Compensation for climate change


in Economics, Politics, The environment

In Ethiopia, ministers from ten African countries are meeting to work out negotiating positions for the upcoming climate change talks in Copenhagen. One likely position will be a demand for financial compensation in response to the harm caused by climate change.

In principle, some compensation is probably justified between those who have knowingly engaged in actions that cause climate change and those that have suffered as a consequence. In practical terms, however, things are rather more complex. For one thing, it is dubious whether all of the governments with populations affected by climate change would effectively and equitably distribute any payments.

The world’s priority needs to be on getting effective mitigation action started. Without that, adaptation costs will eventually exceed what even rich states are able to spend on their own citizens. Effective negotiating tactics to drive a global mitigation agenda are really what especially vulnerable states should be concentrating on now. Some of these – such as paying for avoided deforestation – may have a similar character to a compensation scheme.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

oleh August 24, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I agree with the focus on mitigation. Introducing the idea of compensation for past effects of climate change would bog down an already bogged down process.

Milan August 27, 2009 at 8:31 am

Now may not be the time, but I think it may eventually be appropriate.

. September 11, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Africa and climate change
A green ransom

Sep 3rd 2009 | NAIROBI
From The Economist print edition
Make the rich world feel guilty about global warming

RICH countries should compensate Africa for all their belching chimneys and exhausts. In a rare fit of African unity, it was decided at a recent flurry of leaders’ meetings that the United States, the European Union, Japan and others should pay the continent the tidy sum of $67 billion a year, though it was unclear for how long. Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, is likely to lead a delegation of 53 countries (all of Africa minus Morocco) to the climate-change summit in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, in December, where he will presumably lodge this demand.

Would the money come, if it came at all, with strings attached or as reparations for damage to Africa’s atmosphere? Mr Meles has made it clear he is seeking blood money—or rather carbon money—that would be quite separate from other aid to the continent. If the cash were not forthcoming, the African Union (AU) might take a case to a court of arbitration and ask it to judge overall culpability for climate change.

. September 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

Climate change victims can sue coal-fired plants

by Dianne Saxe

In a landmark decision, the US Second Circuit has agreed that victims of climate change can sue electric utilities in nuisance for the emissions from their coal-fired power plants. This should give polluters in both Canada and the US a strong incentive to push for national statutes on greenhouse gas emissions, rather than fight thousands of cases in the courts.
Until now, most courts (including those in Canada) have ruled that climate change is primarily a political matter, and not the proper responsibility of courts and judges. (In legal terms, that climate change is “not justiciable”.) Like our federal government, polluters typically argue that:

“global warming is a world-wide problem, federal courts are not the proper venue for this action, nor could the courts redress the injuries about which Plaintiffs complain because global warming will continue despite any reduction in Defendants’ emissions”

Now, however, in Connecticut v. American Electric Power, the powerful Second Circuit has ruled that the ordinary tort law of nuisance can, and does apply to greenhouse gas emissions. Those who burn coal create emissions known to have adverse effects (climate change) on others. These are the very sorts of harm that tort law is designed to control.

. November 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Oil companies and banks will profit from UN forest protection scheme

Redd scheme designed to prevent deforestation but critics call it ‘privatisation’ of natural resources

Some of the world’s largest oil, mining, car and gas corporations will make hundreds of millions of dollars from a UN-backed forest protection scheme, according to a new report from the Friends of the Earth International.

The group’s new report – launched on the first day of the global climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, where 193 countries hope to thrash out a new agreement – is the first major assessment of the several hundred, large-scale Redd (Reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation) pilot schemes. It shows that banks, airlines, charitable foundations, carbon traders, conservation groups, gas companies and palm plantation companies have also scrambled into forestry protection.

While forestry is billed as one issue where significant progress could be made at the talks, over the weekend David Cameron, Chris Huhne, the climate change secretary, and the government’s chief scientists all played down the prospect of a global deal to cut carbon emissions.

“British ministers are going to Mexico this week with an approach that is both realistic and optimistic,” the prime minister wrote in the Observer . “Realistic, because we don’t expect a global deal to be struck in Cancun, but optimistic too, because we are viewing this as a stepping stone to future agreement.”

Huhne, who will attend the second week of the talks, was more blunt: “No one expects a binding deal on climate change in Cancun.” But he said deforestation and longer-term climate finance were areas where progress could be made.

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