Posted on 25 November 2019
New analysis sets out how much responsibility the wealthy countries behind the climate crisis must take for the devastating impact that rising global temperatures are already having on developing nations.
The report, Can Climate Change-Fuelled Loss and Damage Ever Be Fair?
, endorsed by nearly 100 civil society organisations finds that the US and EU are jointly responsible for more than half (54%) the cost of repairing the damage caused by climate disasters in the Global South.
It highlights how the world needs to establish effective responses to climate disasters, remake global food systems to be resilient in the face of destabilised ecosystems, and respond to increasingly frequent migrant crises in ways that protect the rights of those forced to leave their homes.
The report shows that the first step is for wealthy countries to immediately begin providing public climate finance, based on their responsibility and capacity to act, to support not only adaptation, but to also address the loss and damage already being caused by the climate crisis.
It is being released ahead of the 25th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid next week, where there is an urgent need for governments to agree ways to provide climate finance, including through new and innovative sources such as taxes on fossil fuels and financial transactions, which can deliver resources at scale to countries on the frontline of the climate crisis.
The civil society organisations calculated countries’ ‘fair share’ of responsibility using an equity analysis, based on historic contributions to climate change through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and their capacity to take climate action, based on national income while taking into account what is needed to provide basic living standards.
Considering countries’ responsibility for the climate crisis and their financial capacity to respond, the report estimates that the US owes at least 30% and the EU 24%, compared to India’s 0.5%.
The report suggests that, based on estimates of loss and damage costs in developing countries, new and additional finance of $50 billion should be provided by 2022, rising to a minimum of $300 billion by 2030.
Developing countries are already bearing the brunt of the human and environmental costs of climate change. Mozambique is among countries across southern Africa currently experiencing a food crisis affecting 45 million people. Earlier this year, communities were hit by an unprecedented two cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, which killed 648 people, displaced millions, and destroyed homes, infrastructure and crops, causing $3 billion in damages.
Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for ActionAid, says:
“The climate emergency is the greatest equity challenge of our time. The current, unjust system for responding to climate disasters is pushing developing countries further into poverty and debt.
“The issue of finance for repairing the loss and damage caused by climate change is on the table at COP25. This research clearly shows how much is owed and by whom. This is a crucial opportunity for the rich countries and polluting industries that have caused the crisis to meet their responsibility to those who are being hardest hit by climate disasters.”
Sandeep Chamling Rai, senior advisor on global climate adaptation policy for WWF, says:
“People’s fight for justice – in their political, social and economic lives – has moved centre-stage, in parallel with the fight against the climate crisis. These struggles are fuelled by rising inequality, poverty and the impacts of climate change on the poorest and most marginalised communities and vulnerable ecosystems around the world. We have little time to respond to the rising demands of people.
“If we are to avert chaos, rich countries must prioritise funding for loss and damage. One way to focus efforts would be to enhance nature-based solutions, thereby minimising future loss and damage while also addressing the climate crisis.”
Nafkote Dabi, climate change policy lead for Oxfam, says:
“Climate fuelled disasters are devastating the lives of some of the poorest people across the globe – people who have done least to fuel this crisis are losing their homes, their food, and their livelihoods. Rich countries must adopt ambitious emissions reductions plan to minimize the impact of the crisis and contribute their fair share to support frontline communities adapt and recover from loss and damage.”
Alison Doig, head of global policy, Christian Aid, says:
“We can no-longer pretend that the climate emergency is something for the future, that we can all adapt to or insure against. Poor and vulnerable people are losing their homes, livelihoods and loved ones right now, due to drowning Pacific Island, extreme weather in southern Africa and Central America, monsoon flooding in India, and slow progressing drought in East Africa. For them it is too late to adapt, and costly insurance mechanisms have failed to replace their loss.
“We need to face the reality in front of us, and provide funding to repair the damage and replace the loss caused by the climate emergency.”
Sven Harmeling, global policy lead climate change and resilience, CARE International, says:
“Millions of people around the world are already ravaged by a climate crisis they didn’t cause. From Africa and Asia to Europe and the Americas, this burden falls disproportionately on the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly women and girls. Ramping up finance to reduce climate impacts and to recover from those unavoided is overdue. COP25 must become the moment where rich countries shift the scales of justice towards the climate-harmed people.”
Dipti Bhatnagar, climate justice and energy coordinator, Friends of the Earth International, Mozambique, says:
“Our country Mozambique didn’t create the climate crisis, yet some of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens were devastated by the cyclones that hit earlier this year. The climate crisis is inherently unjust. This is why we need rich countries to stop emitting now, but they must also provide essential funding for loss and damage. We need a repayment of the climate debt that must flow to southern governments who must be accountable to their people to deal with the climate crisis.”
Isaiah Toroitich, head of policy and advocacy, ACT Alliance, says:
“Unchecked climate change is running rampant and certain developing countries and climate-vulnerable communities are being hit the hardest. It’s incumbent on developed countries to play their part in radically confronting the climate crisis and to make support available to the most vulnerable people. Failing to do so, will demonstrate a lack of solidarity with front-line communities and the life-threatening realities that they face as climate change intensifies.
“Developing countries are in dire need of climate finance to address the losses and damages that they are experiencing. The newest CSO equity report re-emphasises the need for all developed countries to step-up and to take bold action to reduce the risk of loss and damage, and to address the losses and damages that communities are already facing.”
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Notes to editors:
Sivan Kartha, senior scientist at Stockholm Environment Institute, who developed the equity analysis is available for interview about the findings and methodology.
*This analysis is based on the principle that all countries must undertake at least their fair share of the global effort to tackle climate change. Some countries have an even greater ethical duty to act than others: those with higher income and wealth, level of development and access to technologies, or who have already emitted a great deal for a long time, and thrive from the infrastructure and institutions they have been able to set up because of this.
The equity and fair shares analysis therefore focuses on historical responsibility and capacity, which directly correspond with the core principles in the UN climate convention of ‘common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities’ and the ‘right to sustainable development’. It does so in a way that distinguishes between the wealthy and the poor within a country.
The table below shows countries' share of global responsibility and capacity, as an illustrative application of a fair share approach to providing funding for loss and damage costs.
Capacity reflects a nation’s financial ability to contribute to solving the climate problem as represented by national income, and can be defined in a progressive way, thereby distinguishing a dollar earned by a rich person from a dollar earned by a poor person. Responsibility reflects a nation’s contribution to the planetary greenhouse gases burden, and is based on cumulative GHG emissions since a specified particular historical start year, and can consider the emissions arising from luxury consumption more strongly than emissions from the fulfilment of basic needs.
The two columns below show the resulting fair shares of the total funding requirements, using two benchmarks of calculating capacity and responsibility, which span a wide range of ethical perspectives.
|Country / Group of countries
||Fair share Benchmark
1950 baseline for emissions (%)
1850 baseline for emissions
|Rest of OECD-90
|Rest of World
The first benchmark considers responsibility based on a historical starting point of 1950, and calculates capacity from national income excluding income below a $7,500 / year per individual threshold (about $20/day), corresponding to meeting basic development needs. The second considers responsibility based a historical starting point of 1850, the start of industrialisation, and calculates national capacity excludes income below $7,500 / year threshold, and weights income above $50,000 more strongly. (Further detail available at climateequityreference.org/about-the-climate-equity-reference-project-effort-sharing-approach/
Importantly, wealthy countries actually owe an even larger amount of support than this illustrative analysis suggests, since it does not take into account the fact the poor and the vulnerable are already bearing the vast bulk of the loss and damage burden directly, through the loss of human lives and livelihoods. It also neglects the fact that the massive climate impacts already experiencing are due to failure of countries to reduce their GHG emissions with sufficient speed and earnestness, and it is overwhelmingly the wealthier countries that are responsible for this failure. Finally, the financial estimates of loss and damage, are only a partial reflection of the many forms of harm and suffering endured by victims of climate catastrophes.