African campaigners are demanding compensation for the huge damage being inflicted on the continent by global warming – a problem that has been caused by the rich countries but will hit poor nations the hardest.
As the United Nations summit to tackle climate change nears its conclusion, African politicians and NGOs are calling for the developed world to provide cash to help them deal with the consequences of a warming planet.
Compensation should cover everything from storm damage and crop failure to desertification and forest degradation, the African nations say.
The funds should also help meet the cost of the mass migration that is inevitable as huge areas become uninhabitable, as well as the rise in diseases such as malaria.
“The cries of the people of Africa impacted by climate change are growing louder and louder as they are losing the farmlands and animals they rely on for their livelihoods to floods and droughts,” Mithika Mwenda, secretary general of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), told The Independent.
“The industrialised world has become wealthy by polluting the atmosphere and now our rivers are running dry and our crops are turning to dust. It is therefore essential that loss and damage is well addressed in the Paris agreement,” added Mr Mwenda, whose alliance speaks for more than 1,000 farmers, churches, NGOs and other organisations in 45 African countries.
Pa Ousman Jarju, environment minister for the west African nation of Gambia, said: “Loss and damage is a red line for us. If it is not addressed adequately, there will be no outcome in Paris.” Mr Jarju is also chairman of the 48-nation Least Developed Countries negotiating bloc.
Low-lying islands, such as the Maldives and the Pacific Island of Tuvalu, are also adamant that any deal will involve compensation as they gradually sink under water.
The issue of compensating developing countries for climate change is highly contentious and the latest draft of the agreement being worked on in Paris revealed that there was still much work to be done before it could be resolved.
Whatever the outcome, it has already been established that the words “compensation” and “liability” will not appear in any agreement because of fears that they could open rich countries up to hundreds of billions of dollars of legal liabilities.
Climate change around the world - in pictures
Climate change around the world - in pictures
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
2/17 Coastal systems and low-lying areas
Flood damaged streets in Queens, New York where the historic boardwalk was washed away due to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The report predicts that by the end of the century “hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and displaced due to land loss”
3/17 Food security
Widespread drought devastated a corn crop on a farm near Bruceville, Indiana in 2012. The report forecasts that climate change will reduce median yields by up to 2 per cent per decade for the rest of the century
4/17 The global economy
The Evening Standard headline board showing the words 'Black Friday Shares Crash' in London in October 2008 in London. The report warns a global mean temperature increase of 2.5C above pre-industrial levels may lead to global aggregate economic losses of between 0.2 and 2.0 per cent
5/17 Human health
A child suffering from malnutrition and diarrhoea is seen at the Banadir hospital in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu in 2009. Climate change will lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, with examples including an increased likelihood of under-nutrition.
6/17 Human security
A Muslim migrant holds his son as they are detained at the Immigration Police Office on the Thai-Malaysian border in March 2014. The report states that climate change over the 21st century will have a significant impact on forms of migration that compromise human security
7/17 Freshwater resources
A villager walks through a parched paddy in Tianlin county, China in 2012. The report finds that climate change will “reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions"
8/17 Unique landscapes
Machair, a grassy coastal habitat found only in north-west Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, is one of the several elements of the UK’s “cultural heritage” that is at risk from climate change
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, said this week: “We won’t accept the notion that there should be liability and compensation for loss and damage, that’s a line we can’t cross.”
But he indicated he could be open to financial assistance under a different name – a stance shared by much of the developing world, including Europe and the UK.
Former Friends of the Earth director Tom Burke, who now works at the E3G environmental think-tank, said: “Getting this right will go up to the wire. Of the difficult issues still to be resolved in Paris, ‘loss and damage’ is the one where it is difficult to see the ‘landing ground’. Unlike the other outstanding issues, it is hard to see where it’s going to end.”