A new study estimates that the Global North owes India a staggering $57 trillion in compensation for climate-related damages through 2050.
Compensation for climate damages
A recent study published in Nature Sustainability draws attention to India's historically minimal contribution to climate change, as the country has consumed less than a quarter of its fair share of the remaining global 1.5-degree carbon budget.
The findings have significant implications for the ongoing discussions at the Bonn Climate Change Conference and the upcoming 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, scheduled for December 2023 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
India's sacrifice: balancing emissions
The study's lead researcher, Andrew Fanning, a visiting fellow at the University of Leeds' Sustainability Research Institute, explains that India has sacrificed 75% of its fair share to offset excess emissions from excess emitting countries.
As a result, India is entitled to receive approximately 75% of its fair share as compensation from these nations. Fanning stated: "Our study focuses only on the compensation that is owed for atmospheric appropriation and should be considered in addition to broader questions about transition, adaptation, and damage costs."
The publication of the study coincides with the ongoing Bonn Climate Change Conference, where stakeholders from around the world are engaged in crucial conversations. The results of these discussions will feed into the upcoming COP28, shaping the international climate negotiations.
Fanning expressed her hope that the study will be received as input to these important forums, particularly with regard to the recently announced Loss and Damage Fund agreed upon at COP27.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels
The study underscores the urgency of the climate crisis, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels currently estimated at 415 parts per million and global temperatures having risen 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. While not all countries have contributed equally to this increase, the researchers stress that fair and equitable use of the 1.5°C carbon budget is essential. To determine the fair share, the study researchers calculated the carbon budget of 168 countries based on their population size and then compared it to their historical emissions since 1960.
The analysis revealed that all countries in the Global North have missed their fair share of 1.5°C, representing a staggering 91% of the cumulative excess between 1960 and 2019. In particular, the UK has used 2.5 times its fair share, while the United States has outperformed it by more than four times.
In a scenario where the world reaches Net Zero between 2020 and 2050, countries that exceed their fair share should compensate those that don't. The study estimates that a total of $192 billion in compensation is owed, with an average annual compensation of $6.2 billion.
Global North Compensation
According to the study results, the United States should provide cumulative compensation of $80 billion, followed by the European Union and the United Kingdom with $46 billion. It is collectively estimated that the remaining countries of the Global North owe $44 trillion in compensation by 2050.
These figures only represent two-thirds of the total financial compensation owed. The study indicates that India alone is entitled to $57 billion, while other sub-Saharan African countries should receive $45 billion. China is owed $15 trillion.
The authors of the study believe that this proportional compensation scheme can facilitate the decarbonization of the economies of low-emission countries. By receiving compensation and sacrificing their fair share, these nations can contribute to the global effort to keep temperatures below the critical 1.5°C threshold.
As the climate crisis intensifies, discussions around compensation for historical inequity and climate damages are gaining prominence. The study's revelations serve as a call to action, urging stakeholders to address these critical issues to forge a more just and sustainable future for all.
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