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Polluters must pay reparations for climate change: COP27

At COP27, leaders from poor countries criticized wealthy governments and oil companies for driving global warming.

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Leaders from poor countries criticized wealthy governments and oil companies for driving global warming, using their speeches on Tuesday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt to demand that they pay up for damages being inflicted on their economies.

Small island states already buffeted by increasingly violent ocean storms and sea-level rise called on oil companies to shell out some of their huge recent profits, while developing African states called for more international funds for adaptation.

“The oil and gas industry continues to earn almost 3 billion United States dollars daily in profits,” said Gaston Browne, Antigua’s prime minister, speaking at the conference on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.

“It is about time that these companies are made to pay a global carbon tax on their profits as a source of funding for loss and damage,” he said. “While they are profiting, the planet is burning.”

Nikenike Vurobaravu, the president of the island nation of Vanuatu, said it wanted the International Court of Justice to help ensure future generations’ rights were not being violated by nations lagging on climate change.

The comments reflected the tension in international climate negotiations between rich and poor states, as delegates attended the second full day of the two-week U.N. conference in the seaside resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Wealthy western countries tend to be the most vocal advocates of slashing emissions but are also the ones that have contributed the most greenhouse gases after more than a century of fossil fuel-driven industrialization.

Multi-billion-dollar oil industry profits since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February – which has roiled markets and disrupted supplies – have also angered governments worldwide concerned about climate change and rampant consumer inflation.

U.S. President Joe Biden this month said the industry was raking in “war profits” and proposed a windfall tax, an idea that has little chance of passing a divided Congress. The United Kingdom has already imposed a windfall profits tax on oil producers, with proceeds meant to defray household energy costs.

But some countries at the conference were more likely to direct their frustration at rich governments, not drillers.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall told the conference poor developing countries in Africa needed increased funding from wealthy nations for adaptation to worsening climate change and would resist calls for an immediate shift away from fossil fuels African countries need to expand their economies.

“Let’s be clear, we are in favor of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But we Africans cannot accept that our vital interests be ignored,” he said.

China’s special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said on Tuesday that Beijing is committed to reaching carbon neutrality in the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter, and believed multilateralism and cooperation is key to solving global climate change.