Climate Reparation

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    • Recently, Pakistan has begun demanding reparations, or compensation from the rich countries for the worst flooding disaster in its history.

    Key Points

    • Pakistan’s Arguments:
      • Rich countries are mainly responsible for causing climate change. 
      • While Pakistan 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.
    • Proposals: 
      • 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. 
      • The issue has come up repeatedly at international climate change negotiations, and on other platforms.
      • The principles being invoked are fairly well-established in environmental jurisprudence.

    Climate Reparation

    • About:
      • 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.
    • Extension of Polluter Pays Principle: 
      • At its heart, the demand for compensation for loss and damage from climate disasters is an extension of the universally acknowledged “Polluter Pays” principle.
      • It makes the polluter liable for paying not just for the cost of remedial action, but also for compensating the victims of environmental damage caused by their actions.
    • Responsibility burden on Rich Nations: 
      • 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 of All: 
      • Because carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and it is the cumulative accumulation of this carbon dioxide that causes global warming. 
      • China, which is the world’s biggest emitter for over 15 years now, has contributed about 11% to total emissions since 1850.
      • A country like India, currently the third largest emitter, accounts for only 3% of historical emissions.

    Need for Climate Reparation

    • Severe Impact on Poor Nations: 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 giving rise to demands for loss and damage compensation. 
    • Limitations of Resources: 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.
    • Huge Economic Loss: The economic loss from cyclone Amphan in India and Bangladesh in 2020 has been assessed at USD 15 billion. Further, loss and damage claims can easily spiral into billions of dollars, or even more. 
    • Losses due to Developed Nations: The United States alone is estimated to have “inflicted more than $1.9 trillion in damages to other countries” due to its emissions. 
    • Non-economic Losses: Then there are non-economic losses as well, including loss of lives, displacement and migration, health impacts, and damage to cultural heritage. 

    UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Initiatives 

    • Differentiated Responsibility: 
      • 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.
      • While this promise is yet to be met, this $100 billion per year amount is not meant for loss and damage. 
      • Climate disasters were not a regular occurrence in 1994, and as such the UNFCCC does not make a mention of loss and damage. 
      • This particular demand emerged much later, and faced stiff resistance from the developed nations.
      • It was after much struggle that the developing countries and NGOs managed to establish a separate channel on loss and damages at international climate change negotiations. 
    • The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damages.
      • It was set up in 2013, was the first formal acknowledgment of the need to compensate developing countries struck by climate disasters.
      • The discussions under WIM so far have focused mainly on enhancing knowledge and strengthening dialogue. 
      • No funding mechanism, or even a promise to provide funds, has come about.

    Way Ahead

    • All stakeholders should come together to discuss this and carve out a solution which is justified to all.

    Source: IE