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“The problem with climate change summits”, by Farid Kahhat

Contrasting two tables prepared in 2011 by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita allows us to understand why it is difficult to deal effectively with the problem of climate change. The first table contains the list of the ten States that constitute the largest emitters of carbon dioxide (which represents about 65% of greenhouse gases). The second table contains the list of about twenty States that are the main victims of Climate Change (caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide): only China, India and Iran appear on both lists.

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In other words, the main States that cause Climate Change are not usually among the main States affected by Climate Change: this is what in economics is called a negative externality (that is, part of the cost generated by one economic agent is paid by others). agents that did not cause it). That’s the kind of situation where state regulation should typically cap that cost and force whoever caused it to bear it. But in the international system there is no State equipped with the necessary coercive capacity to force the agents causing Climate Change to assume its consequences.

This explains the fundamental problem with international conferences on Climate Change (such as COP27, held recently in Egypt). On the one hand, each country establishes its emission goals, which are not only insufficient to reach the global goals, but also, there is no collective sanction against countries that fail to meet their own goals. On the other hand, carbon dioxide can remain for decades in the earth’s atmosphere, which is why Climate Change was caused, fundamentally, by the emissions produced by developed countries during their industrialization process. For this reason, for the first time, at COP27, the creation of a fund was approved through which the most vulnerable countries will be compensated for the effects of Climate Change that, however, virtually did not contribute to the generation of the problem. .

Young activists hold signs urging world leaders to uphold policies limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times and offer reparations for loss and damage at the COP27 UN Climate Summit in Sharm el- Sheikh, Egypt. (Photo: AP) (Nariman El-Mofty / AP /)

The point here is, on the one hand, that COP27 did not establish credible agreements for a significant reduction in the emissions of those gases that created the problem that this fund intends to mitigate. On the other hand, a similar fund was created in the past that still has not been able to collect the agreed amounts. What to do, then, when the main countries causing the problem do not assume the cost they inflict on third parties? There are a couple of recent experiences that provide part of the answer. On the one hand, Australian indigenous communities filed a lawsuit against their own State before United Nations entities because it does not limit its emissions or invest enough in damage prevention efforts, and they won: although it is not a binding decision, it can be a precedent for eventual legal decisions, in a context in which lawsuits related to Climate Change have been growing internationally.

An example of this is the case of a lawsuit filed by Peruvian farmers before German courts against the German company RWE, to pay for the defenses in a lake that threatens to overflow as a result of the melting of the high Andean glaciers. The claim is based on advances in scientific research that allow estimating the specific contribution of that company to greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the industrial era (according to these estimates, RWE would be responsible for 0.47% of carbon dioxide emissions of carbon and methane globally between 1854 and 2010).

In other words, one possibility would be for private actors to hold companies and States criminally responsible before courts of justice for their contribution to the problem.

Source: Elcomercio

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