(Reuters) – Leaders from poor countries criticized wealthy governments and oil companies for driving global warming, using their speeches on Tuesday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt to demand that they pay up for damages being inflicting on their economies.
Small island states already buffeted by increasingly violent ocean storms and sea-level rise called on oil companies to shell out some of their huge recent profits, while developing African states called for more international funds.
“The oil and gas industry continues to earn almost 3 billion United States dollars daily in profits,” said Gaston Browne, Antigua’s prime minister, speaking at the conference on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.
“It is about time that these companies are made to pay a global carbon tax on their profits as a source of funding for loss and damage,” he said. “While they are profiting, the planet is burning.”
The comments reflected the tension in international climate negotiations between rich and poor states, as delegates attended the second full day of the two-week conference in the seaside resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall told the conference poor developing nations in Africa needed increased funding for adaptation to worsening climate change, and would resist calls for an immediate shift away from fossil fuels that could undermine their economic growth.
“Let’s be clear, we are in favor of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But we Africans cannot accept that our vital interests be ignored,” he said.
BILLIONS FOR WAR
Sri Lanka’s president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said Western governments were quick to divert billions of dollars to the war in Ukraine, but slow to spend on climate change.
“Double standards are unacceptable,” he said. “It is no secret that climate financing has missed the target… As many developed nations deem it fit to wait on their climate financing contributions, these countries were also on both sides of the Ukraine war and seemed to have no qualms spending for a war.”
Scores of other heads of state and government were scheduled to speak on Tuesday, but many of the world’s biggest polluters – including the United States, China and India – were not on Tuesday’s schedule.
U.S. President Joe Biden will not arrive until next week, but his delegation opened its pavilion at the COP27 venue on Tuesday and Special Envoy John Kerry was making the rounds.
Conference host Egypt, meanwhile, was facing criticism from human rights activists over its jailing of Egyptian-British blogger Alaa Abd el-Fattah. Abd el-Fattah rose to prominence during Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising but has been detained for most of the time since and is now on a hunger strike.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has been hoping its hosting of the COP27 conference would give it an injection of international legitimacy at a time its economy has been struggling.