Eco-activists say UK should pay £1 TRILLION for role in climate change

Eco-activists say UK should pay £1 TRILLION in damages for role in climate change: Rishi Sunak faces COP27 storm after ministers refuse to rule out ‘reparations’ to countries hit by global warming

  • Rishi Sunak is in Egypt for the COP27 summit after U-turning on his initial refusal to attend the gathering 
  • Nicola Sturgeon adding to pressure on UK and other wealthy nations to pay ‘reparations’ to climate-hit states
  • Mr Sunak has insisted there is ‘no hatchet to be buried’ with Boris Johnson if he bumps into him in Egypt 

Britain should pay a staggering £1trillion in reparations to developing countries hit by climate change, campaigners claimed today.

The warnings came as the UN climate conference, Cop27, gets under way in Egypt, UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres told world leaders gathering at the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh: ‘We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.’

Discussions about ‘loss and damage’ – compensation payments to countries suffering the impacts of climate change – are on the summit’s agenda for the first time.

The scale of the payment was denounced as ‘complete and utter madness’ by one MP, while former PM Boris Johnson said the UK simply ‘could not afford’ to hand over such vast sums. 

Charity War on Want said the £1trillion sum for reparations reflects the damage done to planet Earth by the UK burning fossil fuels to power our economy.

Asad Rehman of War on Want, told the Mail that paying reparations was ‘the right thing to do’.

The charity says that as the UK’s share of the total amount of greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuel is around 3.5 per cent, £1trillion would reflect the cost of removing that carbon. A trillion is a million millions, or a thousand billions.

Mr Rehman said: ‘The UK was able to industrialise and take resources from the rest of the world and power its economy by burning fossil fuels.

‘This is plainly morally the right thing to do. The UK should step up and accept the responsibility.’

Mr Rehman added that ‘reparations’ were the right term to use. ‘This is not charity, this is not aid, this is the UK accepting the harm it’s created and repairing that harm.’

Britain, as the first country to industrialise, has historically been the fifth biggest emitter, Mr Rehman said. While it only contributes 1 per cent to the total amount of greenhouse gas produced each year at present, its share historically is around 3-3.5 per cent.

Daniel Willis, of Global Justice Now, which supports reparations payments said: ‘The world needs to find a way to pay for rebuilding after climate disasters, which are already costing $116billion [£101billion) a year.

‘Countries need to be looking to the fossil fuel industry to raise a major part of it – the five biggest oil companies alone have made over $170billion (£148billion) in profits in the last year’.

Rishi Sunak is facing a growing row about ‘reparations’ to states hit by climate change as he makes his debut on the world stage at the COP27 summit.

The PM is in Egypt for the gathering having U-turned on his original decision not to attend.

But the event is promising to be tricky as vulnerable countries demand a ‘loss and damage’ mechanism for extreme weather events caused by climate change – at the same time as the UK imposes swingeing austerity and tax rises at home.

In other developments today: 

  • Mr Sunak said he is ‘disappointed’ with Matt Hancock for taking part in I’m A Celebrity, with Business Secretary Grant Shapps saying he should be helping constituents;
  • The PM held talks with Emmanuel Macron over the Channel migrant crisis as he pushes for a new deal;
  • Mr Johnson used his own speech in Egypt to attack ‘corrosive cynicism’ on the drive towards Net Zero, and denied trying to upstage Mr Sunak; 
  • Mr Sunak has insisted he will not be ‘Scrooge’ after the Autumn Statement on November 17, despite signs Jeremy Hunt will bring in swingeing tax hikes and spending cuts.  

What countries could be in line for money from a ‘loss and damage’ climate mechanism? 

Debate over whether and how to compensate vulnerable countries for ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change has been raging for decades.

Supporters argue that states that have not contributed much to carbon emissions are suffering worst from extreme weather and rising sea levels.

However, critics insist there is no way developed countries can be held responsible for behaviour during industrialisation – which also brought huge improvements in living standards around the globe – or have the means to pay for all the consequences.

There is no agreed definition of what constitutes ‘loss and damage’ from climate change, certainty about how the impact will be felt over the coming decades, consensus on who deserves money, or clarity about how the bill would break down between developed states.

Any effort to include China in a list of those due damages would cause fury.  

One often-cited study from 2018 attempted to calculate the costs for vulnerable countries that could not be met by ‘adaptation’, suggesting it could reach a trillion dollars a year by 2040. 

Some of the countries often named as in need of support are:  

Maldives; Pakistan; Bangladesh; Nigeria; Jamaica; Barbados; Marshall Islands; Vanuatu. 

Nicola Sturgeon – who has also jetted in for the summit – upped the pressure this morning, saying there is an ‘obligation’ on countries that industrialised first to help ‘deal with the impacts’. 

Business Secretary Grant Shapps pointedly refused to rule out the idea completely, saying the UK is ‘supportive of discussions’ taking place at Sharm El-Sheikh. The topic is on the agenda at the annual conference for the first time. 

However, Downing Street stressed that there is no question of ‘reparations’ and instead pointed to the tripling of the climate ‘adaptation fund’ to £1.5billion by 2025. 

And former PM Boris Johnson told a fringe event that Britain ‘simply doesn’t have the financial resources’ to pay reparations and ‘no country does’.

While admitting that the UK had contributed vast carbon emissions, he argued that the focus should be on finding private investment and technological solutions. ‘Let’s look to the future,’ he added.

There is no agreed definition of what constitutes ‘loss and damage’ from climate change, certainty about how the impact will be felt over the coming decades, or clarity about how the costs would break down between developed states.

Any effort to include China in a list of those due damages would cause fury. 

One often-cited study from 2018 attempted to calculate the costs for vulnerable countries that could not be met by ‘adaptation’, suggesting it could reach a trillion dollars a year by 2040. 

In a statement as the summit kicked off, the Alliance of Small Island States called for a new loss and damage response fund that is operational by 2024, as well as for emissions to peak and decline immediately and reform of the financial system away from fossil fuels.

The group of nations, whose very existence is threatened by the rising seas and increasingly stormy weather caused by climate change, said the fossil fuel industry had been raking in three billion US dollars a day for 30 years.

‘It is still cheaper, and faster, to get money to destroy the planet than to save it,’ they said.

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Rishi Sunak meets Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson during the Cop27 summit at Sharm el-Sheikh

Mr Kristersson bent down at one point, seemingly to scrawl his contact details on a piece of paper

Mr Sunak also greeted Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic on his first foreign trip since entering Downing Street

Rishi Sunak chats to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog at the COP27 summit in Egypt today

Rishi Sunak met other leaders including the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen at the summit in Egypt today

Mr Sunak with UAE president Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan today


Boris Johnson told a fringe event that Britain ‘simply doesn’t have the financial resources’ to pay reparations and ‘no country does’. Nicola Sturgeon has backed calls for a loss and damage mechanism 

The UN Secretary General insisted COP27 must agree on a ‘clear time-bound roadmap’ to addressing loss and damage from climate change

Mr Sunak is facing a difficult test as developing countries demand ‘reparations’ for extreme weather events caused by climate change – as the UK imposing swingeing austerity and tax rises at home

Boris Johnson today joked that the ‘unbearable’ heatwave in London this summer could have triggered the coup against him.

The former PM speculated on the effect of the heat – regarded as evidence of climate change – as he spoke at the COP27 summit in Egypt.

Mr Johnson also denied he was upstaging Rishi Sunak by attending the gathering, saying he was now merely a ‘foot soldier and spear carrier’ for the Conservatives.

He told the New York Times event that he was acting as the ‘spirit’ of the COP26 summit that was held in Glasgow during his premiership last year. 

Mr Johnson was forced to step down from Downing Street after a wave of ministerial resignations – including that of Mr Sunak – made his position untenable.

Following the collapse of the administration formed by successor Liz Truss, he then dramatically pulled out of the Conservative leadership contest at the last moment.

Downing Street said Mr Sunak is looking to set the seal on last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow with more than £200million in UK funding to protect forests and invest in ‘green’ technologies.

Mr Sunak’s attendance at the gathering in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh alongside leaders such as US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron marks his first outing on the international stage since becoming PM last month.

In interviews yesterday, shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband stressed it would also be in Britain’s ‘self-interest’ to boost aid to developing countries.

But, while he highlighted both Pakistan and the Maldives as possible recipients of ‘loss and damage’ payments, he denied it would also see China handed cash.

Mr Miliband also shied away from describing payments to developing countries as ‘reparations’ for climate change damage, adding that ‘lots of people are allergic to the term ‘reparations”.

A debate over ‘loss and damage’ is expected to be a key issue at the Cop-27 summit, with developing countries having already made demands ahead of the Egypt gathering.

The G77+ China group of nations are also set to repeat their call for a dedicated financing facility for loss and damage. 

Ms Sturgeon said there was an ‘obligation’ on richer countries that have largely caused climate change to help those suffering the impact of it.

She told the BBC: ‘I think this Cop is an opportunity for the global north and the global south to come together and have a proper, grown-up conversation about how we make progress.

‘We’ve got to mitigate climate change, we’ve got to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, but as we’ve seen over the past year, not least in Pakistan, there are many parts of the world that are suffering loss and damage now that is irreversible and can’t be mitigated against.

‘There is an obligation in the spirit of solidarity for the richer countries that have largely caused climate change to now make a big effort to help those dealing with the impacts address that.’

In his speech to world leaders, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for action to double support to help poorer countries adapt to climate change.

But he also said the ‘harsh truth’ is that it was not possible to adapt to the growing number of catastrophic events around the world.

‘The deadly impacts of climate change are here and now. Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative,’ he said, calling for concrete results on the issue at Cop27.

Mr Guterres also called for a pact between developed and developing countries, in which all nations make an extra effort to reduce emissions, richer countries provide financial assistance to help emerging economies speed their own renewable transition, and to end dependence on fossil fuels.

However, the PM’s official spokesman said there was no question of ‘reparations’.

‘We are already helping countries across the world deal with the impacts of climate change and recognise the existential threat it poses to countries around the world from flooding to drought,’ the spokesman said.

‘That’s why we’ve made a commitment to these countries to support them on that front.

‘As we said over the weekend, we’re tripling funding for climate adaptation.

‘That’s from £500million to £1.5billion in 2025. And the Prime Minister is confirming £65million in funding for the Nature, People and Climate Investment Fund – that supports indigenous and local forest communities.

‘My understanding is that neither reparations or liabilities is what’s being discussed at Cop-27.

‘It’s about working together to support climate vulnerable countries as I set out.’

He added: ‘We’re not talking about reparations or liability we are talking about continuing to provide that support for countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.’

In a round of interviews this morning, Business Secretary Grant Shapps dodged on whether the Government accepted the principle of ‘reparations’ to poorer countries.

‘We’re accepting the principle there’s a discussion to be had about this, and actually, in a sense, that’s been accepted all along,’ 

‘Today for example, the Prime Minister’s announcing over £65 million of assistance to developing countries to be able to produce energy in a sustainable way, there’s been a tacit acceptance.

‘We industrialised first and we appreciate the rest of the world needs to be able to bring themselves along as well.’

Asked if the payments could therefore happen, he added: ‘There is a big international discussion going on, that’s one of the things happening at Cop27 in Egypt and we’re supportive of discussions going on, that’s the British position.’

In his opening address, the PM will say it is essential countries stick to commitments made in Glasgow if the world is to avoid the worst impact of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

At the same time, he will argue that the transition away from fossil fuels has the potential to drive growth and deliver jobs in the new green industries of the future, while cutting off funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Mr Sunak is expected to say: ‘The world came together in Glasgow with one last chance to create a plan that would limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. The question today is: can we summon the collective will to deliver on those promises?

‘I believe we can. By honouring the pledges we made in Glasgow, we can turn our struggle against climate change into a global mission for new jobs and clean growth.

‘And we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future. That’s a legacy we could be proud of.’

Before arriving in Sharm El-Sheikh overnight, the Prime Minister said he wanted the UK to be a leader on the issue.

‘We led the world last year when it came to the Cop we hosted, achieved some very important things, we need to cement our leadership,’ he told The Sun.

‘I want to make sure I’m there flying the flag for the UK, being a leader on these issues.’

He also paid tribute to the role of the King, even though he will not be at the gathering following an agreement between the Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

‘He has demonstrated incredible leadership on this issue for a very long time. Even though he is not going to be there in person, I know he will be there in spirit. His leadership and influence will be guiding us,’ he said.

Downing Street said Mr Sunak will announce a further £65.5million for the clean energy innovation facility which provides grants to researchers and scientists in developing countries working on clean technologies – from biomass-powered refrigeration in India to lithium-ion batteries in Nigeria.

The UK is also committing £90million for conservation in the Congo Basin rainforest and £65 million to support indigenous and local forest communities as Mr Sunak launches a new group to track commitments made in Glasgow on deforestation.

Mr Sunak shaking hands with new Italian PM Giorgia Meloni today

Rishi Sunak is in Egypt for the COP27 summit having U-turned on his original decision to to attend

The PM held talks with Emmanuel Macron (pictured today) over the Channel migrant crisis later as he pushes for a new deal

The UK is handing over the baton on the COP summits to Egypt, having hosted the 26th gathering in Glasgow last year

Mr Sunak had originally not intended to travel to Egypt, arguing his priority was to sort out the estimated £60billion black hole in the public finances ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on November 17.

But he was forced into what opposition parties called a ‘screeching U-turn’ after coming under fire from within his own party, as well as from environmentalists questioning his commitment to the net zero agenda.

Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said the Prime Minister should now drop plans to issue more licences for North Sea exploration and end the Government’s opposition to onshore wind.

‘Rishi Sunak is the man who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to go to Cop so it’s simply implausible for him to claim the mantle of climate leadership. Rishi Sunak is a fossil fuel prime minister in a renewable age,’ he said.

The latest round of UN climate talks takes place against a backdrop of devastating extreme weather around the world as well as an energy and cost-of-living crisis driven by President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UN has warned that, based on countries’ latest climate action plans, there is currently no credible pathway to meet the 1.5C goal intended to avoid the worst impact of global warming.

Rich countries are also falling short in providing the finance needed to help developing nations adapt to a changing climate and develop cleanly, the UN has warned.

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