Loss and Damage / Climate finance

The charge

The Climate and Ecological Emergency is a Crime Against Humanity perpetrated by the rich and powerful against the poor and vulnerable.

They have allowed staggering inequality: those who cause most, benefit most while those who cause least bear the losses and irreversible damage. Yet those responsible for climate and environmental chaos refuse to fairly pay for any loss and damage, and put more money into fossil fuels and war than climate finance.

We charge the world’s most powerful governments with mass manslaughter by gross negligence, especially to the people of the Global South.

The evidence

Our economic system is built upon the colonialist exploitation of natural resources driven by a relentless pursuit of infinite growth, requiring ever-increasing profit, more consumption, more inequality, more resource extraction and more biodiversity loss.

A wealthy minority of the world’s countries and corporations are the principal cause of climate change. There is a staggering global climate injustice where many of the countries that have done the least to cause climate change will face the worst impacts. The wealthiest 10% of the world’s population are responsible for over 50% of the current emissions, whereas the poorest 50% are only responsible for 7 % of emissions.

The majority of high-income nations have already significantly exceeded their fair share of the carbon budget for 2 degrees. Their 2050 targets are effectively cementing greed for another 30 years, consuming everyone’s share and expecting less developed countries to go along with this.

The Global South cannot be sacrificed to bear the brunt of the Global North’s affluent, carbon intensive lifestyles. XR Global South groups are asking governments to ‘Stop Killing Us’ as they suffer from the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

High income countries must reduce emissions further and faster in line with their historic responsibility and make good on their commitments to provide financial support to low income countries. 

Climate debt and climate justice

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) states that all countries must contribute to climate action according to their historical responsibility and current capacity. 

Richer countries have a disproportionately higher level of emissions today, but they also have the biggest historic responsibility. Carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere so what a country emitted in the past matters as much as what they are emitting today.

Industrialised countries have also grown wealthy and powerful, partly as a result of the systematic plunder of the Global South. Those countries that have used up the collective carbon budget most, bear a greater responsibility to decarbonise faster. If we take equity into account (to ensure a fair split of total global carbon emissions), and do not rely on negative emissions technologies, the absolute minimum that richer countries such as the UK or Sweden need to be doing to meet the Paris Agreement is to get to zero emissions by 2035-2040. This would require over 10% reductions per year, and, crucially, is an awful lot sooner than the recent 2050 target that the UK signed up to. And even that will only give us a measly 1 in 3 chance of staying below 1.5°C.

If we want to also aim for a more ambitious target of a 2 in 3 chance of staying below 1.5°C heating, the UK and other high-income countries should be aiming for net zero emissions around 2025, in line with Extinction Rebellion’s Second Demand.

Wealthier countries must provide financial and technological support so that developing countries can reduce emissions while still improving living conditions. It’s unfair to lock poorer countries into poverty to stop a crisis caused by the high-carbon lifestyle  of the richer countries.

Wealthier countries owe an ‘adaptation debt’ to developing countries where the impacts of climate change cannot be prevented. The Paris Agreement stipulated that developed countries would provide $100bn annually for the period 2020-2025 to help Global South countries adapt to climate change and support the growth of green economies. This has so far not fully materialised and is, in anycase, nowhere near enough as a contribution.

Loss and Damage

Loss and Damage is compensation for the impacts of climate change that can neither be prevented nor adapted to, for example in the case of islands and communities disappearing under the rising seas or freshwater lakes drying up. Those who caused the mess, and could have prevented it, must pay for loss and damage.

The core concept of Loss and Damage reparations is included in the Paris Agreement but it is negated in paragraph 51 where the rich world declare they have no liability and do not need to pay compensation. Righting this injustice is a critical factor in unlocking negotiations at COP26.