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Careful planning needed in quest for global climate-change justice: George A. Elmaraghy – cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The recent United Nations climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, concluded with an agreement to create a new fund to pay reparations to small developing countries on the principle that rich countries should compensate small developing countries that haven’t contributed to the planet’s climate change and for the damage caused by extreme weather events. This fund is separate from the $100 billion a year in climate financing that developed countries jointly promised to mobilize from 2020 to 2025 to help low-income countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.

In 2015, countries of the world had met in Paris to address the climate change issue. In the Paris Agreement, they enshrined the goal of limiting global warming to below 2.0 degrees Celsius, and preferably, below 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, in order to protect low-lying countries from sinking under the ocean and to minimize extreme weather events. Countries signing the accord agreed to cooperate and coordinate their efforts to curtail the emissions of greenhouse gases to achieve this goal. The Paris accord also suggested that developed countries compensate poor countries for damage caused by climate change..

This year, seven years later, the countries that signed the Paris accord met in Sharm el-Sheikh. The majority of these countries are without any practical plan to limit global warming, haven’t cut their emissions enough to meet the accord target, and their emissions are still growing. Nevertheless, the conference did not take any action to require countries to reduce their emissions.

Instead, they concluded with an agreement creating a reparations fund to assist small developing countries in dealing with damage caused by climate change.

In the past, both Europe and successive U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican, objected to the concept of creating a reparations fund because it represents an open-ended commitment to funnel taxpayers’ money to poorly governed countries. However, the concept of developing a formal mechanism to pay climate reparations was forced after the European Union abandoned the United States by accepting the idea. The EU hopes that creating this reparations fund will induce developing countries to reduce emissions and meet the targets that were established in the Paris accord. Major emitters such as China, which emits well over 50% more than Europe and the United States combined, and is treated by the United Nations as a “developing country,” said it had no obligation to participate in funding reparations, but that it had been spending the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars to help low-income nations mitigate clmate-change, Al Jazeera reported.

George A. Elmaraghy

George A. Elmaraghy, a former Ohio Environmental Protection Agency official, urges care in designing a possible reparations fund paid for by richer nations for the benefit of low-income countries struggling with the challenges of climate change.

It is a moral obligation for developed countries to assist small developing countries with low emissions to adapt and mitigate suffering when they are hit with natural disasters related to climate change. However, establishing the reparations fund shouldn’t be implemented before adopting effective criteria to certify financial accountability and project feasibility. In addition, funding of reparations shouldn’t be drawn from current budgets in a way that may increase budget deficits or increase the costs of living in these countries.

Without appropriate planning, good intentions will be plundered by corrupt and irresponsible governments and washed out to sea.

George A. Elmaraghy spent most of his career in state government, serving among other roles as chief of the surface water division of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. He current holds a presidential appointment as commissioner for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission and he is a member of the International Joint Commission Water Quality Board.

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