The refusal of the United States and other rich nations to compensate developing countries for the havoc caused by air pollution and climate change smells like some sort of modern colonialism at its worst.
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, came and went with no firm financial commitment to help low-income countries adapt to rising sea-level tides, food and water scarcity from droughts and desertification, and disease to support more mosquitos. transmitted diseases and the general economic and political destabilization caused by these disasters. The 2009 pledge made by the rich nations to spend $ 100 billion annually on climate change is still not being delivered and is only a fraction of what is likely to be needed. Attempts to establish a financing mechanism for the “losses and damage” that are already being caused by climate change in developing countries have failed.
Once again, the United States, historically the world’s largest producer of climate change emissions, did not offer developing countries any specific targets in Glasgow to reduce fossil fuel burning, even though science says we must start reducing immediately in order to our fair share of global greenhouse gas reductions.
Despite what US Climate Ambassador John Kerry boasted of “very aggressively raising ambitions” in reducing emissions, many envoys from developing countries said the COP26 was an exercise by wealthy nations who were aggressively noncommittal.
To drown in failure
Some of the loudest objections came from Africa:
- Mouhamadou Bamba Sylla, a climate scientist in Rwanda and lead author of reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told The Conversation that the scale of rich nations’ pledges to support developing countries was “a total failure”.
- As a representative of a massive coalition of developing countries, the nation of Guinea expressed “extreme disappointment” that rich nations have not committed to a mechanism for a “loss and damage” fund for the climate damage that has already occurred in developing countries. Guinea’s negotiator told UN News that a climate change conference “cannot be called successful without concrete funding.”
- Vanessa Nakate, the 24-year-old Ugandan climate activist who the Associated Press notoriously cut out of a picture with Greta Thunberg and other young white climate activists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, told COP26 that developing countries are “drowning”. in promises “from rich nations.
- Citing the drying up of Lake Chad, the Nigerian climate activist Oladosu Adenike, 27, told the Voice of America in Glasgow: “We are still in the discussion phase. We have not yet entered the phase of action that is needed now and at this moment and not postponing it into the future. Because that is the most dangerous thing you can do now. The delay is now a denial of the climate change crisis. “
- Kenyan climate activist Kaluki Paul Mutuku, 28, told the VOA about locust invasions that destroyed crops and deadly floods and famine. “We are constantly afraid of losing our family members, of losing our communities because the climate is dry – it is getting worse every day – there are droughts, there are extreme rains and the communities cannot take it.”
Given the onslaught that is already here, a Brookings analysis said Africa had “gained very little” from COP26. That’s probably a massive understatement, given that the worst-anticipated effects of uncontrolled climate change will hit today’s children as they grow up. Floods, droughts, and extreme heat worsen so quickly that they are likely to result in catastrophic economic losses. The Global Center on Adaptation estimates that climate-related disasters could drive 122 million more people worldwide into extreme poverty over the next eight years, a third of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
In an example of how centuries of culture are turned upside down in just one generation, Isatou Camara, a climate negotiator for Gambia, told National Public Radio that rising sea levels are pressing salt water on fields and devastating local agriculture . “It really affects the farming communities,” Camara said. “. . .Particularly rice cultivation, which is normally carried out on the banks of the river. ”
The dumping has to stop
That makes it terribly weak for the United States to speak of raising the “ambitions” of the biggest polluters when sub-Saharan Africa, which has done very little to climate change (other than oil, US and European oil companies Export from Nigeria for Western consumption), already lives in poverty and death. Rich companies simply need to stop literally dumping on developing countries as if they were expendable.
In addition to climate change, a major by-product of burning fossil fuels is the spitting out of fine dust (PM 2.5). In relation to respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer, PM 2.5 has been linked to 4 million deaths a year worldwide, most in developing countries. A first study of its kind in the world, published this month in Nature Communications by Japanese and Australian researchers, found that half of these deaths were related to the consumption of goods and services by the world’s major economies in the G20 countries. The study states that the US PM 2.5 footprint is “linked to significant infant deaths in non-G20 countries, many of them in Africa”.
This study mirrors the work done in the United States which found that consumption by white households disproportionately produces PM 2.5 in the country while black and Latin American households inhale it disproportionately. “Our results show that the G20 countries should take responsibility for their footprint,” say the authors of the global study, in order to ensure that “the lives of infants are not left behind unjustifiably”.
Right now, that’s exactly what the United States and its wealthy European counterparts are doing with their unctuous behavior at climate peaks. Every day that wealthy nations fail to blame themselves for achieving net zero reductions is a declaration that they don’t care if developing countries drown or dry up. Every day that rich nations refuse financially to face the disasters that their consumption is already causing in the developing world is a day closer to putting climate colonialism on a dirty footing with the exploitation of the old days.
Europe colonized much of Africa and then left it to itself. The European colonization of North America cleared the land of indigenous peoples in genocide, enslaved black people from Africa to work on it, and left both groups behind in decades of legal disenfranchisement and segregation. The COP26 ended with rich nations allowing themselves one more puff out of the fossil fuel pipe and the developed nations coughing and choking on smoke rings.
A week after COP26, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Economic Community of West African Nations that it was “crucial” for developed countries to “do a lot more” to reduce the “climate burden” carried by Africa. At the moment, words like that sound hollow. As surely as Vanessa Nakate was deleted from a photo, the entire subcontinent was cut out of the COP26.