We have set up a fundraising page (soon to be pages) to raise the funds for helping the people who are already severely affected by climate change. The first charity is Shelter Box who are providing emergency shelter and tools for families who have lost their homes to climate disasters.
COP26 was meant to deliver financial reparations (aka loss and damages) to the countries and communities affected by climate change who have done the least to cause it. This is part of the financial packages required to ensure a livable world, including money for clean energy and adaptations. Actually, it was not just COP26 that included talk of these financial packages – previous COPs have looked to address this injustice too.
In 2009, at the COP in Denmark, rich countries agreed to give $100bn a year to help the poorest countries with both reducing their emissions and with adaptations to the effects of climate change. The money given over this time period has fallen short of what was promised. As I write, the COP26 talks are into overtime – the latest draft has pushed the issue of financial reparations into future discussions. Update – so far Scotland has recognised the need to pay for loss and damages, but the amount pledged is tiny. However, it is a step towards progress on this.
Why does climate justice matter? Why is it “our $100bn” and not “their $100bn?”
Climate justice is more than a moral issue. However, our moral responsibility is probably the most important part of this. In richer industrialised nations we are responsible for the historic emissions which are causing people to be flooded out of their homes, to experience devastating droughts and wildfires, to see their homes destroyed by storms and to become the first climate refugees. We are also responsible for people facing food insecurity.
However there are other reasons we should take responsibility. As people face poverty and pressures, they are forced into firefighting mode. They have to use all their energy and effort to deal with the direct disasters. This leaves little resource for putting in place contingencies for the future or for trying to mitigate the effects. Forests are cleared to provide land for crops, trees are felled for charcoal and wood for cooking fuel.
Communities are doing a great deal to mitigate and adapt. They are very much part of the solution and I absolutely do not want to paint them as helpless victims. However, it is not difficult to imagine what these communities could do to help conserve biodiversity with financial help and resources and the pressures relieved. They plant trees that help to reduce flash flooding and provide shelter from the heat and wind and hold the soil together rather than seeing it turn to dust and blow away. They could be cooking with solar stoves instead of charcoal or wood, which brings health benefits as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They could be making adaptations that will help them for the lifetimes of their children and grandchildren and it not just be about trying to get through the next weeks and months. They might be able to stay in their homelands rather than being forced to move to increasingly crowded areas, where they may feel unwelcome and struggle with competition for resources.
On top of this, how do we persuade nations whose economies depend on fossil fuels or agriculture on land that was once rainforest, to shift to alternatives? How can they trust that we will support them when we are not forthcoming with the funding that we promised? A just transition needs adequate finance and a climate crisis calls for a global response where money flows to where it is needed and is not hoarded. It is time to shift to a mindset which thinks about our interconnectedness and life as a gift.
So this brings me to why it is “our” $100bn. Asides from this money largely coming from the taxes we pay (so we have contributed to the fund and voted on manifestos to deliver climate justice), the crises we face really bring home that I am only really OK if you are OK – we cannot have wellbeing for one without the other. Our children’s futures demand a just and equitable world.
A note about offsetting
Offsetting can be just greenwashing or, coupled with changes in the way that we do things (i.e. real reductions in emissions and, crucially, protection and restoration of natural habitats), it can be a great thing to do, especially while we figure out what to do with those hard-to-sort emissions. However, I think that it needs proper scrutiny and, in terms of doing the right thing, charitable donation may well be the way to go.
There is the potential for more climate injustice because offsetting is often done by the Global North using projects in the Global South to offset their emissions. This can mean effectively getting people in poorer countries to use renewables so that they can go about business as usual instead of cutting emissions. It can also mean projects that displace local people or take away their autonomy e.g. people have been moved from their homes because of conservation projects. It is important that to have due diligence to ensure that only projects that place local people and nature as the first priority are supported.