'The climate agenda and the development agenda'

Waves crash into the beach as the tail end of Storm Corrie moves through Blyth in Northumberland loo

Waves crash into the beach as the tail end of Storm Corrie moves through Blyth in Northumberland - Credit: PA

As I look at the headlines emerging from the storms hitting various parts of the world, the need for swift action to adapt and moderate the impacts of climate change is becoming clearer.

New York City faces historic blizzards and has declared a state of emergency. Close to home we’ve had Storm Corrie following on closely from Storm Malik. 90mph winds will rage again through the north of England and Scotland. The pain will be hard – 34,000 people were without power a day after Malik.

In London we are fortunate so far. Richer countries will in any event be able to provide warnings, construct levees around cities at least – even here rural houses fall into the sea. Countries like Australia may also adapt in other ways – $1bn is to be spent on the Great Barrier Reef, whilst continuing to export coal worldwide hastening the process of ocean acidification and warming.

Maya de Souza shows the connection between investment and climate change.

Maya De Souza says richer countries will be able to provide climate warnings - Credit: Archant

However, in parallel, Storm Ana has led to severe floods in southern Africa. Many have been killed and over 200,000 people displaced, according to the reports. Services are limited, and people have little put by to rely on. Per capita income of Mozambique is just $448.5, Malawi $636.8, and Madagascar $471.50 per annum, compared to around $35,000 per annum in Europe. These are the countries with the lowest carbon emissions (0.3t, 0.1t, 0.2t respectively compared with UK per capital emissions of 5.8t per annum), blameless for our unstable climate. Yet I wonder whether those displaced will ever see their homes again?

Those countries are caught in a triple bind: hugely indebted, the costs of finance is high, and social political stability is elusive in those circumstances. The lines of the dispossessed, the climate refugees will grow.

There is a glimmer of hope from COP26, with rich countries setting a goal to double adaptation finance – taking it to $40bn per year. Sadly, considering the broken promise of $100bn to finance the transition to a low carbon economy, we can’t be sure that the pledge will materialise.

The climate agenda cannot therefore be separated from the development agenda. Many of us will feel powerless as individuals. But there are some things we can do: buy products from poorer countries (sustainably produced preferably), buy Fairtrade products, and reflect carefully on your charitable contributions and the development agenda of the political parties. None of us want to look back and wonder why we didn’t do more to help avoid a huge humanitarian catastrophe.

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Maya De Souza is chair of Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum.