Victoria Rhodes-Carlin: Rich countries don't want to pay for the damage their economies caused

First blog


After four days at COP, the privilege and accessibility we have as New Zealanders and the opportunity we with AYLI is more prominent than ever. Coming into COP, I was conscious of the privilege we have as youth attending on the basis of our own personal interests, in contrast to the many nation states who struggle to send their own government representatives. The lack of genuine accessibility and support for nation states is extremely problematic.


The representative from Argentina on behalf of the G77 highlighted this when the deadline for a final policy draft was due a few hours, giving no time for her small team to meet outside of a full day of negotiations to consider and produce feedback. Many nations only have a small number of representations spread across as many negotiations they can possibly attend, meaning they are not able to be involved in all the decisions and discourses. Compared to some rich nations who have hundreds of representatives across all of the sessions, the capacity of certain countries privileges their positions. The inequity of country affluence dictates whose voices are heard and whose are absent. Where the most impacted by climate change are the worlds most vulnerable, the voices of the least impacted dominate the direction of climate solutions.


The dominance of the Global North in the Loss and Damage dialogues prevents the most at risk nations from reparation and support in the face of climate induced loss and damage. The Dominican Republic was essentially obliterated after Hurricane Maria in 2017, wiping nearly all of its infrastructure, losing the equivalent of over double its GDP in just one day. The formal channels of international organisations and insurance paid out $19 million. Compare that to the 1.6 billion they lost in one day. While they were able to receive more support through other donations, none of it came close to its actual GDP and costs needed to cover what was lost. The devastation and lack of channels for support and reparation of the loss and damage in this case appear to have little difference to what is being discussed at COP.


Under current negotiations of Loss and Damage, rich countries are limiting the dialogue around support, financing, and capacity building for loss and damage. To put it bluntly, rich countries don’t want to pay for the damage their economies have caused. The Global North economies, driven by capitalism and neoliberal policies are the driving force contributing to climate change. Yet, the most at risk to the impacts of climate change have contributed to it the least. It is here that privilege and accessibility at COP are further marginalising the most vulnerable. It is here that the Global North use their privilege to limit their costs and contributions to the damage that they are responsible for.


While there is much more work to do in this space, it is promising to see many Global South nations and groups standing their ground in response to many rich countries calling for a simple solution. While there are numerous more dynamics of privilege and accessibility across gender, indigenous rights, and disability rights that deserve far more attention and meaningful involvement than they are receiving, the first challenge is to get rich countries to acknowledge their responsibility to significantly contribute to Loss and Damage costs. I look forward to following these discussions and negotiations over the following week and hope that the challenges of accessibility and privilege are factored into these discussions for a more equitable outcome.

All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Posted on December 7, 2018 and filed under UN Climate Talks 2018.