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- Prelims – Environment
- Mains – GS 3 (Environment)
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.
What are climate reparations?
- Climate reparations refer to a call for money to be paid by the Global North to the Global South as a means of addressing the historical contributions that the Global North has made (and continues to make) toward climate change.
- Countries in the Global North are responsible for 92% of excess global carbon emissions.
- Despite this, countless studies have shown that countries across the Global South are facing the sharpest end of the consequences when it comes to climate change—from severe heat waves in India to flooding in Kenya and hurricanes in Nicaragua.
- In repeated public statements, Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change has been saying that while her country makes negligible contribution to global warming, it has been among the most vulnerable to climate change.
- The current floods have already claimed over 1,300 lives, and caused economic damage worth billions of dollars.
- Pakistan’s demand for reparations appears to be a long shot, but the principles being invoked are fairly well-established in environmental jurisprudence.
- Almost the entire developing world, particularly the small island states, has for years been insisting on setting up an international mechanism for financial compensation for loss and damage caused by climate disasters.
Historical emissions argument
- The demand for compensation for loss and damage from climate disasters is an extension of the universally acknowledged “Polluter Pays” principle.
- 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.
- Significance of Historical responsibility:
- Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and it is the cumulative accumulation of this carbon dioxide that causes global warming.
- A country like India, currently the third largest emitter, accounts for only 3% of historical emissions.
- China, which is the world’s biggest emitter for over 15 years now, has contributed about 11% to total emissions since 1850.
- While the impact of climate change is global, it is much more severe on the poorer nations because of their geographical locations and weaker capacity to cope. This is what is giving rise to demands for loss and damage compensation.
- Countries that have had negligible contributions to historical emissions and have severe limitations of resources are the ones that face the most devastating impacts of climate change.
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 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 Warsaw International Mechanism (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. It so far has focused mainly on enhancing knowledge and strengthening dialogue.
- At the recent climate conference in Glasgow, a three-year task force was set up to discuss a funding arrangement.
- 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 $15.5 billion in the three-year period between 2019 and 2021.
- The economic loss from cyclone Amphan in India and Bangladesh in 2020 has been assessed at $15 billion.
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 migration, health impacts, damage to cultural heritage.
The report also said that the unavoidable annual economic losses from climate change were projected to reach somewhere between $290 billion to $580 billion by the year 2030.
Source: Indian Express
Previous Year Question
Q.1) “Climate Action Tracker” which monitors the emission reduction pledges of different countries is a: (2022)
- Database created by coalition of research organisations
- Wing of “International Panel of Climate Change”
- Committee under “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”
- Agency promoted and financed by United Nations Environment Programme and World Bank