Will COP27 Finally Give Developing Nations the Climate Justice They Deserve?

President Biden speaks at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Wikimedia Commons

By Lucia Mejia Cardenas, age 14

Originally published Nov. 2, 2022

Delegates from countries around the world are set to meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from Nov. 6 to Nov. 18 to discuss our ever-so-relevant climate crisis. The Conference of the Parties (COP) has been a tradition for 26 years, each year changing its location. Yet it seems as if almost nothing else changes. This year’s goals are predictable: mitigation, adaptation, finance and collaboration, according to the official COP27 website. The hope is that by the end of these 12 days, the entire world will have a plan that reduces our carbon emissions, provides protection against a worsening environment and has sufficient funding to achieve this all.

During COP events, it is expected that the richest countries will promise help to the poorest countries; however, these promises are rarely fulfilled. In 2009, developed countries promised that by 2020 they would raise $100 billion for developing countries to cope with the damages of climate change. By 2020, those nations managed to fall $16.7 billion short of that promise. However, there are hopes that this is the year countries such as those in Africa will finally draw the line.

The 46 poorest countries are responsible for only 1% of global pollution, yet they suffer the largest consequences of climate change. Africa in particular requires a large portion of climate funding for climate adaptation, as its huge population is extremely vulnerable to climate disasters (such as flooding, extreme heat and drought) and is unable to make the necessary changes without global assistance. Currently they receive just 3% of the global climate change fund. Many countries within Africa require funding in order to protect their land and people from the effects of a climate crisis they are not responsible for. Additionally, they require money to invest in their future by implementing cleaner energy sources. This lack of funding becomes a vicious cycle: No funding leads to insufficient climate adaptation, and worsening weather patterns consequently create catastrophic damage to an already struggling continent. So why is it that the countries actually creating these circumstances can’t seem to pull through?

“Vulnerable countries do not have the financial capacity to adapt to these intensifying climate impacts, which makes climate finance a matter of global justice.”

Elizabeth Wathuti, Kenyan climate activist

It seems as if the idea of climate reparations is frightening to rich countries, particularly the United States, and often talk of reparations is pushed to the sidelines. “I think finance, in their minds, can be internalized as either an investment or a form of charity,” explained Daniel Willis, campaigns and policy manager at Global Justice Now, to Euro News, “whereas the idea of reparations, or compensation for loss and damage, kind of implies a sense of liability.” 

Reparations can come in many different forms, but the general purpose is to provide compensation to developing countries for the damage that First World countries have caused to their environment and general well-being. Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti spoke to the Associated Press about the “loss of lives and livelihoods, and damage to our lands and communities” as a direct result of climate change. “Vulnerable countries do not have the financial capacity to adapt to these intensifying climate impacts, which makes climate finance a matter of global justice,” she said.

By 2030, experts estimate that around $300 billion will be required for climate adaptation alone. But how do countries plan to generate this money? Willis says that he believes governments must not rely on taxpayers but instead focus on taxing fossil fuel corporations and the super rich.

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