At COP27, developing countries managed to get an agreement to set up a ‘loss and damage’ climate fund. But with no pledges forthcoming, African countries must keep pressing those who have messed up our climate to start making reparations, writes Anver Versi.
Only he who has a pebble in his shoe knows the pain of walking, says an African proverb. Others can sympathise when they see you hobbling but they do not really share the pain or the discomfort. The pebble in the shoe for most poor countries in the world today is the attrition inflicted by climate change. It is lacerating feet, making every step an agony and it is a pebble that cannot be dislodged without the help of others, and it causes wounds that cannot be healed except by long-term and expert ministration.
This is the situation of some of the less developed countries in the world, many of them in Africa, which are reeling from the cumulative effects of climate change that has made nonsense of rainfall patterns, caused massive floods and droughts and unleashed typhoons that have flattened towns and cities.
And the experts warn us that this is just the beginning. As the world’s climate gets hotter and ice caps melt, the sea will continue to rise, inexorably threatening to drown islands and low-lying shores. Kiribati. The Maldives, Vanuatu. Tuvalu. Solomon Islands. Samoa. Nauru. Fiji Islands – these are just some of the island states under sentence of death. Our own island nations, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Cape Verde and others also face existential threat.
It is worth repeating once again that all scientific evidence shows that it is human activity that has thrown the climate out of kilter and that the nations most guilty of causing this calamity are mostly from the north. The US stands alone as the one country to have caused most damage although China is now fast catching up on the roll of climate infamy.
We have known this for decades now. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established 30 years ago in 1992 and signed by virtually every country in the world. The aim was to work out ways and means to understand climate change and take the appropriate measures to reverse the worst effects. It gave birth to a bewildering array of conferences and forums, including all the UN Conferences on Climate Change – the ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) family, the latest of which, COP27 took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in November.
Throughout this time, developing nations responsible for the smallest amounts of climate pollution for years have politely asked the rich nations, which have caused the most damage to help them mitigate the effects such as flooding, sea-level rises, drought and enable them to build resilience to further damage.
Looking the other way
But as Vanessa Nakate, a youth activist from Uganda, said: “Everybody nods their heads when you talk about the devastation that climate change has caused and is causing but when you ask them to put their hands in their pockets, they look the other way.”
Initially, there was agreement that developing countries would get around $100bn to build resilience and reduce their carbon dioxide emission while transiting to a clean fuels energy system. Apart from countries like China and India, the developing countries’ emissions are tiny compared to those of the industrial giants. But they went on and on waiting for the money. They are still waiting.
They have also been asking for a ‘loss and damage’ fund to be set up to help them cope with effects that are already devastating their countries. The rich countries, led by the US, said no.
With the principle that ‘he who breaks it pays for it’, this time around in Egypt, the developing countries, led by Pakistan, which is still suffering from the worst flooding in its history, refused to back down and finally, well past full-time, they managed to get an agreement to set up a fund to “help developing countries respond to economic and non-economic loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events.”
This was hailed as a huge breakthrough and a ‘victory for the developing world’. But keep in mind there is no fund yet, no money, there are no pledges of any sort from anyone and no proper mechanism of establishing this fund and administering it.
A committee, from 24 countries it is believed, will work out the details but already the rich countries are throwing the spanner in the works, demanding that countries like China and India also contribute. Some are already saying they have economic issues at home and these trillion-dollar-GDP economies cannot find the odd billion or two to help save vulnerable countries from extinction!
We are saying, hold the celebrations until we see actual money changing hands and the enormous work to repair and make good our countries begins. Until then, we reverse the situation and become the pebble in the shoes of the rich. To Vanessa Nakate and her courageous young colleagues from around the world, we implore you to be that pebble and keep nagging until those who have messed up our climate seriously begin to make reparations.