UK and US ‘not paying fair share’ towards tackling climate change, report finds

Rich nations must make 'much stronger commitments to fix the climate crisis that they, and their wealthiest elites, are largely responsible for creating'

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Thursday 06 December 2018 11:08
Sir David Attenborough at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice: Climate change 'our greatest threat'

Rich countries are not pulling their weight in the fight against climate change, and must provide emergency finance to support a global green transition, environmental groups have warned.

Presented at a major climate conference in Poland, a new report has compared the amount of money going into tackling global warming to the quantity of CO2 pollution each country emits.

The EU, including the UK, and the US are home to most of the planet's wealthiest people, receiving more than half of the global income.

At the same time, the poorest half of the world receives less than one tenth of the global total income and generates virtually no emissions.

This disparity means the top countries are pumping out several tonnes more CO2 per capita than could be considered their “fair share” under existing climate targets.

Without substantial support from wealthy countries, poorer nations will fall far short of ambitions to cut fossil fuels and the world will not be able to limit warming to the 1.5C increase scientists think is necessary.

This independent review was backed by social movements, NGOs, trade unions, faith and other civil society groups from around the world.

They also warned that “global elites” must not pass the burden onto poorer people within rich countries. French president Emmanuel Macron has recently come under fire for pushing through a fuel tax in an effort to cut emissions that critics said would place too much financial stress on ordinary French citizens.

A key focus of the COP24 event in the Polish city of Katowice is meant to be ramping up climate finance, specifically the annual $100 billion goal from donor nations to lower-income countries.

The World Bank pledged on the opening day to invest $200bn (£157bn) to aid in a green transition for developing nations, but campaigners think more investment needs to come from wealthy nations.

Though many poorer countries, particularly island states like Fiji and the Marshall Islands, have been vocal in their commitment to tackling global warming, they lack the capacity to meet global climate targets without support.

“Today’s report says all high emitters, predominantly the US and the EU, will have to do more to close the emissions gap. But they must also assist poorer countries to meet their goals through finance and technology access,” said Rachel Kennerley, international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

“This could, for example, mean sharing patent-free renewable technology. Equity is not a moral luxury, it is a practical necessity in meeting the Paris goals, but climate discussions in Poland this week have so far sidestepped it.”

Due to the huge quantities of carbon emissions coming from the wealthiest nations, the report found that they “cannot possibly meet their full fair shares through domestic action alone”.

International aid to ensure “climate equity” will therefore be vital, particularly as poorer nations tend to be most at risk from climate change, including drought and rising sea levels.

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“Unless there is a fair deal that accounts for the legacy of climate change caused by industrialised developed countries, we will never have a sustainable global strategy,” said Brandon Wu, ActionAid USA’s director of policy and campaigns.

“We have to get some trust back into the process, and that starts with rich countries making much stronger commitments to fix the climate crisis that they, and their wealthiest elites, are largely responsible for creating.”

The UK government has come under fire for using foreign aid money to support fossil fuel developments overseas, including China’s fracking industry.

Critics pointed out that it would be more beneficial to support the renewable energy industry and a green transition in other parts of the world.

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