As the 21st UN Climate Summit kicks off in Paris (affectionately known as COP21), we're hearing lots about our warmer future. The 190 countries meeting in Paris have submitted "Intended Nationally Determined Contributions" (policy-speak for public commitments to reduce carbon emissions), and the goal is to prevent our world from warming up another 2 degrees Celsius — that's the tipping point for the worst impacts of climate change.
We know that climate change is already having a disproportionately high impact on poor and developing countries, and the effects are only going to get worse in the next century! Another key piece of the Paris negotiation is who these changes are impacting the most, and how we are supposed to help these people — say hello to the age of climate justice!
Climate Change Isn't Equal Opportunity
Climate Justice is a concept that acknowledges that fossil fuel-powered modernity has disproportionately benefited the richest countries, whilst unfairly impacting poorer people and developing countries around the world. For example, in Africa, where farmers have no safety net when their crops fail, climate change's pressure on agriculture is exacerbating existing inequalities.
Around the world, people in developing countries are migrating toward urban centres in search of work. But climate change is threatening basic resources, including water, whilst increasing the number of natural disasters, like hurricanes, that wreak havoc on coastal regions. The slums that surround cities in developing countries already suffer from a sever lack of infrastructure, and all of the impacts of climate change only worsen the divide between those living in a shanty and those living in a city skyscraper.
The Cost of Adaptation Should be Shared
Across the globe, climate change is already costing over £1 trillion a year, and is forecast to demand billions of pounds more in aid to help develop countries adapt. For all these reasons (and more!) we need to tune into the who of climate change. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global organisation representing the legal profession, recently released a report outlining just how we need to tackle this growing problem. And meanwhile, the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF) aims to do just that, with the goal of securing financial commitments from wealthy nations that accelerate investments in developing economies that cut emissions, expand renewable energy, and adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already being felt.
But when it comes to actually signing these efforts into a legally binding agreement in Pairs, we need to make sure that adaptation support is synchronised to the amount of carbon countries are committing to cut. It's a simple relationship. The more carbon we reduce now, the less we need to adapt to climate change later on; the less we cut carbon, the more we're going to need to spend to adapt. And the world needs to be prepared to leverage massive capital. The COP21 countries are committing to mobilise billions of pounds each year — so let's make sure we get firm plans into place for financing these efforts... now, and in the future!