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COP27: Big Oil must pay for climate change, poor nations tell rich

November 8, 2022 at 3:57 pm

In this photo illustration, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 logo is seen on a smartphone screen [Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Leaders from poor countries criticised wealthy governments and oil companies for driving global warming, using their speeches on Tuesday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt to demand that they pay up for damages being inflicting on their economies, Reuters reports.

Small island States already buffeted by increasingly violent ocean storms and sea-level rise called on oil companies to shell out some of their huge recent profits, while developing African States called for more international funds.

“The oil and gas industry continues to earn almost 3 billion United States dollars daily in profits,” said Gaston Browne, Antigua’s Prime Minister, speaking at the conference on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.

“It is about time that these companies are made to pay a global carbon tax on their profits as a source of funding for loss and damage,” he said. “While they are profiting, the planet is burning.”

The comments reflected the tension in international climate negotiations between rich and poor States, as delegates attended the second full day of the two-week UN conference in the seaside resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Multi-billion-dollar oil industry profits since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which roiled markets and disrupted supplies – have angered governments worldwide concerned about climate change and rampant consumer inflation.

US President, Joe Biden, this month said the industry was raking in “war profits” and proposed a windfall tax, an idea that has little chance of passing a deeply divided Congress.

READ: Mideast, eastern Mediterranean ‘most affected’ by climate change

But some countries at the conference were more likely to direct their frustration at wealthy nations, not drillers.

Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, told the conference poor developing countries in Africa needed increased funding from rich nations for adaptation to worsening climate change, and would resist calls for an immediate shift away from fossil fuels African countries need to fuel their economies.

“Let’s be clear, we are in favour of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But we Africans cannot accept that our vital interests be ignored,” he said.

Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname – a South American nation whose forests absorb more carbon than its people emit – said wealthy countries needed to uphold a promise to direct $100 billion a year to developing countries for climate adaptation.

“On behalf of all children and the next generation we urgently call on historic emitters to do their part to safeguard our world. My country is doing our part with the limited resources and capacity,” he said.

Billions for war 

Sri Lanka’s President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said Western governments were quick to divert billions of dollars to the war in Ukraine, but slow to spend on climate change.

“Double standards are unacceptable,” he said. “It is no secret that climate financing has missed the target … As many developed nations deem it fit to wait on their climate financing contributions, these countries were also on both sides of the Ukraine war and seemed to have no qualms spending for a war.”

Scores of Heads of State and government were scheduled to speak, but many of the world’s biggest polluters – including the United States, China and India – were not on Tuesday’s schedule.

Biden will not arrive until next week, but his delegation opened its pavilion at the COP27 venue on Tuesday and Special Envoy, John Kerry, was making the rounds.

READ: Saudi Arabia allocates $2.5bn to support Middle East Green Initiative

Conference host Egypt, meanwhile, was facing pressure over its jailing of Egyptian-British blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fattah. Abd El-Fattah rose to prominence during Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising but has been detained for most of the time since, and is now on hunger strike.

Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government came to power after heading the 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, and has drawn human rights criticism after subsequent bloody crackdowns on protesters and the detention of dissidents.

His government has been hoping its hosting of the COP27 conference would give it an injection of international legitimacy at a time its economy has been struggling.