What would it cost to avoid a climate disaster that would affect poor countries the most?
For the United States, the bill comes to $634 billion owed to developing nations. The U.S. also would need to cut carbon emissions 55 percent to 65 percent, according to the Stockholm Environment Institute, Friends of the Earth, and Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement for Debt and Development.
Worldwide, developed nations would have to pay more than $1.1 trillion annually to developing nations on top of massive emission reductions to keep climate change in check.
The environmental groups created an online tool showing how much each country should cut emissions and how much money should be given to developing countries not fully responsible for global warming but that would be devastated by climate change nonetheless. That even includes nations such as China, now the world’s largest carbon emitter.
How did the environmental groups come up with such exact figures? The first scientific attempt to calculate each country’s “fair share” factored in historical emissions, its wealth, and its current population.
That means poor, populous, undeveloped countries would be the beneficiaries of funds from rich, developed nations to cut their emissions and help produce access to energy for the 2 billion people living largely off the grid.
“We call this a part of the climate debt owed to us, and it is needed if we are to confront climate change while still responding to the needs of people,” Lidy Nacpil, director at Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, said in a statement. “It’s not just a question of being fair. It’s about being realistic. To be realistic means if we want a hope of stopping climate change, these transfers have to happen. These deep cuts have to happen. That’s the realistic demand from people facing the full brutal force of climate change.”
The tool’s calculations are based on the latest International Panel on Climate Change report, which puts precise figures on emission cuts and money amounts needed to hold an increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2025.
Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at Stockholm Environment Institute, said that IPCC’s numbers show that temperature increases greater than 2 degrees could have irreversible effects on the world’s climate.
“Based on those limits on climate pollution for the whole world, it is striking just how quickly emissions need to come down, across the world. It may be hard to do, but it’s dramatically easier than surviving 2, 3, 4 degrees of warming,” Kartha said.
Kartha added that the online calculator shows not just what the whole world has to do to mitigate climate change but also helps answer the fundamental question in U.N. climate talks of what each country should do.
But how do we know all those billions transferred among nations would be put to good use and not squandered?
Alex Rafalowicz, a fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said the creation of a transparent U.N. Green Climate Fund is paramount to the plan.
“The organizing of democratic, accessible, and people-first financing systems is a core part of many organizations’ demands,” Rafalowicz wrote in an email. “That’s why they are focused on making sure the U.N. Green Climate Fund is not established in a way that makes it easy for big multinational corporations to capture the finance there, for example.”