Island states meet to discuss Global North’s climate change lawsuits
Losses and damages
The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – a negotiating group of SIDS – first raised the issue of loss and damage in 1991. Three decades later, in Glasgow during COP26, the final pact did not include a formal and binding mechanism to finance loss and damage.
“It took me a while to get over COP26,” said Sabra Noordeen, the Maldives’ special envoy for climate change.
“We went there with the hope that it would be more ambitious.”
“Loss and damage” refers to the unavoidable damage caused by climate change – and more specifically, to the cumulative carbon emissions of the wealthier countries of the North.
The concept has been repeatedly rejected by rich countries, who also oppose accepting blame and responsibility.
Even where loss and damage was mentioned in Article 8 of the 2015 Paris Agreement, it came with a clause insisting that there was “no basis of liability or compensation “.
But Fletcher said: “Loss and damage refers to those irreversible impacts of climate change that you cannot adapt to. [Developed countries] do not want to accept any responsibility for loss and damage – and they certainly do not want to be held responsible for paying any compensation to the countries most affected.
Reparations and cancellation of debts
The new commission calls for reparations for the damage caused by climate change and the cancellation of debt.
“It is a fundamental principle of international law that when a state injures another state, it has a responsibility to pay reparations,” Akhavan said. If big polluters don’t drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he added, “then at the very least they have to pay compensation.”
SIDS’ high levels of indebtedness also hamper their ability to adapt and recover from the damage of climate change.
Mohammad Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, explained: “For every $10 that climate-vulnerable developing countries pay on interest payments on the debts we have incurred, we have to pay another dollar because of the impacts climatic. It is injustice on top of injustice, and it strengthens the moral and economic case for urgent debt relief.
Nasheed has also pushed for “debt-for-climate” swaps, which see debt canceled in exchange for countries investing in green infrastructure and public goods.
But he pointed out that the debt of Saint Lucia and other Caribbean states was not primarily held by multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, but was private debt held by banks, making difficult to implement “debt for climate” swaps.
Therefore, added Fletcher from Saint Lucia, if climate finance – including loss and damage financing – is provided, it must be in the form of grants and not loans.