By Kenneth Gibson, MSP Cunninghame North
Following the cautious progress made during COP26 in Glasgow, COP27 in Egypt was always going to be a difficult summit, with many leaders from across the globe vociferously defending their countries’ immediate economic and geopolitical interests.
That is to say those leaders who even attended a conference aimed at tackling the greatest challenge humanity is facing. I’m therefore glad that the UK Prime Minister eventually U-turned on his ridiculous initial position that he was “too focused on the domestic economy to attend” even if he only did so for fear of being upstaged by Boris Johnson.
The reality is that in a highly globalised world, domestic issues are inextricably linked with the actions of other countries and tackling global warming can only be done on a multilateral basis.
In numerous countries around the world the global phenomenon of climate change has already become a reality which people grapple with on a daily basis.
The tiny state of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean, which has only around twice the population of Arran, is perhaps the best-known example; actively threatened by rising sea levels, Tuvalu is forecast to be entirely under water by the end of the century on current trends.
Over the last few months, we’ve also seen catastrophic floods in Pakistan and Nigeria; a drought in the horn of Africa and wildfires around the world. And while extreme weather can afflict us all, it’s overwhelmingly the most vulnerable nations which pay the heaviest price.
During COP26, Scotland offered the first-ever commitment from the industrialised world towards a “loss and damage fund,” committing £2 million. At the time, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change, Saleemul Huq of Bangladesh, advisor to the Climate Vulnerable Forum group of 48 countries called the First Minister a “true leader,” while lamenting the lack of Western support elsewhere.
Of course, the importance of loss and damage has been known about for several decades and small island states first raised the issue more than 30 years ago, even before the Rio Earth Summit took place. This was championed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon again at this year’s climate conference where she announced a further £5 million to encourage other contributions.
There is no doubt that the inclusion of a loss and damage fund in the agreement – finalised last month with support of almost 200 countries – was “groundbreaking” and testament to 30 years of advocacy work, particularly from countries of the “Global South.”
Pakistan’s Climate Minister, Sherry Rehman, described the fund, which will rescue and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of countries devastated by extreme weather, as “an investment in climate justice”.
As is often the case with multi-lateral agreements, a lot of detail remains to be worked on over the course of the coming year, leading up to COP28 in the United Arab Emirates. Most importantly, the fund needs cash and Scotland and some other European countries have led on this.
Unfortunately, it will take similar decisiveness from the biggest per capita carbon dioxide emitters, mainly highly developed countries from North America, the Persian Gulf, Europe, East Asia and Oceania.
Not only must they invest in the loss and damage fund but new agreements on curbing fossil fuels and setting new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must also be struck, if we are to avoid the potentially catastrophic impact of global warming.