COP27 ignores rich countries’ carbon debt

Protesting for the climate in Sydney during COP27. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Failure born of neoliberal greed is already apparent at the COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt.

COP27 is ignoring the fundamental realities of the carbon price, climate costs, carbon debt, full reparations, and the need for the social and environmental cost of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution to be fully borne by the polluters.

This failure condemns the climate change-impacted global South to climate genocide.

International law demands that a country must make “full reparations” for the harm it has caused through internationally harmful acts.

However, as demonstrated by COP27 and all its predecessor climate conferences, countries disproportionately responsible for GHG pollution ignore this legal obligation.

Assuming independent estimates of a damage-related carbon price of $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent (CO2-e) from Cambridge (Britain) and Columbia (United States) one can estimate a cost (carbon debt) of about US$250 trillion to return the atmospheric CO2 to a pre-Industrial Revolution level of 280 parts per million CO2 from the present dangerous 420 ppm CO2 and about US$200 trillion based on historical GHG pollution of the atmosphere (1751–2019).

The global carbon debt is about US$200-$250 trillion and is increasing at about US$16 trillion each year.

Climate criminal Australia has a carbon debt of $5 trillion that is increasing at $400 billion each year, and at $40,000 a head each year for under 30-year-olds.

Climate finance for climate change-impacted countries includes finance for cutting emissions, adapting to climate change and for loss and damage.

Rich climate criminal countries, such as the US and Australia, continue to oppose a “loss and damage fund” out of fear they will be held accountable for their huge historical carbon debt.

Some “civilised” First World countries have made “loss and damage” pledges at COP27, but these offers total less than $300 million and are dwarfed by the inescapable global carbon debt of $250 trillion.

Australia, a world leader in 16 areas of climate criminality, opposes “loss and damage” reparations for very good reason.

It is a world leader in exports of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). While Australia has only 0.33% of the world’s population, its annual domestic plus exported GHG pollution is 5.4% of the world’s total annual GHG pollution.

The global North climate criminal nations ignore their obligation under international law to fully compensate by “full reparations” countries suffering “loss and damage” from human-made climate change.

The rich First World is largely responsible for a worsening climate genocide that, in the absence of requisite action, will kill 10 billion people this century — mostly in the global South.

All people can do is to inform everyone they can and do whatever they can to make the future “less bad” for coming generations.

[Dr Gideon Polya’s longer piece, "COP27 ignores carbon price, climate costs, carbon debt, full reparations & global South", is published in Countercurrents.]