Horn of Africa countries Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan – enduring a grueling two-year drought and extreme food insecurity – are together responsible for just 0.1% of emissions world.
In 2020, all of sub-Saharan Africa had a per capita carbon footprint of around 0.1 tonnes, compared to 17 tonnes in Australia, 18.5 in Canada and 15.5 in the United States. Pakistan’s per capita emissions are less than one tonne.
Historically, ie since 1850, the US has 25% of all carbon emissions to meet, EU countries including the UK come second with 22%. China, although the largest emitter today, is historically a distant third with 13% of total global emissions. One study calculated that the Global North is responsible for 92% of global emissions beyond the planetary boundary.
Yet it is the Global South that is on the front lines of climate breakdown. Pakistan ranks eighth in terms of climate-related vulnerability, behind countries such as Myanmar, Haiti, Mozambique and Bangladesh, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. In 2021, heavy rains left a quarter of Bangladesh under water and destroyed the homes of millions of people. The Pacific island nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu have virtually no carbon footprint but are disappearing under rising tides.
It is therefore understandable that these countries have been asking for accounts and compensation for years. “Loss and damage” appears as the third pillar of UN-led climate negotiations, alongside mitigation and adaptation. The issue was a flashpoint at the last UN-sponsored climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. But the wealthier nations managed to brush it off. The United States even led a group of wealthier countries to block the creation of a loss and damage financing mechanism.
But with this year’s catastrophic weather events, the issue of liability is back on the table with new force. It is difficult to argue with the Pakistani Minister of Planning, Development and Reform, Ahsan Iqbal, who calls on industrialized countries to strengthen their responsibility vis-à-vis countries ravaged by climate change. “All the quality of life that people enjoy in the West, someone is paying the price for in the developing world,” he said on August 30.
“This is a climate crisis,” Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Pakistan Representative told CNN in August. “A climate that has been mainly created by wealthier countries, contributing to the crisis, and I think it’s time for the world to step up to support Pakistan in this time of need.”
Pakistan will receive humanitarian aid for the recovery efforts – the United States has pledged $30 million, the United Nations $3 million – and can tap into the internationally funded Green Climate Fund, that helps developing countries adopt adaptation and mitigation practices. But it is not the same as compensation.
hard to sell
Even as more and more Americans support U.S. participation in international efforts to help reduce the effects of climate change, there is less consensus on whether the United States has a responsibility to provide climate-related financial assistance to developing economies – of any kind. In the United States itself, there is virtually no discussion of liability, liability, and climate-related reparations.
So far, only Scotland and the province of Wallonia in Belgium have paid compensation for loss and damage. Although their contributions only totaled around one million euros each, they were hailed by the UN Secretary-General for setting a precedent. The EU as a whole is thinking about it.
Others are expected to join them as aggrieved nations bring their anger and demands to the upcoming climate summit in Egypt in November, called COP 27. If the developed world fails to respond, the burning issue could derail the whole summit and throw a spanner in the global climate. protection efforts.
Poor countries in the South have justice and equity on their side, but, tragically, they lack the clout to make climate justice happen.