Climate justice must prevail at the COP27 2022 in Egypt
Once again, the climate summit reveals glaring differences between the perpetrators of climate change and its victims.
Proceedings at the COP27 climate summit 2022 in the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh once again revealed glaring differences between the perpetrators of climate change and its victims. Nearly 100 heads of state gathered in close proximity to the Red Sea in Egypt where calls to cut emissions and financially back developing countries for climate resilience were once again made. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned humanity of an impending ‘collective suicide’ in the battle against global warming, and the truth is that unless climate justice prevails in the international community, generations could simply be wiped out.
This summit acts as a reminder for countries such as the United States, given that it remains one of the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases in 2022. It also comes straight after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced two major reports in February and April 2022. The first report spoke of adaptation challenges for developing countries, including the ability to build resolute flooding defenses, promote climate-resilient infrastructure, and set up sustainability trusts to prevent poorer nations from bankruptcy. Such measures are critical in tackling rising sea levels, droughts, and the widespread destruction of ecosystems. The second report focuses on mitigation proposals, such as energy transitions to renewable sources and clean burning fuels, which have not been sufficient in 2022.
The common denominator in both reports is the need for greater financial equity and reparations to be paid to developing countries that are unjustly bearing the brunt of nonchalance and apathy from major contributors such as the United States. The US has consistently ranked as the largest historical contributor to CO2 emissions since 1850, and it has accounted for 20% of the world's total since then. In 2022, it ranks as the world’s second-largest polluter despite being the most industrialized country. Such ignominy and nonchalance have continuously damaged the ozone layer and indirectly affected agrarian societies in countries ranging from Pakistan in Asia to Djibouti in Africa. Pakistan witnessed the worst flooding in its history in 2022 as one-third of the country was submerged and widespread destruction of property and critical infrastructure was witnessed. Similarly, countries in the Horn of Africa, such as Djibouti, encountered a humanitarian crisis of significant proportion thanks to debilitating droughts in 2022. Yet, none of these countries are net contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
The truth is that the United States and EU states have teetered on the entire proposal of ‘loss and damage’ which eventually came on the agenda of COP27 due to the efforts of the G77+China bloc. According to UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed, only a fifth of requisite climate finance has been channelized for adaptation efforts and only a fraction of the $70 billion needed for developing countries to cope with global warming has been provided. Contrastingly, the United States as the most pronounced polluter has done nothing to address these gaps nor has it contributed to adaptation efforts.
As the UN chief Antonio Guterres rightly pointed out, COP27 in Egypt should either result in a climate solidarity pact being finalized or a collective suicide pact. Humanity confronts the choice of either cooperating to alleviate the pain of developing nations or collectively perishing in the process. It is clear that the solution lies in pushing richer polluting countries to aid poorer nations that bear no responsibility for heat-trapping gases. Doubling down on emissions and adhering to set targets in the Paris Agreement of 2015 of 1.5 degrees Celsius also necessitates a deal that places the onus solely on rich emitters to compensate emerging economies. No other framework would work.
It’s been a decade since the United States and its European counterparts pledged to fund adaptation in the developing world and reduce emissions on an equitable basis. Yet, shares remained abysmally low and assistance to developing nations has been through loans, not grants. Such disturbing facts also come amid 125 out of 154 developing countries starting work on national adaptation plans as per UN Climate Chief Patricia Espinosa. The lack of prioritization, however, remains obvious. The rhetoric of promises at COP27 2022 will simply not suffice.
According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, industrialized nations with the United States at the forefront are expected to abide by a scheduled disbursement of $100 billion per year to help promote resilience among developing nations to tackle climate change. Yet, such promises are long overdue and current assistance from the developed world is $17bn short of expected targets as per the OECD. It should, hence, come as no surprise that such injustice is being followed by widespread protests against the summit with prominent environmentalists, such as Greta Thunberg expressing cynicism by claiming that it is yet another attempt by the rich and powerful to greenwash and cheat the world population.
The severe injustice done to the developing world has to be accounted for in 2022 for a securer world. The devastation wrought on populations that are already encountering food insecurity as a result of the Ukraine war and reeling from severe droughts, flooding, waterborne diseases, and loss of livelihoods must be overturned for the betterment of humanity. It is clear that the United States is largely responsible for the plight of those worst affected by climate change with climate denialism and backtracking on promises having a severe impact on the livelihoods of millions of people.
Such injustice cannot go unnoticed.