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The emissions of the British empire in the past were twice as high as the current climate responsibility of the UK.

New analysis has shown that the UK is responsible for nearly double the amount of global heating when its colonial past is factored in.

The UK’s domestic emissions account for 3% of total world emissions dating back to 1850. But when responsibility for emissions in countries once under the British empire’s rule is given to the UK, the figure rises to more than 5%.

The increase in emissions is mainly due to deforestation in colonized nations, with the largest contributors being India, Myanmar, and Nigeria prior to gaining independence.

According to Carbon Brief’s analysis, the UK now ranks fourth in terms of all-time emissions, moving up from eighth place. This places them behind the US, China, and Russia.

The rise in global temperatures, causing record breaking heat in 2023, is primarily caused by carbon emissions from wealthy countries. Unfortunately, the most severe consequences of extreme weather are affecting less affluent nations, despite their significantly lower emissions.

The topic of accountability is a significant aspect in the global discussions held by the United Nations on climate change. These discussions will continue at Cop28 in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.

It is crucially significant to discuss the allocation of climate finance to developing countries. The creation of a “loss and damage” fund will be a highly debated topic at the conference.

According to Dr Simon Evans from Carbon Brief, our recent analysis provides a compelling new viewpoint on issues of climate equity. While it is widely acknowledged that colonizers exploited natural resources from colonized territories to bolster their own economic and political dominance, the connection to past emissions had not been measured until this point.

The results of our study emphasize the significant past obligation of developed nations in the current increase in temperature, specifically the European colonial powers.

Several countries have seen a decrease in their emissions. However, due to their current wealth and past actions that have contributed to global warming, they are expected to shoulder the responsibility of aiding less developed nations in their efforts to combat climate change, as recognized by the international climate agreement.

According to Evans, the amount of carbon dioxide released over time has a direct impact on the heating levels at the surface of the Earth, making historical emissions a crucial factor.

This means even CO2

Emissions from 170 years ago are still playing a role in the planet’s rising temperatures. This analysis takes into account emissions from fossil fuels, cement production, and the deforestation of forests and other natural areas.

According to the analysis, including their colonial emissions causes countries like the Netherlands and France to significantly rise in the ranking of historical responsibility for the climate crisis. The Netherlands, known for colonizing Indonesia, jumps from 35th to 12th place in the ranking, with a nearly tripled amount of cumulative emissions. Similarly, the French total increases by 50%.

The study also measures the total emissions per person for each country since 1850, taking into account current population. Using this measurement, the Netherlands has the greatest historical emissions per capita, followed by the UK in second place, among countries with populations of at least 1 million.

Dr. Nfamara Dampha, a scientist from Gambia at the University of Minnesota in the US, stated that the effects of climate change have caused significant destruction and harm in numerous territories formerly under British colonial rule.

“If nothing is done, Banjul, the capital city of the Gambia, is expected to disappear entirely by the year 2100.”

Last year, wealthy nations such as the UK agreed to create a fund for loss and damage. However, as we approach Cop28, the issue of climate justice and reparations is being neglected.

According to him, the reason for this is that the fund’s structure does not effectively hold previous colonizers responsible for paying their fair share. This is based on factors such as historical responsibility, fairness, and the principle of polluter-pays.

Zahra Hdidou, a representative from ActionAid UK, stated that the examination was particularly concerning for the UK. As the fourth largest contributor of carbon emissions in history, the country has a responsibility to combat climate change. However, its current actions do not align with its rhetoric.

She referenced the distribution of recent oil and gas permits and the dispute surrounding the distribution of a pledged £11.6bn in climate-related funding.

The UK government representative stated that this assessment neglects the reality that the UK is actively reducing emissions at a much faster rate than other major economies. Currently, the UK is responsible for only 1% of global annual emissions.

“In order to reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it is necessary for us to prioritize the future. That is why we are dedicating billions of dollars to aid in the transition towards achieving net zero emissions and further reducing pollution.”

The Carbon Brief study utilized documented records of past emissions from 1850 to 2021, and incorporated additional data to reflect projections up to 2023. Details regarding the history of foreign domination were obtained from a separate published research.

The examination of the United Kingdom included 46 nations that were previously under the rule of the British empire. Emissions from past Soviet republics were attributed to Russia.

Source: theguardian.com