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The UK government has a moral obligation to help those most affected by climate change

2010, Pakistan Survivors navigate severe flooding | Credit: Adobe

3 min read

Vulnerable communities in the Global South suffer the most from extreme weather events. Deidre Brock MP, shadow SNP spokesperson for COP, sets out how COP28 provides an opportunity for the UK government to step up and support those on the frontline.

It has become increasingly and frighteningly common for monthly temperatures to reach unprecedented levels, but the scale of the temperature increase in September still shocked climate scientists. Global temperatures soared 0.93°C above the average for that month during the period from 1991 to 2020, with Europe experiencing an even more staggering increase of 2.51°C. Zeke Hausfather, from climate data experts Carbon Brief, described the September data as “gobsmacking”.

In the same month, the Prime Minister made his reckless and deeply irresponsible announcement to roll back key net-zero commitments. The measures laid out will be devastating for our environment and have serious implications for Scotland’s own climate ambitions. It will also inflict further, serious damage to the United Kingdom’s already diminished international reputation following huge international aid cuts that have prevented climate change adaptation and mitigation projects worldwide.

We are already seeing the impact of soaring temperatures, whether it’s the extreme marine heatwave that encircled the UK and Ireland over the summer, leading to the loss of marine life and damage to coastal ecosystems, or record-breaking floods witnessed in recent winters.

The effects globally are even more devastating. One of the greatest injustices at the heart of the climate crisis is that communities that have done the least to contribute to the processes causing climatic breakdown are the first and hardest hit.

In the last couple of years, a third of Pakistan has been submerged in floodwaters; drought has ravaged the Horn of Africa, leading to famine and starvation; cyclones have wrought havoc in Malawi, and fires have torn through Hawaii. Low-lying nations are creating digital backups of their entire existence and culture for fear that, one day, they will not exist.

Countries of the Global North not only bear a substantial responsibility for the destructive consequences of climate change through our emissions; we have also benefited from the competitive advantages the early adoption of fossil fuels and industrialisation provided. Wealthy nations surely therefore have a moral obligation to recognise this historical responsibility and lead by example.

I’m extremely proud, too, that Scotland was the first country to announce funding specifically for loss and damage

That’s why the Scottish government is investing £36m in a Climate Justice Fund which aims to support those on the frontline of the global climate crisis. Some of these funds have been allocated to the Climate Justice Resilience Fund to support vulnerable communities in the Global South who have suffered loss and damage caused by climate change, with a specific focus on women and young people.

At COP27, the Scottish government pledged support to the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, a global women’s advocacy group, to enable women from the Global South to attend UN climate negotiations at COP28, and to provide women in indigenous communities with the resources to scale up local climate solutions.  

I’m extremely proud, too, that Scotland was the first country to announce funding specifically for loss and damage, with New Zealand, the European Union, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark and Wallonia since following suit. In the run up to COP28, the SNP has been pressing the UK government to commit to establishing a similar loss and damage fund, in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Accords. In Dubai, we will strongly advocate for progress on this vital support to go much further and faster.

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