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The Climate in Egypt and Qatar

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

If you want to see what a “climate of justice” looks like, look at the COP27 meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

First, the rich nations agreed to put on the meeting’s agenda the issue of “loss and damage.” The question was how to balance the scale between those who have both caused and benefited from climate disruption and those who were innocent and had suffered.

For two weeks, the wealthy and privileged listened to representatives of hurt and vulnerable peoples. As the Prime Minister of Ireland, Michael Martin, said:

The burden of climate change globally is falling most heavily on those least responsible for our predicament. We will not see the change we need without climate justice.

Once it was on the agenda, the call for justice could not be ignored. By the third day of the meeting, European nations had pledged millions to a “loss and damage” fund. There were also holdouts. At first The United States declined to join the other wealthy nations in supporting the fund and only on the last day did they accept such a fund.

Whether the US pays for its damages to other nations is uncertain at best. The next Republican controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to agree to send money oversees to those who have suffered from our prosperity.

The point is: The COP27 conference demonstrated what a climate of justice would entail. The privileged and the vulnerable engage in cooperative conversations about making amends for past injustices.

The World Cup, on the other hand, is taking place in a climate of injustice.

First, there is the violation of fundamental human rights. But there is more: Instead of listening to the poor and vulnerable—such as migrant workers—Qatar has exploited them. Qatar has spent between 200 and 300 billion dollars building a city for the World Cup, which represents not only an unjust distribution of wealth but also an environmental disaster.

Then there is the World Cup itself. How could something be unjust when beloved by millions? Marx said that religion was the opium of the people, but then he didn’t know about sports.

It’s easy and maybe necessary to engage in a kind of social amnesia to join in current pastimes. On the other hand, it’s past time we looked at where we are headed.

These two events in the Middle East tell us a lot about the difference between a climate of justice and a climate of injustice and they also give us two models to imitate. What’s our choice?

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