West must pay for pollution damage, activist demands

The Global West, which is the biggest polluter, has been urged to pay up for the devastating impacts of climate change that are plaguing the Horn of Africa.

While travelling in Europe for the past three weeks, Kenyan climate justice activist Elizabeth Wathuti asked the developed world to ensure that “loss and damage” is at the heart of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which will be held in Egypt from November 6-18.

“It is time to step up global solidarity to help those suffering. I am encouraged by President William Ruto’s recent commitment to making loss and damage finance a priority to push for at COP27. I hope leaders are feeling the strong urgency for this issue as they go into negotiations next week,” Ms Wathuti told Nation in an exclusive interview.

During her trip, the activist met national decision-makers from Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the European Union (EU), visited areas affected by climate impacts and extractive industries, and attended a climate march in Brussels, where she spoke to the 30,000 participants.

Her visit to Europe came after she wrote an open letter addressing the “COP27 presidents” on the urgency of action. In the letter which was endorsed by more than 100,000 people worldwide, she urged climate leaders to deliver a dedicated finance facility to help frontline communities deal with the loss and damage they are experiencing.

Climate change

“Dear Minister Sharma and Minister Shoukry, you are jointly responsible for guiding the UN climate change negotiations at what is a watershed moment in human history. I urge you to meet this challenge with compassion and courageous leadership, which is what will be needed to keep the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement alive. The loss and damage already being experienced by communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis is being cruelly compounded by the impacts of war and a global pandemic,” the letter read.

She pointed out that, at the United Nations General Assembly, Denmark became the first EU member state to make a loss and damage finance pledge.

“Momentum is building. Strengthening existing humanitarian aid and development channels is important but it is not enough. The EU needs to be proactive and constructive to address the gaps revealed already by the Glasgow Dialogue via a loss and damage finance facility under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as demanded by countries that suffer from the climate crisis today. This should be done at the nearest opportunity – COP27,” Ms Wathuti said.

The 27-year-old climate activist further reminded them that there is no finance under the UNFCCC to specifically address loss and damage.

She urged the EU to proactively and constructively engage in exploring the role of a loss and damage finance facility under the UNFCCC, as demanded by developing countries, and that this be established at COP27, with further technical work on its most effective set-up be undertaken afterwards.

 Ms Wathuti met with members of the European Parliament, who lead the COP27 Resolution (called “rapporteurs”) and MEPs making up the European Parliament COP27 delegation ahead of the vote by the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and used the opportunity to amply the voices and needs of communities on the frontline to encourage the EU Parliament to step up and reach a firm commitment on loss and damage financing.

She visited Lutzerath, Germany, a soon-to-be-destroyed city to give way for the expansion of a coal mine, as well as Trooz, Pepinster, and Verviers, three cities in Belgium affected by climate change-induced floods.

“The impacts of the 2021 floods were still visible. I met with young people and displaced locals to exchange views on the impacts of climate change and the human lived experience accompanying them. Human lives are at stake, in any part of the world,” she observed. In Brussels, she delivered a keynote address at the end of the October 23rd climate march of 30 000 people.

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