Since spring 2020, we have talked about vaccine inequity as it becomes more and more evident how richer countries are supplying their own population first and foremost. «Vaccine nationalism» is a term spreading globally. WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has since warned against COVID-19 ‘vaccine nationalism’, urging support for fair access to vaccines for all.
Although the covid crisis is under control in some parts of the world, it will remain a continuous crisis for years in other parts. We must remember: The pandemic is not over until we are all vaccinated. More than 60 % of the population in a region must be vaccinated to ensure herd immunity.
Recently, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa stated, “It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 % of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1 % has gone to low-income countries.” In many richer countries, there are discussions on how to roll out the third dose of covid vaccines, while in many regions, such as Africa, the vast majority of the population has not received a single dose. The World Health Organization says only 15 % of promised donations of vaccines — from rich countries that have access to large quantities of them — have been delivered.
Will the world see a different response from rich countries to the looming climate crisis? Will there be a climate nationalism on how we finance emission cuts? Will there be a global climate nationalism in how we meet and adapt to the inevitable climate change?
In August 2021, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Panel (IPCC) published a report stating current and imminent consequences of climate change. The climate crisis is here, now. And it will escalate. How many degrees of global warming the world must face in 30, 50, or 100 years we do not know exactly, but we can estimate.
A recent UN report, based on emission data from 191 countries, tells us that the main goal set up in the 2015 Paris agreement will not be accomplished and that global warming must stay below 2 degrees warming by the end of this century to avoid dangerous climate change. However, as the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres clearly stated, if emissions do not decrease, the world will see an increase of 2,7 degrees Celsius.
The Paris agreement also states that rich countries must contribute financially in helping poor countries cut their emissions, and to adapt to climate change. Countries that are not quite as rich can also contribute, but it is not mandatory. Initially, richer countries will contribute $100 billion a year. This figure is supposed to increase gradually.
With the experience from the covid crisis, can we be trusted?
Consequences of climate injustice
Climate injustice is not a prediction; the injustice is happening here and now, and it effects poorer countries in a severe and deadly manner. Rich countries are largely to account for the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while low- and middle-income countries will now have to bear the consequences.
Poorer countries have an infrastructure that will not withstand a more extreme climate. Rich countries can build and facilitate roads, drains, and houses in a way that poorer countries cannot.
1.5 million people in southeastern Africa were hit by cyclone Idai in March 2019, leaving large parts of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe under water. It was the most powerful cyclone ever experienced in the area. A few weeks later came cyclone Kenneth, which was even stronger. A combination of cyclones, floods, and droughts has left 16.7 million people in the region living under continuous risk of severe food shortages.
In Bangladesh this July, days of heavy monsoon rains led to floods, destruction, and deaths in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. According to the UN, Cox’s Bazar camp is the world’s largest refugee camp, and it primarily houses Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.
A man from Bangladesh was recently granted residence in France on the grounds of severe asthma and that the air pollution in his home country will most likely be fatal to him. This is “the beginning of a new era with more and more climate and environmental migrants,” said UN Special Rapporteur UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.
Look to Norway – or?
Norway has had enormous revenues from our oil production since the 1960s. The Norwegian oil state has currently invested USD 1356 billion in more than 9000 companies worldwide. Norway has used its oil wealth to buy into real estate and companies all over the planet.
Norway releases approx. 50 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents every single year. The combustion of oil and gas coming from Norway leads to emissions of approximately 500 million tonnes of CO2 annually. That is around 10 times as much as the total national Norwegian emissions. Global greenhouse gas emissions are around 50 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Norwegian oil and gas are thus a significant source of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Hence, the Norwegian oil and gas that causes climate change is also a source of enormous income for the small country of Norway. In the last 50 years, Norway has become very prosperous, with a rich welfare state. With this, our consumption has also increased: If all people on Earth were to have the same consumption as the average inhabitant of Norway, we would need 3.4 globes. In comparison, if all people had the same consumption as a citizen of Mozambique, we would need 0.5 globes.
Norway is an example of rich oil-producing countries at the forefront of causing the climate crisis that is now escalating. We therefore must take the lead in de-escalating the consequences of climate change. The alternative is that poorer countries pay the price for our prosperity and our emissions.
In the future, this will be known as climate nationalism, and it will have effects that are similar to the vaccine nationalism that is currently causing poor countries to be much harder hit by the corona pandemic.
To prevent climate nationalism, we will to a large extent have to rely on democratic institutions. A free and critical press has a central role in this, casting lights on clearly unjust strategies that safeguards one nation’s interests alone.
As the transition – although too slow – towards a sustainable and renewable world hopefully progresses, undesired effects follow. Building renewable energy systems can also harm natural environments as well as cause injustice towards people.
Wind farms in Norway have been built for a couple of decades now, and many of them – most, many people would say – are located in beautiful nature hotspots. What’s more, some are also in conflict with indigenous peoples’ traditional ways of making a living. In some cases, Sami people, herding their big flocks of reindeer, find that their animals are cut off from traditional routes towards pasture due to the disturbance from huge windmills, which the reindeer tend to avoid. Although the people are financially compensated, the Sami culture faces a threat.
A very explicit example of how wrong things can go occurred this October. Europe’s largest wind power park, consisting of several sites, is situated on the Fosen island in the midst of Norway, in Trøndelag county. Two of the sites, Storheia and Roan, were by Norway’s High Court found as being illegally built.
The reason? The windparks are a violence of the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, or in other words and in this case, a violence on the rights of the Sami people. The Sami community initially opposed the building of the windparks, but was overruled by the authorities. Storheia windpark and Roan was finished only two years ago, and the High Court sentence has already raised claims that all the 151 wind turbines must be taken down. Which also seems to be the logical outcome.
The financial cost will be huge though, and it will at the same time mean a step in the wrong direction for the green transition in Norway. 80 of the wind turbines in Storheia produce enough energy to supply 400 000 electric cars with power.
The scandal is a fact. The majority owner of Fosen Vind is Statkraft, which is owned by the Norwegian state.
Solving the climate crisis leads to an increased nature crisis?
Added to the cultural clashes, wind farms also cause degradation of nature. Pristine sceneries are forever disturbed. Many of the wind turbines create so much light reflection and noise that quality of life is harmed for people living in such areas. In Norway, this has caused significant protests, almost a mass movement, against establishing this kind of renewable energy. At least three new environmental organisations have been founded in Norway for the sole purpose of fighting against windparks.
It can be argued that inconvenience that follows renewable energy must be tolerated, and also by indigenous people. And by rich countries, even more so. In Norway a lot of nature has been lost to the development of hydropower plants since WW2. Land based wind power should therefore be situated where the infrastructure already is disturbed and not ruin pristine nature. This also has to do with dealing with the nature crisis: we cannot forever keep on reducing diversity in nature.
Climate injustice takes place all over the world. People living in the southern hemisphere, and in poor countries, are harmed more than other people. The industrial rich world generates far more emissions than the poor south, yet it is the latter that suffer most from flooding, drought, and other devastating consequences from climate change. But as we have seen in Norway, the transition towards a sustainable society in a rich country can also cause injustice. In many of these cases, indigenous people are the victims.
How can this be avoided in the future? In Norway, the recent High Court sentence will draw a line. New wind projects – or other kinds of energy projects – face considerable obstruction as a result and will probably be politically impossible to realize. Internationally, the UN channels must secure indigenous peoples’ rights, and with strength. The issue must climb even higher on the UN agenda than it already is.
Image: Jason Decaires Taylor / Internet