Climate Change: Justice, A Radical Demand

    The negative impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people living in poverty, women, children, and migrants

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    The projection of climate scenarios for Latin America and the Caribbean is worrisome. The impacts in the region translate into reduced food security, affectation of water security, and the threat posed by the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme hydrometeorological events.

    Today, throughout the world, but especially in Latin America, millions of people live exposed to severe food insecurity and suffer from reduced water security due to these extreme events. This high vulnerability coupled with climatic impacts causes our communities to suffer the scourge of damages and losses.

    Climate change has its historical roots in the carbon-intensive extractivist economic model of the economies of the North. This economic activity has changed the climate and imposed unusual and disproportionate risk on our communities. The profit and privilege of the North cause cross-border environmental damage that generates unfair economic and social damages for Latin America and the Caribbean. This economic model of extraction and inequality transfers its negative externalities to our vulnerable communities.

    Disproportionately affect people living in poverty

    The negative impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people living in poverty, women, children, migrants, people with disabilities, minorities, indigenous peoples and other historically marginalized populations, in such a way that it affects the enjoyment of human rights.

    Based on the mandate to build a sustainable, responsible and equitable economic model as established by the objectives and commitments of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and as indicated by Aleida Azamar-Alonso and Graciela Carrillo-González in “Extractivism and ecological debt in Latin America” (2017), the “external debt of Latin American countries has already been paid, not only in economic terms due to the enormous amount of interest paid that far exceeds the original debt; also in terms of commercial exchange due to the extensive economic benefit obtained by developed countries, who have speculated with the prices of these goods to benefit from the buying and selling process”.

    However, under a condition of usury and extreme vulnerability, Latin America and the Caribbean face the damages and losses caused by the economic activity of the global North. 3 decades after the creation of the UNFCCC, developed countries bowed to global pressure and a Loss and Damages fund was established to “assist” developing countries that are “particularly” vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. This fund must make it possible to respond to economic or non-economic damages and losses.

    This decision opens a process to discuss the structure of this fund, its sources and scale of financing, and the participation of affected communities in defining how to deal with damages and losses. One element of which there is no doubt is that this fund will be present in the socioeconomic reality of our region for many decades.

    Not enough resources to address human rights

    We must consider that the existing climate financing mechanisms present great gaps with respect to the participation of communities and civil society. In particular, the existing funds do not have a mission to provide resources to address situations where the human rights of people are already injured as a result of the actions of the States parties to the UNFCCC and where their condition of vulnerability is significant. This leads to the need to create a fund that responds to address the imminent and long-term needs of vulnerable communities injured by transboundary environmental damage throughout the planet.

    The damage and loss fund must have a climate justice approach that does not lead to further indebtedness, is additional to existing financing, and does not extract its resources from the economies of countries impacted by damage and loss. The fund must consider that the response to damage and loss requires immediacy, speed, and long-term predictability.

    For this reason, a comprehensive vision is necessary that considers not only economic losses and damages, but also non-economic ones. The fund must have different levels of impact, so that in this way it has an intersectoral approach, which impacts the institutional framework, grassroots organizations and communities.

    On the other hand, the fund must have accountability mechanisms that avoid re-victimization, further injuries, and ensure the effective participation of the populations that hold the right to compensation for damages and losses. As we have mentioned, unlike the other pillars of climate action, in the case of damages and losses, the negative impact has already occurred, and people’s human rights have already been injured. In this sense, accountability mechanisms are essential.

    This requires that communities and civil society organizations can effectively participate in the creation of the fund, through the generation of data, providing input for decision-making and prioritization of actions. Currently, within the framework of the UNFCCC, it is crucial that in the remaining session of this year of the Transition Committee -in charge of creating the fund for damages and losses- there is participation of civil society and especially of the affected communities. This is imperative for the creation of a fund that responds to address injuries to human dignity.

    The Transition Committee can draw on experts on human rights issues, as well as public participation to better understand who the fund should compensate. It is not a fund like others that provides financing for goods, but one that solves an injury to communities. There is an opportunity to turn to United Nations bodies such as UNDP, UNICEF, IOM and others, both for technical input and for support in listening to the people whom this fund should benefit.
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