In light of the current crisis, the risks and consequences of environmentally unsustainable practices have become more prominent. Citizens around the globe are recognizing the severe impacts that climate change is bringing: according to the “biggest climate survey” conducted by the United Nations Development Programme -- “People’s Climate Vote” poll, there is a high recognition of climate change emergency among respondents who attended university or college in all countries, ranging from 82% in lower income countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo to 87% in higher income ones like France. With increasing awareness of climate emergency, what came about is an urge for policy changes, voices from the people are pushing policy makers to enforce broad climate policies that result in tangible changes.
Although climate change is impacting every country around the globe, enormous inequality exists between the level of impact on the Global South and the Global North.
Per capita CO2 Emission in the Global South was 3.4 Ton in contrast to a staggering 10.6 Ton in the Global North.
Despite contributing relatively less shares of CO2 emission, countries in the Global South are much more vulnerable to climate disasters such as flooding, droughts or scorching temperature due to higher dependency on agriculture production, which tend to exacerbate risks of food insecurities and nutrient deficiencies.
The Climate and Food Vulnerability Index reported that the top 10 most food-insecure countries who are suffering the most from climate risks, collectively generate only 0.08% of total global CO2, and unsurprisingly, ALL of them are countries in the Global South.
In this Panel discussion hosted by King’s Think Tank Energy and Environment Policy Centre and King’s College London Climate Action Society, expert guest panelists: Dr. Ian Fry, Hadika Jamshaid and Guy Jackson explored two of the most important policies that developing countries in the Global South have been working on to address climate risks: the Loss and Damage Scheme and the Adaptation Scheme.
What are the Loss and Damage Scheme and the Adaptation Scheme and how are they different?
The Loss and Damage Scheme reflects the idea that there are some irreversible losses from climate change as a result of past, current and projected future emissions that need to be compensated for. It has been a formal agenda item on UN climate negotiation since 2010 and it is becoming an important pillar of climate policies. However, the difficulties in reinforcing it comes from a diverse range of factors, there is no international agreement on what exactly the loss and damage is. Without a clear definition and guideline, the problem of accountability and liabilities stands in the way of efficient implementation.
On the other hand, adaptation refers to the practice of structural changes undertaken by countries and communities to build stronger resilience to current and future climate risks from the aspects of ecological, social, or economic systems.
There is a certain degree of overlap between them, yet for developing countries, the Adaptation Scheme has its limits. Take Pakistan as an example, despite being one of the most adaptive countries, it is still ranked the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change in The Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Pakistan has lost 9,989 lives from 1998 to 2018 due to climate change and this makes clear the fact that adaptation strategies to build resilience could only be part of the solution. Apart from numerous cases of misguided and poorly implemented adaptation strategies, inevitable losses from adaptation strategies such as losses incurred by local citizens as a result of relocation, worsening health conditions, need to be acknowledged and compensated for. This once again makes the role of Loss and Damage compensation to take into account the loss incurred by both the current and future generation extremely important.
What are the challenges facing loss and damage provision schemes? How Effective was the UNFCCC Warsaw International Mechanism?
The UNFCCC Warsaw international mechanism was established in November 2013 to address and reinforce policies regarding loss and damages associated with impact of climate change, it was indeed a remarkable milestone in our progress towards greater equality in the burden of climate change risks borne by countries in the North and South. It has created the momentum for actions on Loss and Damage at an international level, but what has been done is barely enough.
Ms. Hadika Jamshaid, having many years of practical experiences working in the government of Pakistan, mentioned that one of the biggest challenges for developing economies is the lack of financial and technical resources. Developing economies are taking climate risks as a serious issue in their policy agenda, but at the same time they also face problems within their own economy that developed economies don't have to worry too much about. Insufficient financial support from international organizations and developed countries remains the fundamental problem.
Another issue that emerges when practically implementing climate policies is the difficulty of identifying and enforcing accountability. Whether it’s private sector corporations or state agencies of developed economies, court cases are currently almost the only way to address accountability. What we would like to see in the future is voluntary negotiation between developed and developing economies, where developed economies are willing to take their responsibilities and compensate vulnerable countries with loss and damage funds. On the private sector side, although more companies are announcing commitment to zero carbon emission, it is more likely that they’re doing it for business purposes and CSR rather than for accountability. Questions arise with regard to greenwashing and lack of transparency in environmental impact data. Improving their own business resilience is still the primary motivation behind sustainability commitments rather than ethical concerns.
In its essence, the Loss and Damage Scheme is still a financial means of compensation based on estimation of negative impact. When it comes to compensation for climate disasters, economic losses such as “How much crops are being washed away?” are the losses that we could put a value on. But there are factors that we cannot put a price tag on, such as mental trauma and health conditions. Dr Ian Fry mentioned how graves are being submerged by rising sea level in Tuvalu, the psychological impact are long lasting and incommensurable.
Stakeholder co-operation and the importance of localized approach
Top-down approaches taken by international organizations are of course important, it controls the narrative, providing a big picture and a direction for individual countries to follow. However, a number of countries hold disproportionate power in international organizations, and they fail to recognize their own liability in this climate crisis. It became a common practice for them to form alliances to avoid taking responsibilities.
Thus it becomes extremely important for local communities and vulnerable countries to form coalitions, to communicate with each other and to put pressure on high level institutions. Difficulty in achieving this is indeed one of the major reasons behind slow progression of climate policies. Disconnections between agencies makes it difficult for local forces to unionize and exert greater pressure. The knowledge gap between agencies is also prominent, many countries are not well informed with how they could approach international organizations to ask for loss and damage compensation.
Going back to the Warsaw International mechanism, many developed countries are still dragging their feet in terms of committing to the compensation, linking local forces to build momentum and a knowledge network is very crucial if we want to see tangible results.
A balance between international co-operation and localization needs to be established. On one hand, we cannot simply look at climate risk with respect only to one single area. Instead, taking a comprehensive view, we should aim to establish a collective strategy between stakeholders to ensure effective dissemination of knowledge, information. Collective effort is often more effective than individual forces to push actions of high level institutions.
On the other hand, what remains at the core of successful implementation is customization of the solution. Narrowing the scope down from global, to countries, to local villages, the unique characteristics, history, and culture of each local area needs to be taken into account when implementing not only Loss and Damage or Adaptation Scheme, but any climate policy. For example, NGOs such as Red Cross providing disaster relief programs need to consider differences between each local community it is working with, especially in relocation projects. Relocation means pulling residents away from their ancestor, away from the environment they’re familiar with. Communication with local communities to reach a consensus is the best way to mitigate the sense of loss incurred by local residents, ensuring long term success in the implementation of programmes.
Looking back to what has been done, it is not difficult to realize that there is still a long way to go. The Global South is suffering from climate changes far beyond what they’re responsible for, and it is time for developed countries to come forward and compensate for the losses in the ethical and moral dimension. Going forward, collaborative effort, unionization of local agencies, education on climate risks, the voice of youth are critical steps to accelerate the progress of climate policies and compensation for climate losses in the Global South.
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“Climate Change Is a Global Emergency, People Say in Biggest Ever Climate Poll | People Globally Want More Action to Tackle Climate Crisis: UNDP Survey | UN News.” United Nations, United Nations, news.un.org/en/story/2021/01/1083062.
Development Matters. “The Global South's Contribution to the Climate Crisis – and Its Potential Solutions.” Development Matters, 18 May 2020, oecd-development-matters.org/2019/06/20/the-global-souths-contribution-to-the-climate-crisis-and-its-potential-solutions/.
Joe , Ware, and Kramer Katherine . “Hunger Strike: The Climate and Food Vulnerability Index.” Christian Aid, www.christianaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019-07/Hunger-strike-climate-and-food-vulnerability-index.pdf.
Unfccc.int, unfccc.int/topics/adaptation-and-resilience/the-big-picture/what-do-adaptation-to-climate-change-and-climate-resilience-mean#:~:text=Adaptation refers to adjustments in,opportunities associated with climate change.