The world needs to support the victims of climate change

Local residents in the southwest parts of Bangladesh and the eastern parts of India suffered large-scale loss and damage when Cyclone Amphan hit the areas in 2020. File Photo: Reuters

In the last few weeks, three separate cyclones hit the island of Madagascar and then Mozambique, causing loss of life and damage to infrastructure. Even in the UK, Storm Eunice caused much damage. These are just a few examples of the loss and damage attributable to human-induced climate change, and in every such incident, it is the victims who are paying the price.

Consider this: for every USD 100 of damage caused by an extreme climate event in an area, the full cost is immediately paid by the victims themselves. Then, if they are covered by insurance (which most people are not) they might get a partial amount of that cost as compensation—that, too, after waiting for a long time. If they are uninsured, then they may get support from their neighbors, their own government, and then the international community (who are usually the last to arrive to help).

In situations like this, neighbors’ support is by far the most effective, as they can mobilise their support immediately. It is an interesting fact that poor people living in poor countries tend to have more solidarity among themselves than rich people in rich countries.

The second most effective support comes from the local and national government authorities soon after the disaster, as well as NGOs and humanitarian actors. The level of this support varies according to the capability of each country, and generally might cover no more than 20 percent of the losses suffered by the victims.

Support from the international community comes much later, and they often have to raise funds after the event to get any finance. The amount of funding they are able to raise depends on how much the global media covers an event. In terms of the proportion, it might be between five and eight percent of the losses that the victims suffer.

We are already in the era of loss and damage from human-induced climate change, as reported in August 2021. We need to be better prepared to avert, minimise and address such loss and damage going forward.

But unfortunately, the US and other developed countries refused to agree to set up the Glasgow Facility for financing such loss and damage, proposed by the vast majority of developing countries at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland in November last year. Instead, they only agreed to hold two years of more “blah, blah, blah”—as Swedish activist Greta Thunberg put it—through the Glasgow Dialogue.

However, there was a glimmer of hope provided by the Scottish government, with a contribution of two million pounds towards a new Loss and Damage Finance mechanism, which was augmented by contributions from a few international foundations and the province of Wallonia in Belgium.

This has enabled the start of a movement to address questions such as who needs to pay, who should manage the fund, who should receive the funds, and many others.

As for who should pay, I feel it’s the moral responsibility of every conscious citizen in every country who can afford to do so, in whatever capacity possible. I would like to propose that we set up a crowdfunding scheme, whereby such individuals from every country can contribute.

There are quite a number of existing funds that could be good candidates for managing such loss and damage funds, including the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Adaptation Fund (AF) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well the Green Climate Fund (GCF). My own preference would be a fund under the control of the vulnerable developing countries themselves, such as the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF).

The question of who should receive the funds is perhaps the easiest to answer, as the victims of climate-related disasters are quite self-evident, and the humanitarian sector is well able to deploy such funds effectively to the most deserving. It is important to note that as long as the funds are being donated in the spirit of solidarity (rather than compensation based on liability), there is no need to judge if a given disaster was due to human-induced climate change or just a natural event. Any victim should be eligible.

What is absolutely clear and unambiguous is that climate victims continue to pay the price for human-induced climate change, and it is incumbent on every conscious citizen of Earth to do something about it. This would be through a campaign for global citizen-to-citizen solidarity from a moral sense of duty to help the victims, rather than invoking compensation based on liability.

Originally this article was published on February 23, 2022 at Daily Star. The author Prof. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).