COP27 was held from the 6th to the 18th November this year in Sharm-El-Sheikh, EgyptTom Page/ Helsinki Times

“We were the ones whose blood, sweat and tears financed the industrial revolution [...] are we now to face double jeopardy by having to pay the cost?” Those were the words of Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley at the opening of the UN climate talks in Egypt. At COP27, developing countries are pushing for rich, polluting nations to pay compensation for the impacts of climate breakdown.

Varsity spoke to youth advocates in Sharm El-Sheikh who represent some of the world’s most affected regions.

According to Pervez Aly, a youth advocate from Pakistan, even though 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures may be the target of climate negotiations, 1.1°C is already leaving vulnerable people “trapped in a circle of climate catastrophes”.

Historic flooding attributed to climate change devastated Pakistan this year. Over one third of the country was submerged, displacing at least 8 million people. “Everywhere was just water and flood”, Aly says, letting the statement hang.

Founder of FridaysforFuture Pakistan, Iqbal Badruddin, also spoke to Varsity. “They were so bad this year, so devastating.” Badruddin emphasizes that Pakistan has been hit by super-floods before. The 2010 Pakistan floods were described by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the worst disaster he had ever seen.

“Villages became islands, then were decimated by floodwater”

“But this time, no one imagined the extremity that hit us was possible,” Badruddin says. “Villages became islands, then were submerged and decimated by floodwater. People waited and waited. Their food was destroyed. Nothing was left.”

Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“I saw a drastic change in people’s mindset from attributing such an event to the will of God, to blaming human decisions. Human choices,” Badruddin states.

Going into the conference, East Africa has been suffering a severe drought after four consecutive years of failed rains. According to the UN World Food Programme, 22 million people are at risk of starvation.

Nyombi Morris, youth advocate from Uganda, discussed the drought hitting the country’s north-east Karamoja region. “We’ve lost many people, we’re really suffering. And the more temperatures rise, the more we suffer. We cannot grow food on a dry land. We cannot drink from a land that has no water.”

“So when we hear about world leaders delaying, we know very clearly what that means for us and our future,” Morris says.

Uganda is responsible for less than 0.03% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Negotiations over ‘loss and damage’ will be central to COP27. An agreement on loss and damage would mean rich, polluting countries paying some form of compensation for the impacts that their emissions cause. At COP26 in Glasgow last year, the United States and the EU blocked calls from over 130 countries to introduce a Loss and Damage Finance Facility. Instead, a ‘negotiation’ period of three years was agreed upon.

Discussing international responses to Pakistan’s humanitarian catastrophe, Pervez Aly claims that the lack of a centralized loss and damage funding mechanism has been disastrous. Whilst estimates of damage reached $30 billion, UN funds gathered by appeals only offered $472 million - of which only $170 million have been funded thus far.

“It feels as if we are being mocked,” says Aly. “If the support we are getting is less than 1% of what we lost, how can we ever revive from this catastrophe?”

“In an age where a hurricane can wipe out a country’s GDP, loan-based finance is just not feasible”

For both Aly and Badruddin, the story of Pakistan’s suffering is intimately connected to the conduct of multilateral development banks. At the same time as Pakistan was dealing with unprecedented flooding, the country was negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a bailout deal to avoid defaulting on its foreign debt. Even as an extreme weather event leveled the nation, austerity policies were accepted as a condition for a $1.17 billion package.

Expressing his views on the IMF deal, Badruddin argues that the conditions on the loan damaged the nascent national renewable-energy rollout. “Before the deal, we had a tax and tariff scheme that incentivized solar technologies, and encouraged decarbonizing our energy and transport sectors. The IMF mandates completely slashed this.”

Aly describes the austerity programme’s effects on living standards as “a form of mental torture” after the hardships of the floods.

The predicament facing Pakistan is emblematic of a converging crisis that is hitting developing countries around the world. A long-term foreign debt crisis in poor countries, exacerbated during Covid, is now seeing those on climate frontlines punished by burgeoning loan repayments.

In the case of small island states, public debt as a share of GDP reached 112% last year. This has left countries most affected by climate impacts spending 18 times more on loan repayments than they receive in climate finance.

At COP27, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) are pushing to finalize a funding mechanism in their ‘Loss and Damage Response Fund’ proposal. The Fund would centralize public and private finance resources within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“It’s time for reparations”

For Christianne Zakour, youth advocate from Trinidad and Tobago and representative of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’s at the UN Environment Programme, avoiding loan-based finance is vital to this approach.

“In an age where a hurricane can wipe out a country’s GDP, loan-based finance that includes borrowing with steep interest is just not feasible,” says Zakour, who is also a member of the Loss and Damage Coalition. “Instead, we must take the grant-based approach, where money is given freely, without expectations, without expecting payback”.


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A confrontation is brewing in Egypt. Proposals like the ’Bridgetown Agenda’, championed by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, have put issues as fundamental as the structure of the international financial system, and how international development banks operate on the table. At the heart of the Bridgetown proposals is the repurposing of IMF ‘special drawing rights’ (SDRs) as a means of redistribution. SDRs are international reserve assets used to strengthen national finances. Providing extra space for state spending, they effectively come without conditions or debt commitments. Currently, they are allocated by the IMF’s ‘quota system’ that heavily favours the wealthiest countries. In 2021, this system saw rich, developed states receive 64.4% of Covid relief funds. But under the Bridgetown blueprint, $650 billion of SDRs would instead be provided to the poorest countries, in a climate mitigation and reconstruction trust.

“It’s time for reparations. We’ve been begging for far too long. It’s time that we become self-reliant, and this cannot be brought about without compensation,” Nyombi Morris says. “If the Global North accepts their responsibility for the warming we are seeing, then why don’t they pay?”

The conference in Egypt is bringing an end to a year of the UK having the COP presidency. Discussing the UK’s responsibility to developing nations, Zakour insists “we can’t talk about climate change without talking about colonialism. I’m from Trinindad and Tobago. We are a Commonwealth country, and this year was our sixtieth anniversary of independence from Britain”.

Recent reports suggest that the UK has fallen $1.4 billion short of meeting the climate finance contributions promised over a decade ago at COP15.

“Britain is rich because of what it did to the world,” Zakour says. “But climate change is a challenge that we must face together.”

“For this, Britain must acknowledge its history of exploitation in past colonies that are now being hit by climate impacts. That means stronger promises, that means actually delivering on those promises, and finally, it means reparations”.

An important aspect of the story in Sharm El-Sheikh is that many of the youth advocates in Egypt have been hit by climate disasters themselves. Nyombi Morris was displaced by floods hitting Uganda in 2008. Pervez Aly was made a climate refugee when the 2010 Pakistan floods hit the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Aly’s mother, who was suffering from a cardiovascular disorder, was unable to receive life-saving drugs amidst the crisis.