Today, the inhabitants of the scenic Scottish Isles of Uist live in fear as rapidly rising sea levels threaten to destroy their fertile low fields and their unique way of life. On the other side of the world, the people of the Pacific islands are still trying to get back on their feet after being hit by a severe tropical cyclone that destroyed their homes and left many homeless eight months ago. These are not unrelated or preventable natural disasters – they are the sad and very real consequences of climate change.
Climate change does not affect everyone the same. Vulnerable indigenous and minority communities in the West and people in the global South already facing a myriad of development challenges are sadly on the front lines of this global emergency – they are the ones who suffer the most severe and immediate effects of the climate change, from a slow start. from events like rising seas and desertification to sudden disasters like hurricanes and floods.
COVID-19 has made the fight against climate change more difficult for these communities. People who have suffered from climate-related disasters are now also trying to mitigate the consequences of a deadly pandemic that has not only ruined countless lives and livelihoods, but also made richer nations more reluctant and less able. to help them adapt to a changing climate.
Five years ago, nations around the world came together to show global solidarity to end the climate emergency. By adopting the Paris Agreement, they pledged to take the necessary steps to limit the increase in the global average temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to reduce risks and effects of climate change.
On December 12, the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France will co-organize a virtual “Climate Ambition Summit” to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the adoption of this historic treaty. The Paris agreement undoubtedly marked a turning point in our race against time to avoid a climate catastrophe. However, its fifth anniversary would only be a moment worthy of celebration if the developed countries most responsible for climate change renew their commitment to the agreement, align their COVID-19 stimulus plans with climate targets, and agree to provide the poorest countries on the front line of this crisis with finance and development aid.
Right now, the world is naturally focused on ending the COVID-19 pandemic. But in trying to mitigate the effects of one crisis, our leaders plunge us deeper into another.
Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the governments of the world’s 20 richest economies, responsible for around 80% of global emissions, have committed more than $ 230 billion to support fossil fuels, prioritizing the well-being of polluting industries for the future of our planet. .
All parties to the Paris Agreement have agreed to make regular Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce national emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. With the updated targets expected by the end of 2020, only 16 countries, responsible for just 4.6% of global emissions, have officially submitted better targets so far. The recent announcements of climate targets from the UK and China should certainly push other countries to meet the 2020 deadline.
Furthermore, while many developed countries have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the lack of short-term goals based on the principles of fair share and equity risks making these promises a smokescreen for inaction. For small Pacific island countries, empty promises of what might happen in 30 years don’t mean much, as they are already struggling to survive today.
In 2010, developed countries pledged to provide $ 100 billion per year to developing countries to help them mitigate the effects of climate change. However, Oxfam’s shadow report on climate finance 2020 found that donors brought in just $ 59.5 billion per year on average in 2017 and 2018 – the latest years for which figures are available. In addition, the report also showed that the real value of support received by developing countries for climate action could be as low as $ 19-22.5 billion per year once loan repayments, interest and other forms of over-declaration are removed.
Climate justice can only be achieved if developed countries compensate developing countries for loss and damage and provide them with the financial means necessary to adapt to a changing climate. Developed countries must now commit to long-term financing that tackles the growing vulnerabilities of developing countries in a post-COVID-19 world, to bridge the huge gap between what has been promised / delivered and what is really necessary.
As we prepare to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, we must remember that our fight to build a just, secure and sustainable world has only just begun. To finally end the climate emergency and save our planet, we need empathy, solidarity, trust and multilateral cooperation.
We can all breathe a little easier now that the United States has voted for an administration that seems to understand the gravity of the climate crisis. But we still have to make sure that this new administration is committed to doing its fair share globally to solve the problem. We cannot leave this fight for survival solely in the hands of politicians – whether or not they say they understand the issues.
We must continue to pressure our governments to meet the commitments they made in the Paris Agreement to end dependence on fossil fuels and enable a just transition to renewable energy, dramatically reducing emissions within the next decade and provide finance to those on the front lines of the climate emergency.
We have no time to waste – for millions of people around the world, from Scotland to Kiribati, environmental degradation is not on the horizon, it is already here today.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.