Why rich countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate crisis
That piece in Rolling Stone is looking at a growing demand for the repayment of climate debt. This is really a relatively new framing for the climate crisis and is becoming predominantly from the developing world, led by the government of Bolivia and other Latin American governments, and it has been joined by the coalition of least developed countries which are primarily in Africa.
And essentially what they’re saying is that the climate crisis as we know was created in the industrialized world. There is a direct correlation between industrialization (what we call development) and carbon emissions. In fact, 75% of the historical carbon emissions have been produced by only 20% of the world’s population.
Then we have this cruel geographical irony, which is that the effects of climate change our felt overwhelmingly in the developing world, and the parts of the world that are least responsible for creating the crisis. According to the World Bank, 75-80 of the effects of climate change are being felt in the developing world.
So, you have this inverse relationship between cause and effect.
It is in this context that we see a growing movement from the developing countries that really are on the front lines of climate change, saying that the rich world that created the climate crisis owes them a debt, owes them a tangible reparations for the creation of this crisis. And those reparations should be paid in three forms.
First through deep emissions cuts in the developed world, in the rich world. At least 40% below 1990 levels- this is a figure we have heard a lot.
In addition to this, they are saying the rich world, the G-8 countries, the industrialized countries, should pay for the costs, the huge costs, that poor countries face in adapting to climate change.
In addition to that, they’re also saying that they would like to leapfrog over the dirty energies, the fossil fuels that are fueling the climate crisis. But they point out that this is expensive and more expensive to shift to cleaner green technology than it is to develop with cheap, dirty fuels, which is the way we did in the rich world.
So, they are saying we will change, but we don’t think we should have to pay this additional cost because of our problem that is not of our creation. Essentially the climate debt arguments is the “polluter pays” argument, which is a familiar argument to people in the United States, its a basic principle of jurisprudence.
Another way of putting this is “you broke it, you bought it.”