Jesse Kline: Enriching dictators in the name of 'climate justice' is certain to fail

jesse kline: enriching dictators in the name of 'climate justice' is certain to fail

Protesters demonstrate over climate justice, loss and damage, fossil fuels, human rights, exploitation by rich countries of poor countries and other issues during the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Nov. 12.

To no one’s surprise, this year’s COP27 climate conference — the annual gabfest that brings politicians and environmentalists together to discuss Big Government solutions to climate change — saw some world leaders pat themselves on the back for coming up with yet another costly program to deal with global warming, and others incensed that an agreement couldn’t be reached to force everyone to ride their bikes to work and trade in their furnaces for cozy sweaters.

For a while, it looked as though this year’s conference might end in a stalemate. In an effort to ensure they could justify the money and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions needed to send an estimated 40,000 to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, delegates worked through the night on Saturday so they’d have something to announce.

By early Sunday morning, the last day of the conference, an agreement was reached to set up a slush fund to compensate developing countries for the “loss and damage” they experience due to climate change.

This is not exactly a new idea. COP15, which was held in Copenhagen in 2009, saw industrialized countries agreeing to transfer US$100 billion (C$134 billion) a year over five years to developing nations starting in 2020 (that never materialized, but Canada and Germany assured the world ahead of COP26 that the funds would start flowing in earnest in 2023). COP19 established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, and language supporting the idea was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement .

It’s also not a terrible idea, in and of itself. Placing a high price on carbon in the First World and transferring the money to Third World Pacific island nations so they can put their huts on stilts would be a fairly logical way to both reduce GHG emissions and mitigate some of the more severe effects of global warming.

Of course, that’s not what’s going to happen. Instead, the world has settled on a system of yearly climate conferences, where delegates have an incentive to one-up whatever economically devastating policies they dreamed up the year before to create a hodgepodge of environmental regulations, subsidies and wealth-transfer schemes in the hopes that something will stick.

In typical United Nations fashion, the deal reached at COP27 was to setup a committee to work out the details of a loss and damage fund in time for COP28. The committee itself will be composed of 10 members from industrialized countries and 14 from developing nations, guaranteeing that those who benefit from the funds will have the opportunity to ensure that the countries being asked to fork over money will not quietly withdraw their support.

Which would not be out of the ordinary given the West’s previous reluctance to set up a legal system to provide reparations for climate change, and the huge sums of money involved: between US$200- and US$250-billion per year by 2030, according to one recent estimate , on top of hundreds of billions more for green energy, sustainable agriculture and other measures.

And as the agreement makes abundantly clear, this will be “new funding,” over and above the US$500 billion already committed to helping poor countries develop green energy and deal with climate change.

Unsurprisingly, the deal was hailed as a huge win by the dictatorships, kleptocracies and Polynesian micro-states that had been pushing for it.

“We have finally delivered climate justice.… We have finally responded to the call of hundreds of millions of people across the world to help them address loss and damage,” said the finance minister of Tuvalu , a Pacific island state no one’s ever heard of with a GDP roughly equal to what musician Dave Matthews makes in a year and a population that could easily fit inside an NHL arena.

“It is clearly a down payment on the longer investment in our joint futures,” foreshadowed the environment minister of Pakistan, which has been leading the push for climate reparations despite being known as one of the most corrupt countries on earth.

And herein lies the problem : as bad as western governments are at ensuring that large funds get distributed properly, it’s a safe bet that much of it will be used to buy gas-guzzlers for kleptocrats or to convert tanks into electric vehicles if it’s handed over to the G77 countries that advocated for the deal, many of which have decidedly low scores on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index , not to mention Freedom House’s Freedom in the World rankings.

We now find ourselves in a world where everyone freaks out when an unsavoury dictatorship is allowed to foot the bill for an international sporting event, but many of those same voices remain silent when equally egregious regimes are handed large sums of cash in the name of “climate justice.”

Indeed, most of the dissenting voices coming out of COP27 were not concerned about redistributing wealth from the productive parts of the world to those where oppressive governments have long held their people back from realizing their economic potential, but because countries didn’t agree to end the use of fossil fuels completely or institute even more stringent emissions targets than were already agreed to in Glasgow, or Paris, or any of the other COPs.

All the while, international efforts are looking more and more futile. A recent UN report predicted that even if the world meets its net-zero commitments, we’re unlikely to reach the target of holding global temperature increases to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

Meanwhile, the United States was able to put a man on the moon for the equivalent of US$257 billion in inflation-adjusted 2020 dollars; an XPrize of US$10 million was enough to encourage a private team to successfully launch a suborbital spaceflight in 2004, which helped usher in the era of private space exploration.

It’s hard to imagine the trillions of dollars that western governments are now planning on funnelling to the Third World wouldn’t be better spent launching reflectors into orbit to divert the sun’s rays, or some other previously proposed or yet-to-be-invented solution to climate change that doesn’t put money in the pockets of dictators while reducing the standard of living of everyone else.

Of course, the environmental lobby will settle for nothing less than an increase in the size of governments worldwide and historic wealth transfers to the developing world, as reparations for the West’s myriad of sins, climate or otherwise.

National Post

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