– VICTORY FOR THE POOR, BUT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE!
The 27th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27) closed in the early hours of Sunday 20th November on a historic note with the establishment of a loss and damage fund. This victory for the poor is thanks to the consistent and powerful mobilisation of the frontline climate defenders and those inside the venue who kept raising their voices for the suffering poor of the global south even when at some point negotiation came to a standstill. Countries in the global south have been making this demand for 30 years but it has been blocked by rich nations who feared they would be legally held liable for the pollution. For this reason, some commentators have suggested that this great outcome cannot really be attributed to the developed nations who have been blocking and delaying this outcome for years. The outcome sounds like the rich nations faced the persistence of the widow in Luke 18:1-8 in the Christian Bible who was granted justice “so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”
Our gratitude goes to the negotiators who stayed strong in the face of great opposition but the win and relief really, go to the millions of poor people, largely from South Asia, Africa, and Latin America who suffer the ravages of climate change impacts. But true relief will really come when developed countries finally step up and deliver on this fund otherwise it will be another empty promise made at the expense of millions all over the world suffering from the consequences of climate change that they cannot adapt to or manage with resilience.
“Pope Francis calls on rich nations to act justly and to show compassion and concern and help poorer nations to deal with harsh exigencies like climate change.”
In other words, the establishment of a loss and damage fund is an important first step, but it remains cardinal for all nations to ensure that the fund is operational and is funded in a responsible, just, and equitable way. Therefore, the question to ask is where should the money for the newly established loss and damage fund come from. We invoke the ‘polluter pays’ principle, which is the commonly accepted practice that those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment. In this regard, the new fund must be paid for by taxing the big polluters that have caused the climate crisis in the first place.
However, funding repair of damage and compensation for loss responds to the need to provide immediate and short-term relief. We still need deeper and real solutions to the climate problem that are transformative and regenerative and able to protect the planet, biodiversity, and all creation. We need real actions on reducing global emissions and real protection of human rights for us to have climate justice. We need the reform of business and the economy. While the world is experiencing an unprecedented and harsh climate crisis, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) continues to be held hostage by big businesses responsible for the pollution through the rich countries where they are domiciled. Thus, the UNFCCC usually fails to deliver justice and real climate action for the poor people who need it. Countries that continue to close several fossil fuel energy deals, especially the developed ones, must give up their hypocrisy in limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, the world will be locked into a short-lived fossil fuel-dependent future.
As nations establish this new fund, here is where Pope Francis’ wisdom in Fratelli Tutti comes in handy; that nations promote social friendship and charity among themselves. In addition to the promotion of social friendship, Pope Francis calls on rich nations to act justly and show compassion and concern and help poorer nations to deal with harsh exigencies like climate change. Rich nations must make a commitment of new and additional compensation finance, not aid money, to the new fund, in proportion to their historic carbon emissions, and to tax big polluters. It is time for rich nations to make sure their governments contribute to the fund. Since the majority of rich nations are democratic nations, their citizens must also show perseverance and unity for justice and love to demand that their governments do what is just, right and noble.