Climate Justice for Global South


The recent torrential rainfall that wreaked havoc on various parts of Pakistan follows a calamitous pattern of climate change in the global south. Today, millions of people in the developing countries are facing the brunt of exploitation of the earth’s climate perpetrated by the global north. Excessive flooding, extreme rainfall and blistering heatwaves are spawning immense destruction in the regions south of the equator, mainly due to the industrial activities that started in 18th century from Europe. By the time the global community sensed the downsides of using carbon based fuels for energy consumption i.e. crude oil, coal, natural gas, the water was already above the heads and millions of people were paying with their lives, livelihoods and homes – mostly in the global south.

As soon as the developed countries started advocating for employing clean energy sources – hydropower, solar, wind energy – instead of relying on carbon-emitting fossils to save the global environment from further deterioration, the developing countries came up with an unprecedented narrative of ‘Climate Justice.’ It entails that global climate was atrociously exploited by the global north to an extent that in contemporary times, global south is bearing the dire consequences of it. To put it into perspective, the developed countries have, historically, contributed to around 92 percent of the excess carbon dioxide emissions that are now ravaging the lives of the people residing in relatively poor countries. For instance, Pakistan contributes less than 1% towards the global emissions of greenhouse gases but it is constantly ranked among the top ten countries most affected by climate change. Similarly, the entire African continent has contributed to only 3% of the total global carbon emissions, but currently African countries are encountering the most dreadful consequences of climate change. On top of that, the developing countries are now being coerced to instantly halt the use of fossil fuels for energy purposes and to adopt renewable energy means in order to prevent an utter desolation of the planet.

While the efforts to keep the Earth’s ecosystem livable for miscellaneous species are comprehendible, the major concern for developing countries remains that climate change has not impacted every region of the world in a uniform manner. The industrial activities of the profit-yearning capitalists in the developed countries are responsible for the incumbent catastrophic situation of the earth’s climate, hence there exists an additional responsibility on the global north to pay reparations to the global south for the damages they have effectuated. Moreover, the global south being poor would require huge financial assistance to establish necessary infrastructure in order to confront the harrowing threats of climate change.

In response, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established after the Cancun’s COP 16 in 2010 at which world leaders pledged to allocate $100B per year in climate finance to the developing countries from 2020 onwards, so that they could address the gruesome impacts of climate change to the best of their capacities. However, only $83.3B was mobilized for climate finance in 2020 as per the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), well below the intended target of $100B. For the very reason, the pledged amount of $100B is now to be reached by the year 2023, provided that all the anticipated course of actions remain intact. This goes to show the seriousness of the developed countries with respect to furthering the climate mitigation and adaptation endeavors, when the actual cost of the climate impacts is estimated to be around $5.9 trillion by 2030.

All hue and cry of the global north to incentivize the vulnerable nations least responsible for causing climate change to curb their carbon emissions is all but a fallacious manifestation of perfidy especially when the climate mitigation efforts are being dealt with loans – to be paid back – and not grants. Oxfam reported in 2020 that 80 percent of the total climate finance awarded to the developing countries were actually loans, which in turn continues to plunge the climate affected countries into a debt cycle of those who are actually responsible for their sufferings. Moreover, the fossil-fuels companies in the developed countries are constantly lobbying to block the efforts to regulate carbon emissions and running malicious PR campaigns to discredit viable energy alternatives. These giant companies, instead of coping with the green climate agenda, are negotiating for and setting up their plants in the global south to avoid carbon taxation and carbon cap – maximum carbon emissions – sanctioned in their states.

As things stand, the world is on its way to a disastrous 2.4˚C of global temperature by the end of the century. Fossil fuels still make up around 80 percent of the global energy and will continue to do so in the near future, and the global south will keep on suffering from its repercussions. If the global community is actually serious about mitigating the climate crisis and shifting towards renewable energy sources, they must first ensure climate justice for the global south. The burdensome debts foisted on the low-income countries must be waived off as they spend much more on servicing these debts than dealing with the challenges of climate change in the first place. Just like the war crimes and mass genocide, ecocide must be made an international crime so that no can dare to vandalize the earth’s climate. All fossil fuel subsidies must be halted at the earliest, which according to the IMF were $5.9 trillion or 6.8 percent of the global GDP in 2020 and are expected to surge up to $7.4 trillion by 2025. Additionally, international banks must stop funding new fossil fuels projects to prevent the climate from further deterioration and instead, long-term funding sources must be created to help the global south’s transition to climate friendly infrastructure. The provision of $100B in climate finance to the developing countries must be ensured as soon as possible, and as it is not enough, consensus must be made to increase this amount gradually. Lastly, mitigation finance remains the main focus of the global north as of now, but in order to make applicative strides towards countering the climate crisis, adaptation finance must get due attention as well. Green energy is the way to go if the global community wishes to survive, and for that the infrastructure overhaul in the global south is the responsibility of the developed countries, because it is their mess which is causing devastation in the low-income countries.

Shuraim Ahmad Malik
Shuraim Ahmad Malik
The writer is an independent political researcher from Islamabad. He writes on national and international political issues, governance and public policy conundrums, and pernicious climate change patterns.


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