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In defence of “climate justice“

It does not mean giving carte blanche to developing countries

By Deborah Doane

The concepts of climate justice and climate debt originated in developing countries. They are based on demanding equality and compensation for climate change, for which rich countries are historically responsible. Climate justice does not mean giving carte blanche to developing countries to increase their carbon emissions. Mark Lynas is wrong to suggest otherwise.

In Copenhagen, thousands of campaigners and activists from around the world, under the banners of Climate Justice Now! and Climate Justice Action, called for rich countries to repay their climate debt in two ways: first, by making drastic cuts to their carbon emissions, and second, by compensating developing countries to pay for a transition to low-carbon economies and to adapt to the ravages that climate change will cause.

The movement also has a broader agenda promoting real solutions and favours a three-tier solution to climate change: that fossil fuels be left in the ground; that sustainable food production increase; and lastly, that excessive consumption be reduced. And this isn’t just targeted at the wealthier countries; elites in developing counties also need to act.

Unfortunately, business interests and the market solutions that they peddle have captured governments, and it is this that blocked progress in climate talks, limiting real solutions and stopping their entry into the political mainstream.

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It’s worth getting beneath the veneer of climate negotiations to see what really happens: just as in other international forums, such as the WTO, negotiators from rich countries bully developing countries to sign a deal that condemns the poorest people to misery, but keeps profits safe for the few.

In the aftermath of the Copenhagen failure, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband blamed various developing countries for “holding the world to ransom”. But what many commentators failed to report was that the UK in effect blackmailed the world to try to force through the unjust and ineffective “Obama Accord”. Miliband told developing countries they would not get any of the $10bn on offer unless they endorsed the deal.

Rightly, the Tuvalu representative compared the money to 30 pieces of silver. Would anyone in their right mind sign such an agreementl? Many developing countries have seen that the $10bn is just a mirage and have stood their ground. The short-term finance on offer is not only a pittance, it’s an allocation of what is already out there: existing aid money, loans that will increase unjust debts, and corporate-controlled World Bank finance.

The only way catastrophic climate change will be avoided is if it is tackled in a just way. It’s a vision that all those who care about climate change and justice must unite around, in order to combat both poverty and the impending climate crisis.

Deborah Doane is director of the World Development Movement