Vila Times

Expert: island states should jointly push for climate change compensation

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Caribbean small states should be readying for a major joint push for compensation for the damage caused to them by the world’s worst polluting nations, said Sir Ronald Sanders, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.

The case for compensation for damage to small states as a result of climate change has never been stronger than it is now. 2017 has witnessed record-breaking climate disasters across the globe – in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. Back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes cut a swathe through the Caribbean in September from which the affected islands will not fully recover for many years to come, the expert says in his article, published by the Curaçao Chronicle.

The WMO chief, Petteri Taalas, said: “Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement.”

In plain-speaking, that means the world is on course for warming beyond the two degrees Celsius target and probably higher than the three degrees Celsius that governments loosely mooted last year. At those temperatures, many islands will drown and coastal areas of mainland countries, including in the US, will be lost.

The possibility of the climate refugees returning to their homes in the short to medium term is remote. But it is not only the refugees that face hardship, the receiving islands are also encumbered with additional costs of unexpectedly providing services for them.

The message clearly has to be that small island states and countries with low coastal areas are being irreparably damaged, and their people are being made refugees by the rich, polluting nations of the world who must face-up to their obligations to pay compensation for the damage they have so far caused and agree to tackle climate change meaningfully now.

Even if, year after year, Caribbean and Pacific islands expend huge sums of money on re-building infrastructure, homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, airports and ports to higher standards of resilience, they remain vulnerable to continuous climate destruction, and increasing numbers of climate refugees, until such time as the world’s polluters curb CO2 emissions and halt climate change.

That message must be delivered in Bonn in a united, strong and loud voice by small states. And strong alliances have to be forged with organisations such as OXFAM and Greenpeace. It is time that the polluters are made to face-up to the destruction and dislocation they are causing, and resolve in a legally-binding way to stop.

In the meantime, these very polluting countries that control the world’s financial system, including the international financial institutions, should put in place immediate measures to compensate damaged countries. They should also provide access to the funding that small states urgently need to make themselves better prepared for the destructive climate demons that have already been unleashed upon them.

The immediate measures should include: forgiveness of debt owed by small states to other governments and international financial institutions or rescheduling of such debt over longer repayment periods at nominal interest; assumption by developed nations of commercial debts to institutions in their countries, including Paris Club debt; payment of premiums for disaster insurance by governments; access to grants and highly concessional loans from the international financial institutions that must set new criteria for eligibility, casting away per capita income as a basis of judgement and replacing it with more meaningful measurements of need.

Small countries, damaged by the excessive pollution of large and rich nations, should not be compelled to cope by themselves with the unemployment, poverty, inequality, disease, dislocation of people and the refugee communities created as consequences of climate change.

By Sir Ronald Sanders