Who should pay when countries that had little hand in climate change suffer climate-spurred damage and losses has emerged as a sticking point at the World Climate Summit in Paris, where U.S. negotiators are reported to be pushing for a final accord that explicitly rejects any legal basis for such liability. Other voices suggest an alternative: leave a final agreement silent on the subject—and create a fossil fuel tax to fund loss and damage compensation.
The issue arose during pre-summit negotiations, when the Group of 77 least-developed countries gave ground on a demand that a final agreement at COP21 provide explicitly for such compensation, accepting that the issue would simply not be referenced. The U.S. push now to explicitly rule out any legal possibility of international loss and damage liability “is rooted in politics, not law,” noted ECO, the Climate Action Network’s blog. “And it seems that other developed countries, like the EU and Australia, are standing silently behind it.”
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If current warming trends continue, Julia-Ann Richards noted in Climate Change News, developing countries may be experiencing losses of US$1.7 trillion every year by mid-century.
“At present,” she writes, “the expectation seems to be that vulnerable people will pay this bill. There is currently no willingness from rich countries to consider providing support for loss and damage.”
Richards and ECO concur on at least part of an answer: “a carbon levy, a fossil fuel extraction levy,” in Richards’ terms, that could “easily” raise $50 billion a year from the coal, oil, and gas industries for an international fund to help pay for losses and damage caused by climate change in poor countries.
“Fossil fuels are responsible for roughly 70% of emissions,” ECO observed. “Just two of the biggest fossil fuel companies–Chevron and ExxonMobil–made US$50 billion in profit last year. Coincidentally, that’s probably how much loss and damage LDCs are facing right now.”