• Climate,
  • COP,
  • COP27,
  • environment,
  • Loss and damage

At the COP27 climate summit, we must not lose sight of the fact that it’s big polluters who are primarily responsible for cleaning up their mess, write MEP Silvia Modig and MEP Petros Kokkalis.

As a child, you learn at some point to clean up when you’ve left a mess behind. Well, that’s a lesson that many people don’t seem to have learned – people who are now in powerful jobs and making enormous profits, including by polluting the earth and not cleaning up their mess.

Rich industrialised countries have used the Earth’s atmosphere as a free dumping ground for more than 150 years. The wealthiest 10% of the world’s population exceed the target per capita emissions by a factor of nine, and the wealthiest 1% by a factor of 30. According to Oxfam, the super-rich live like ecological vandals with a free pass to destroy our climate.

Now we are facing a dangerous and alarming era of climate change impacts, causing massive loss and damage and driving up inequality in the world’s poorest countries that have contributed least to the climate crisis. Pakistan, for example, is one of the world’s most affected by climate change, even though it accounts for less than 1% of global emissions.

Developed and developing countries alike are affected by loss and damage. However, losses and damages have a greater impact on the most vulnerable people, communities and countries, most of which are in the Global South. Compared to rich countries, they lack the resources to reduce and address loss and damage.

Developing countries have long called for a financing mechanism for such “loss and damage” in international climate negotiations.

For over 30 years, Parties to the UN Climate Change Summit, COP, have discussed the issue. However, rich countries continue to refuse to assume their responsibility to pay for loss and damage in developing countries.

Adopting its motion for resolution on the upcoming Climate Change Summit COP27, MEPs called on the EU to push for the establishment of a loss and damage finance mechanism at the next COP and for loss and damage to be a standing agenda item for future COPs.

The issue will likely be a source of controversy right at the beginning of the summit.

The upcoming UN Climate Change Summit is not only about emissions, it is about hope and justice – and about cash, huge amounts of money, think trillions.

Thus, very little can be promised if the finance ministers of the parties are back home and COP negotiators face only strict mandates and little room for manoeuvre. When important questions involving finance are on the table, we need the finance ministers there.

Climate justice will not be possible without redesigning the global financial architecture. With up to 94 countries facing debt distress, while losses and damages grow every year due to climate change necessitating further borrowing, states are locked in a vicious debt cycle.

Detailed proposals have been laid out, including debt for climate swaps, emphasis on grants-based finance, and the issuance of new Special Drawing Rights to serve low-carbon development plans.

Climate finance needs bold ideas, not business as usual. Big polluters must be kept out or at least forced to act responsibly.

The 60 biggest global banks have invested US$3.8 trillion in fossil fuels since the Paris climate talks – 40 of those banks are in the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero coalition. As long as the arsonists are advising the fire brigade, the climate cannot be saved.

It goes without saying that any form of financing mechanism should not be at the expense of public budgets and services of general interest. States should not touch social, education or health spending, nor should a special levy burden those who suffer from inflation, rising rents and energy costs.

The basic principle must be: make big polluters pay. Or in other words: it’s time for the rich to grow up and clean up their mess.


This article was published on 7 November as an op-ed on Euractiv.com

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