Climate change is hugely unjust. As it currently stands the world's richest 10% have accounted for over half of all carbon dioxide emissions, while those who have contributed least to climate breakdown are bearing its worst consequences.
In the words of Fatima Ibrahim, co-founder of the Green New Deal in the UK ‘Climate reparations are recognising the debt that the Global North owes the Global South and paying that off soon so that the Global South has the power to transform their own economies and secure the future.’
Successful climate reparations schemes go much further than simply providing ‘pay-back’; they are about tackling oppressive historical systems of colonialism and exploitation. These are the systems responsible for leaving countries around the globe without the necessary resources to respond to the climate crisis. These resources include financial and administrative resources necessary to transform the economies of countries and build their resilience to the climate crisis.
‘Climate reparations are recognising the debt that the Global North owes the Global South and paying that off soon so that the Global South has the power to transform their own economies and secure the future.’ Fatima Ibrahim
There are two main pathways of climate reparations. The first involves tort litigation for loss and damage against major fossil fuel companies- simply put, this means suing major fossil fuel companies for their role in misinformation and climate breakdown.
The second pathway is termed ‘corrective justice’, where high greenhouse gas emitters must financially compensate those who have been disproportionately harmed. This pathway enables those on the receiving end of funds, such as small island states (called creditor countries) to strengthen their resilience to growing climate concerns with funds available for disaster risk reduction and adaptation.
The administrative complexity of climate reparations is huge and is currently a huge barrier, despite mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Created in 2010 within the framework of the UNFCCC, the GCF has mobilised close to $20 billion in funding over 100 countries. Whilst this funding is significant in comparison to other climate funds, it is still a mere drop in the ocean when it comes to addressing the $90 trillion in funding needed to achieve the global transformation required in the face of climate change.
Since 2010 the GCF has mobilised close to $20 billion in funding over 100 countries
It’s important to recognise that whilst the GCF is a great step forward, we will require much larger and coherent mechanisms as the climate crisis intensifies. While designing a fair and efficient system of compensation for climate change damage may be hugely challenging, it is crucial to ensure an equitable future for everyone.
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Oxfam. (2020). Confronting Carbon Inequality.
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Táíwò & Cibralic. (2020). Foreign Policy.