Pay Bills

The West could benefit from paying its climate bills

That a warming planet is a calamity that will afflict us all is indisputable. But what is also indisputable is that the rich and powerful nations of the world have so far failed their test of leadership in the fight against the crisis. Of course, it’s not that no gains have been made in the climate negotiations. At the ongoing CoP-27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, years of lobbying by developing countries have brought the issue of “loss and damage” to the agenda for the first time. a bleak future, we finally discuss the here and now too, the devastation already wrought by industrial-age exhaust. Repairs are in order, even though the culprits for the most part have long sought to kick that. The broader agenda insists that vulnerable countries be compensated with funds. After decades of dithering and blocking, the industrialized nations of the West must meet their cleanup bills. And it’s up to CoP-27 to make a breakthrough on climate equity. the politics of our time would argue for this as well.

The West’s record of accepting its historic responsibility for climate change is dismal. Since the mid-19th century, when vast volumes of fossil fuels began to be burned to power all manner of engines and machinery, it has taken a leap forward in prosperity. But for the rest of the world, the fight to lift people out of poverty is far from over. And so, it is simply unfair of the western world to insist that all countries act in concert to stifle the emissions that trap heat on earth. Rich countries have stubbornly ignored a huge gap in the roles played by themselves and others to bring us to today’s sad patch. For the average temperature increase of 1.1° to 1.2° Celsius that has already occurred since pre-industrial times, developing countries bear very little responsibility, but must bear the brunt of it. In 2009, rich countries pledged to “mobilize” $100 billion a year by 2020 in mitigation and adaptation aid for emerging economies. This promise was not binding and was never kept. On the broader issue of climate finance, countries like the United States are pushing private actors to take on a greater burden to fund a clean energy transition across the world. But, as the developing world knows all too well, private money is more difficult to access. In short, it will be impossible for most countries to meet their climate commitments without subsidies and international public funding. Any funding failure at this stage would be tragic. Especially since advances in clean technologies have greatly reduced the necessary economic sacrifice. Technology transfers and large investments can bring a lot for all of us.

Since CoP-26, the world has been divided by war in Europe; Willy-nilly, a stage was set for the Second Cold War, with opposing blocs vying for support from other countries. In such a scenario, the US-led West cannot take its soft power for granted. The test of US President Joe Biden’s claim that ‘America is back’ is not just firm support for Ukraine, or even a ‘Marshall Plan’ to rebuild it, the original bill of which has been set at $100 billion, but what the United States is doing to allay broader concerns of climate loss and damage. Promoting freedom is not all that helps the United States claim leadership. Justice matters too. If the West wants to look at a challenge that China seems eager to pose, it must pay its climate bills and show us its willingness to serve the interests of the entire planet.

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