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Naomi Klein: Why Rich Countries Should Pay Reparations To Poor Countries For The Climate Crisis

A grassroots movement says that the countries that created the climate crisis should pay for the costs of adapting to a more hostile ecology.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to the best-selling author of The Shock Doctrine. Yes, independent journalist Naomi Klein joining us from Toronto, Canada to talk about the latest shocks to the economy and with the climate summit in Copenhagen just two weeks away, the coming together of a global movement for climate justice. She is just out with the 10th anniversary edition of her first book, the international bestseller No Logo. And her latest articles include "Climate Rage," for Rolling Stone Magazine, and "Copenhagen, Seattle Grows Up," for The Nation. Naomi Klein, Welcome to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with the issue of climate change and as you put it, climate rage. Tell us what is happening.

NAOMI KLEIN: That piece in Rolling Stone is looking at a growing demand for the repayment of climate debt. This is really a relatively new framing for the climate crisis and is becoming predominantly from the developing world, led by the government of Bolivia and other Latin American governments, and it has been joined by the coalition of least developed countries which are primarily in Africa. And essentially what they're saying is that the climate crisis as we know was created in the industrialized world. There is a direct correlation between industrialization (what we call development) and carbon emissions. In fact, 75 percent of the historical carbon emissions have been produced by only 20 percent of the world's population. Then we have this cruel geographical irony, which is that the effects of climate change our felt overwhelmingly in the developing world, and the parts of the world that are least responsible for creating the crisis. According to the World Bank, 75 -80 of the effects of climate change are being felt in the developing world. So, you have this inverse relationship between cause and effect.

It is in this context that we see a growing movement from the developing countries that really are on the front lines of climate change, saying that the rich world that created the climate crisis owes them a debt, owes them a tangible reparations for the creation of this crisis. And those reparations should be paid in three forms. First through deep emissions cuts in the developed world, in the rich world. At least 40 percent below 1990 levels- this is a figure we have heard a lot. In addition to this, they are saying the rich world, the G-8 countries, the industrialized countries, should pay for the costs, the huge costs, that poor countries face in adapting to climate change. In addition to that, they’re also saying that they would like to leapfrog over the dirty energies, the fossil fuels that are fueling the climate crisis. But they point out that this is expensive and more expensive to shift to cleaner green technology than it is to develop with cheap, dirty fuels, which is the way we did in the rich world. So, they are saying we will change, but we don’t think we should have to pay this additional cost because of our problem that is not of our creation. Essentially the climate debt arguments is the “polluter pays” argument, which is a familiar argument to people in the United States, its a basic principle of jurisprudence. Another way of putting this is “you broke it, you bought it”.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk specifically about the countries that are raising these concerns and saying we shouldn’t have to pay. For example in Africa.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, the African Union, the coalition of African states, have been very clear that their primary demand out of Copenhagen are these deep emissions cuts and serious funding for adaptation to climate change. In eastern Africa right now, you have massive, you have serious droughts affecting millions of people. That is just one example of the kind of costs that are being incurred because of climate change already. So, we’re not talking about projecting into the future, some hypothetical future, we are talking about right now.

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