As more people experience climate-related disasters, demands for climate justice become much louder than in past, says Andrea Simonelli
Steps to mitigate the effects of climate change are slow and it “exposes larger populations to impacts that are beyond what they can adapt to,” according to an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US.
“This is why funding Loss and Damage is so important; it has been a workstream of growing influence for almost a decade,” Andrea Simonelli told Anadolu Agency via email while evaluating different dimensions of climate justice.
Discussions about climate justice have gained currency as climate-related disasters have left dozens of countries crippled with concerns about financing the loss and damage.
In recent months, droughts have paralyzed parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Massive monsoons swept away southern Asia, potent typhoons hit the Philippines and wildfires reigned on almost all continents for months. All this happened while developed nations kept postponing an annual $100 billion in climate finance that was promised to developing economies in 2022. They have blamed the delay on the energy crisis deriving from the Russian-Ukrainian War.
Simonelli said it is unlikely that climate justice will be settled at the upcoming UN 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) on Nov. 6-18 in the Egyptian province of Sharm El-Sheikh.
But she said because more and more activists are attracting global attention and more people are experiencing climate-related disasters, the demands for climate justice are much louder than in the past, especially calls to fund loss and damage.
“Climate justice is much more than a wealth transfer between nations, it is also a redistribution of resources to allow all nations to develop sustainably and complete scale-back of fossil fuel use,” said Simonelli, a faculty member of the university’s Department of Political Science.
Fulfilling pledges can make sense for a state’s best interest
Developed economies neglect their compensation pledges as they grapple with the energy crisis, let alone taking steps to mitigate their emissions while the needs of developing countries grow deeper to heal the wounds of the disasters by recovering their infrastructure, education, and health institutions.
Simonelli said there are few legal or practical pathways to force developed countries to fulfill their pledges.
“Because the UN climate treaties work through consensus, their outcomes are often soft and this allows for even the most reluctant nations to sign on in solidarity,” she said.
She noted that respect for state sovereignty does not allow for force in any traditional sense. “There are reputational and economic implications to hitting pledges; doing well can entice more outside investment and/or show a nation as a leader among its peers.”
Fulfilling pledges can make sense for a state’s best interest, said Simonelli. “That means doing so may keep a regime in power or vice versa. While it would be ideal to fulfill pledges as a commitment to each other as an altruistic act towards respect for all living things, states are more often acting in their particular self-interest.”
Sustainability comes with respecting future generations
Simonelli said there are other ways to push for climate justice. “Upholding human rights in development projects as well as following through on SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) is a start,” she said. “Nations and even cities can hold corporations to account by creating laws that force them to use sustainable practices if they are to be allowed contracts.”
“As individuals and societies we need to imagine what a clean, green future could be and focus less on what we perceive to be giving up and more on what an improved quality of life we could have,” she said.
“A sustainable world looks vastly different than the world we’re in now,” she said. “We will create justice when we can conceive of a way to live that not only respects each other but future generations.”