Edinburgh's independent student newspaper

A small drop in a very large ocean

Monday 15th November 14.30

Starting November off with a bang, Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland would pledge £1 million to help developing countries to deal with the “loss and damage” of climate change. This money will be coming from the Climate Justice Fund which will be increasing from £6 million to £24 million. Scotland has received praise from the UN Secretary General for this decision, as it is one of the first developed countries to make such a pledge – but what impact can a million pounds make?

According to Sturgeon, Scotland doesn’t “have the resources of other western governments”, but that doesn’t mean it can’t “lead by example”. Someone has to take the lead, and it’s clear that not many countries are willing to do so.

In 2009, the G20 agreed to give $100 billion per year by 2020 to help less developed countries face climate change. This hasn’t happened. In 2019, only $79.6 billion was provided, the largest amount since the agreement. Even though we are responsible for 92% of the world’s excess emissions, the governments of developed countries refuse to do more to stop it. The fact is that we aren’t the ones being most affected by climate change, so our governments don’t feel the same urge to take action - out of sight, out of mind. The US is eager to spend over $600 billion on its military budget, but is hesitant to fork out a few billion to support developing nations. We can’t keep going down this path.

Following Scotland’s announcement, the UK government has said that it is confident that the $100bn target would be met in 2023. At the same time, Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted that the G20 will give $500bn in the next five years to the “countries that need it the most”. But something about these numbers doesn’t add up and, honestly, makes me question the government’s confidence. How can we put together $500bn in five years when we didn’t come close to that amount in six years? Progress needs to be made, and I hope that Scotland’s announcement does something at the very least.

But Scotland’s £1m isn’t much. It's a drop of water in a very large and very desperate ocean, contributed by a country with little political influence. Perhaps the UK government’s promise to meet the $100bn yearly target will have more of an impact.

The clock is ticking, and certain members of the G20 need to start pulling their weight. Germany, Japan, and France have been among those leading the charge, but the US and Italy have been lagging far behind. Given the size of the American economy and yearly budget, they should really be able to contribute more than $11bn per year.

However, as Dr Alina Averchenkova has rightly said, “$100bn isn’t going to do it”. That money isn’t going to be enough to make the desert livable when temperatures rise. It isn’t going to stop countries from being flooded. Even if steadily given every year for the next ten years, it isn’t going to be enough.

In addition, these pledges are, at the end of the day, loans. Loans that are pushing developing countries further into debt. How can we expect them to pay this back when they are already so deep in debt? How is it fair for us to ask that when we are the ones destroying our planet and their homes? The G20 needs to accept responsibility for global warming, and needs to offer developing countries grants, not loans.

If they make this change and meet the $100bn target, it will be a good start. But crucially, it needs to come with a recognition that sending money isn’t going to solve our climate change issues. The Global North has to sharply reduce its overall emissions, encourage recycling, and limit the use of plastics. This is our only hope of pushing back climate change and surviving long enough to see any future worth living.

Image via Pxfuel