Cop27 (the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, 2022) seemed to mostly be spent negotiating financial support for the poorer countries suffering most from the breakdown of the planet’s climate systems in a welter of extreme weather events. The hammering out of a treaty, and the billions of dollars these countries should now receive, is absolutely necessary and incredibly urgently needed. It is to be welcomed and applauded.
The unfairness and inequality of the situation must be acknowledged, also – the fact that the countries that caused most of the climate damage in their successful pursuit of wealth are consequently much less vulnerable to the climate havoc they wrought than the countries they exploited and impoverished.
However, I’m unconvinced of the efficacy of rebranding the problem as the search for “Climate Justice” and the money as “Reparations.” Such an antagonist, blaming and self-righteous approach seems likely to stimulate conflict and cause resistance from the citizens of richer countries who feel they are not to blame for the sins of their parents. They had no more choice over where, and to whom they were born than the poorest slum-dweller. Why should they be born guilty while successful, prosperous diplomats, admittedly advocates for the poor, are born innocent by accidents of nationality?
Life is not fair. All of us have some “advantage” over some other people, although most are more trivial. That is why it is the duty of every one of us to strive to make it the world a fairer place. However, there is no more logic (or justice) to cries of “Climate Injustice” or “Complicity”as there would be to “Aesthetic Injustice” based on the fact that you are better looking than I am due to the fact that your mother got to marry a model and my mother didn’t, because she wasn’t rich enough to impress the glitterati.
Is there any evidence that this new approach is more effective, in the long term, than calling on the common interest and humanity of the unjustly affluent? Why, after all, did it seem to take the whole conference to work out these treaties that do nothing to address the immanent world-destroying problem of run-away climate change that also need urgent solution?
Was this because developed countries were dragging their feet and wrangling, reluctant to bear financial responsibility in a global economic down-turn, and knowing many of their citizens would feel resentful and defensive about being blamed and penalised for the sins of their forebears that they had no hand in?