In preparation for the ongoing Conference of Parties 27 (COP27) in Egypt, countries came together to create a unified lobbying strategy to ensure the planet’s environmental health.
Since the formation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, focus has been on ‘carbon emissions’. But given the lack of progress in the effective implementation of any of the international commitments, hopes for full-fledged ‘control on carbon emission’ appear unrealistic. Over the past three decades, a general consensus has emerged that the ‘developed countries’ have ignored economy wide emissions targets.
In the absence of substantial commitments to respond to the harm faced by the climate crisis, ‘reparations’ appear to be an organising principle for claims against the responsible ones. In other words, there exists an uneven regional climate impact, and the most ‘climate vulnerable’ suffer acutely — and that reparations could organise such communities for the global goods.
However, there is no clear precedent on ‘climate change reparation’, and institutional and political obstacles exist in line with internationally-centred climate policy. Attempts to craft a comprehensive approach to achieve compensation-based climate handling have been ineffective. The industrially developed states are impeding a new ‘reparation’ policy and impacting those who are the least responsible for the climate crisis.
In such events, developing countries like Pakistan are experiencing extremely catastrophic rains and floods, and will face food and energy crises without financial assistance. Most fundamentally, the interconnected problems pose new challenges from a neo-liberal economic perspective, including indebtedness and inadequate resources to meet the primary conditions of a decent life. Such unjust political-ecological relations may aggravate problems of migration, unemployment and unrest.
As such, the pattern of low and uneven development and persistent external and high levels of indebtedness in many developing regions are directly related to climate change, and low priority it gets in global commodity systems.
For developing countries like Pakistan, the argument shall be multifaceted — that climate change is more about an ‘unjust economic pattern’, irregular growth and development, over-exploitation of resources by elites and securitisation of the capital of the developed countries.
The reparations ethos shall be based on international policy principles that require the perpetrator to return victimised individuals to the status quo or compensate victims for their injuries.
From this point of view, making a case for climate reparations requires the criteria that show the basis upon which a justice-centred mechanism can offer particular advantages to developing countries. In this scenario, ‘reparations’ cannot be and should not be considered purely on fiscal terms but on modifying the global economic system. There shall also be a strong recognition of moving towards conciliatory climate justice based on a consensus of those who have fallen victim to injustices.
As Pakistan is in a leading position at COP27, it shall cooperate with other developing countries to advocate cooperation and negotiate with the developed ones. In the presence of significant gaps in the international climate policy and in order to fulfil climate financing promises, more legal options shall be agreed upon among the developed countries at COP27. The reparations ethos shall be based on international policy principles that require the perpetrator to return victimised individuals to the status quo or compensate victims for their injuries.
Such a forward-looking approach recognises that past harm has a current and continuing effect, and this calls for exact calculation of finances to improve lives into the future.
Moreover, this approach allows for greater flexibility in choosing the scope and content of the remedy, and is the best way to develop a global reparation scheme for the nature of the climate harm.
Applying a new reparations system in climate change policy arguably stretches the concept of climate financing further. Such classic reparations dialogue extends beyond the general perception of ‘reparations’ in the existing climate politics. The debate also appears to be ‘legally conceptual’, which covers ‘moral discourse’ and ‘policy advocacy’. Concerning compensation and non-repetition, there shall be implication by the vulnerable that the developed countries are responsible under the international legal framework for climate change, and those should be providing assistance, not as a ‘moral duty’ but rather a ‘legal one’. In doing so, the developed countries would commit to a new kind of future in which development choices do not compromise the vulnerable.
Previous debate on ‘climate reparations’ was prone to theory, but now this is a substantive and practical issue. Therefore, climate reparations are not only politically realistic but may also impact future international relations.
The indeterminacy of the ‘climate action’ and the spectre of ‘financing’ demands for reparations require legally explicit recognition. They shall be more important to the concept of ‘loss and damage’, which is already gaining momentum at COP27. In the ongoing negotiations, however, the relevance of the international policy principle of ‘responsibility’ in the context of climate crisis can only be advanced on the basis of a distinctive explanation of the applicable ‘reparations’. The developed countries shall be made to admit through the valid grounds for a reasonable diminution of reparations.
The continuation of the wrongful acts in terms of climate change with the most alarming consequences and reparations should first be designed to provide a strong incentive in favour of a prompt reduction of emissions.