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What is Climate Reparation?

Context:

Facing the worst flooding disaster in its history, Pakistan has begun demanding reparations, or compensation, from the rich countries that are mainly responsible for causing climate change.
Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Climate Reparation?
  2. Who is responsible for Climate Change?
  3. Why need climate reparations?
  4. What did the International Conventions say about Climate Responsibility?
  5. Pushback from Developed Countries

What is Climate Reparation?

  • In order to address the historical contributions that the developed countries have made (and still make) to climate change, there is a request for money to be paid by the developed countries to the developing countries.
  • An extension of the widely accepted “Polluter Pays” principle is the demand for compensation for loss and damage caused by climatic disasters.
    • This means that in addition to having to cover the expense of corrective action, the polluter also has to pay to compensate those who have suffered environmental harm as a result of their conduct.

Who is responsible for Climate Change?

  • In the climate change framework, the burden of responsibility falls on those rich countries that have contributed most of the greenhouse gas emissions since 1850, generally considered to be the beginning of the industrial age.
  • The United States and the European Union, including the UK, account for over 50% of all emissions during this time.
  • If Russia, Canada, Japan, and Australia too are included, the combined contribution goes past 65%, or almost two-thirds of all emissions.
  • Historical responsibility is important because carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and it is the cumulative accumulation of carbon dioxide that causes global warming.

Why need climate reparations?

  • Although climate change has an influence on all countries, it is significantly more severe in poorer countries due to their location and less ability to adapt.
  • The nations that will be most severely affected by climate change are those with small past emissions contributions and severe resource constraints.

What did the International Conventions say about Climate Responsibility?

Admission of responsibility
  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 1994 international agreement that lays down the broad principles of the global effort to fight climate change, explicitly acknowledges this differentiated responsibility of nations.
  • It makes it very clear that rich countries must provide both the finance and the technology to the developing nations to help them tackle climate change. It is this mandate that later evolved into the $100 billion amount that the rich countries agreed to provide every year to the developing world.
  • The promise is yet to be met, this $100 billion per year amount is not meant for loss and damage.
Report by the UNOCHA
  • According to a recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Efforts (UNOCHA), prepared for the UN General Assembly, annual funding requests related to climate-linked disasters averaged USD 15.5 billion in the three-year period between 2019 and 2021.
  • The report said that the United States alone is estimated to have “inflicted more than $1.9 trillion in damages to other countries” due to its emissions. 
  • Then there are non-economic losses as well, including loss of lives, displacement and migration, health impacts, and damage to cultural heritage.
  • The report cited the results of another study to say that the unavoidable annual economic losses from climate change were projected to reach somewhere between $290 billion to $580 billion by the year 2030.
Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM)
  • The WIM for Loss and Damages, set up in 2013, was the first formal acknowledgment of the need to compensate developing countries struck by climate disasters.
  • However, the progress on this front has been painfully slow.
  • No funding mechanism, or even a promise to provide funds, has come about.

Pushback from Developed Countries

  • It is not hard to understand why the developed countries are dead against compensation claims.
  • They are struggling to put together even the $100 billion per year flow that they had reluctantly agreed to provide.
  • Further, loss and damage claims can easily spiral into billions of dollars, or even more.
  • The report said that the United States alone is estimated to have “inflicted more than $1.9 trillion in damages to other countries” due to its emissions.

-Source: Indian Express


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October 2022
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