Gordon Chang on November 29, 2022
That’s how Charles Burton of the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute, described the U.N.’s “loss and damage”— “reparation”— fund for the climate.
Unfortunately, President Joe Biden at the just-completed COP27 climate summit in Egypt committed the U.S. to paying into a newly established pool. The fund is an outgrowth of a 2009 pledge by developed countries to transfer $100 billion annually to developing economies for climate purposes.
Congress under no circumstances should authorize any payment to the loss and damage fund.
As an initial matter, the principle of reparations is pernicious.
“Arguments around the science and the transfer of money aside, the word ‘reparations’ implies having knowingly committed a wrong and feeds into a larger narrative of the West being the fount of all evil and so deserving of destruction,” Cleo Paskal, the author of “Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map,” told me after Biden’s announcement.
Some argue that the U.S. and other developed nations have a responsibility for the greenhouse gases emitted over the course of centuries, which are now causing the climate to change in ways disadvantaging less-developed nations. In fact, the U.S. historically has put more such gases into the atmosphere than any other country.
Yet as Paskal, also a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, points out, “the majority of U.S. emissions happened before 1990,” in other words, before the world focused on the contribution of human activity to climate change.
China, on the other hand, “is knowingly committing the most wrong,” said Paskal. That country releases almost three times the amount of carbon as the U.S., which is now in second place. “Beijing does it deliberately,” she noted, “in part by stealing manufacturing from more environmentally regulated places like the U.S.”
Nonetheless, the West-is-responsible narrative is vigorously promoted by Beijing. “China strongly supports the claims of developing and vulnerable countries for ‘loss and damage,’ ” said Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, at COP27. “China is also a developing country, and this year climate disasters have also brought huge losses to China. We sympathize with the suffering of developing countries and fully support their demands.”
At COP27, China, still considered a developing country, was successful in avoiding a requirement to contribute to the loss and damage fund.
Moreover, China may still take money from the new pool. Unfortunately, third-world countries at COP27, Burton me, “were not prepared to mitigate the effect of climate themselves.”
The notion of reparations is also objectionable on another ground. Climate, after all, is only one effect the West has had on the planet. Strong Western economies, which produced carbon emissions, have saved the world on a number of occasions.
If countries adopt the principle of national responsibility for the current state of the international community, they have a responsibility to compensate, for instance, America for stopping the Third Reich, getting rid of the Soviet Union, helping Ukraine resist Russian aggression and containing a militant China, not to mention maintaining peace and stability around the planet since the Second World War.
“The idea that we owe developing countries some sort of climate reparations is absurd,” said Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), to the Washington Post. “If anything, we could send them a bill for all the things we’ve done over the decades on their behalf.”
None of this is to say the U.S. should not help other nations with climate. Washington can — and should — use climate assistance to win friends in critical parts of the world. “No question Pacific Island countries need assistance in handling environmental change caused by a wide range of factors,” says Paskal.
Climate is the number one issue with Pacific Island states, which could be submerged by rising seas and turbulent weather. Due in large measure to decades of both neglectful and misguided policies, Washington has opened the door to Beijing to turn islands in the largest ocean into a coalition of communist allies.
In the Solomon Islands, for example, China is busy helping a would-be despot convert a democracy into a dictatorship and make the island chain, which includes Guadalcanal, into a Chinese military fortress.
Therefore, the U.S. should, to further its own interests, administer climate funds, instead of having a bloated and corrupt U.N. bureaucracy do so. With U.N. involvement, the U.S. loses control and credit for contributions.
As has been evident, the U.S. pours hundreds of millions of dollars annually into U.N. bodies, which on occasion go out of their way to undermine America. Why should the U.S. fund anti-Americanism?
In fact, Biden’s grand gesture of contributing to the loss and damage fund did not earn much good will at COP27. As the Guardian reported, the U.N. gathering turned into a criticize-America fest.
Biden can “pledge” as much money as he wants to anti-American ventures, but the power of the purse resides with the House of Representatives.
The House can stop a bad precedent before it is set by refusing to authorize any contribution to the U.N.’s loss and damage fund.
Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang.
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