US Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, takes the negotiating position that the US will help finance mitigation and adaptation in the developing world (we also need to finance mitigation and adaptation here at home, which seems like another story, but really it isn’t). But that any US aid would NOT be reparations for climate debt. The US owes nothing to the world for its innocent pollution. Excuse me, sir?

This charity speak is part of the problem of climate finance–all the buzz at COP 15 over practically everything else. Personally,  I’m glad to see climate finance deals on the table, but not until world leaders agree on a 350 ppm limit. I fear that the finance-focused meeting (at least that’s how it appears on the outside) overshadows an important first step–limiting emissions. I say this with reluctance, in part because Three Degrees’ focus is on adaptation not mitigation (because we thought enough people were focused on that). But we can’t have climate justice if the world’s largest emitters commit to nothing else but financing their way out of the problem, externalizing the damage even more by paying the world off and that’s it. Climate justice is not charity. If we want to ensure a just climate finance package, it must be seen exactly as Todd Stern wishes it not to be seen; as the US paying off a climate debt to compensate the world for the vast injustice it’s created by building an empire on the backs of those less fortunate. And for doing so knowingly.

For more, read Amy Goodman‘s piece. In it she quotes one of my personal heros, Dr. Vandana Shiva, who says, “I think it’s time for the U.S. to stop seeing itself as a donor and recognize itself as a polluter, a polluter who must pay. … This is not about charity. This is about justice.”