News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday November 17th 2018

Climate Justice Conference highlights debt owed by rich nations

Steve Kretzmann

The inequity of climate change was that it was the regions that had historically least contributed to greenhouse gas emissions that would be most affected, while the guilty parties would have the technological and financial resources to escape the worst of it.

Speaking on the first day of the Climate Justice Conference being held at Project 90×2030’s Goedgedacht farm near Malmesbury until Thursday, research scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, Martin Füller, illustrated how nations with the highest greenhouse gas emissions also held the largest amount of global wealth.

And these countries, such as North America, Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, were not only currently the highest greenhouse gas emitters, but had been the highest emitters for the last century or more.

Yet it was the low-income countries of the world that were predominantly most affected by the climate change engendered by these emissions, he said.

Illustrated by graphs created from data he had collected, Füller showed that, for instance, of all fatalities suffered as a result of extreme weather events, 68 percent of them occurred in poor countries.

Yet if you were in the insurance business, he said, you’d think it was rich countries that were most affected by extreme weather events, as about 90 percent of all weather-related insurance payouts occurred in wealthy nations.

Thus while the rich could afford compensation schemes for disasters, the poor were left devastated, despite the fact they did not cause the phenomena of global warming.

Füller said this “climate debt” racked up by rich nations created a “strong moral claim” for poor countries to receive aid in order to enable them to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Just how climate change could devastate the livelihoods of those who contributed least to it, was illustrated by award-winning environmental journalist Leonie Joubert, who was the keynote speaker at the conference.

Having conducted field trips and in-depth interviews around South Africa as part of her 2007 Ruth First scholarship, Joubert told the story of Rooibos tea farmer Hendrick Hesselman who farmed in the northern region of the Cedarberg.

With no electricity and virtually no mechanised transport to speak of, Hesselman and his family’s carbon emissions were negligible.

Yet climate change due to emissions from developed (and developing) countries had contributed significantly to a southward shift of ecosystems as the arid northern deserts advanced into semi-arid regions.

This could mean that within a decade Hesselman might not be able to farm Rooibos as it would no grow in the hotter, drier climate encroaching from the north.

Without financial resources to acquire land elsewhere, his sons, who would inherit the land he recently – and with much difficulty – acquired in his seventh decade, could be left with no crop to farm, as nothing but Rooibos could be harvested in the already dry climate they lived in.

“The emissions which may cause them to lose their precarious livelihood come from the rich people who drink their tea,” said Joubert.

The injustice was that the rich would be able to afford to move or adapt to climate change, leaving the poor to suffer the worst of the consequences.

The Climate Justice Conference, funded by the German organisation Misereor, runs until Thursday and is being attended by international scientists and organisations concerned with poverty and climate change. – West Cape News

Tags: climatechange

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One Response to “Climate Justice Conference highlights debt owed by rich nations”

  1. harbinger says:

    “Martin Füller, illustrated how nations with the highest greenhouse gas emissions also held the largest amount of global wealth.”

    Isn’t there a clue there somewhere?

    So doesn’t it follow that the poorer nations should be allowed to develop their wealth also? They can only do that if they exploit their natural fuel reserves such as coal. The redistribution of wealth and a blanket on further development holds out a bleak future of mankind in a zoo, with the UN controlling inputs and outputs.

    How misinformed and misanthropic are the promoters of this madness.

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