GLOBAL leaders are being urged to follow the lead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by pledging money to compensate countries suffering the most from climate change.

The call has come ahead of COP27 which begins in Egypt today as the world faces an “existential crisis”.

Scotland last year became the first country to commit to paying “loss and damages” to countries at the forefront of the climate change crisis and Sturgeon has been praised for “breaking the taboo” by promising £2m.

Wallonia in Belgium and Denmark have since followed and the issue is on the official agenda for the first time at this year’s event.

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“We are hoping world leaders will take a lead from the First Minister of Scotland who last year pledged £2m to compensate for loss and damage – I liked that she said she said this was not ‘charity’ but ‘reparation’ for people, mostly in the global south, for the suffering they have experienced and are going through even as we speak,” Zambia-based Father Leonard Chiti, told the Sunday National.

Covering countries in ­southern ­Africa in his day job as Jesuit ­Superior and an ambassador for the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), he has seen first-hand the effects of climate change caused by man-made global warming.

Speaking from Lusaka, he said: “Climate change for us is really a ­matter of life and death. People are not able to protect themselves from the extreme weather climates and they don’t have the resources to ­rebuild their lives or livelihoods once the damage is done.

“We are coming to Egypt with a very simple message – that people in the north have caused the most ­emissions that are causing global warming and climate change but ­people in the south, who have caused the least damage, are the ones suffering the most. It is a moral issue.”

Father Chiti, who was at COP26 in Glasgow, said it was significant that this year’s conference is being held in Africa as many people from the global south had been unable to go to Scotland last year, partly because of the Covid pandemic and also because many found it too difficult to obtain visas from the UK Home Office.

The National: Father Leonard Chiti (above) praised Scotland’s First MinisterFather Leonard Chiti (above) praised Scotland’s First Minister

He said he hoped the Egyptian ­location would amplify the voices of people bearing the brunt of climate change as the global north had so far had failed to act on commitments made at previous COPs.

“One is tempted to say that if they were going through the experiences we are going through here in the south they would act without any hesitation and provide the resources required to compensate for the damage and rebuild people’s lives,” said Chiti.

Small island states first made the call for a Loss and Damage fund around 30 years ago. Last year in Glasgow, the G77 group of nations led by Pakistan and China called for a global gund to be set up to address loss and damage happening now. Last month, Pakistan’s call for action was highlighted when it recently suffered catastrophic floods which could cost it $30 bilion. At COP27, a group of vulnerable nations will pick up where delegates left off in Glasgow and demand a framework to address loss and damages.

SCIAF is backing the move, calling on the UK government to build on Scotland’s lead and support a ­global fund. The charity argues that as ­outgoing COP President, the UK Government must commit funds to pay towards these losses and damages and encourage the richest countries to do likewise.

“It is really important that the UK Government plays a positive role on calling for more ambition on emission reductions and also champions the idea of a global fund ­facility,” said Anne Callaghan of SCIAF, who is travelling from Scotland for the conference. “The UK needs to commit finance for this and it needs to be grants not loans, because we are seeing the rise of climate ­indebtedness.”

She said it was wrong that low and middle income countries, who have least contributed to cause climate change, were being forced to take out loans to pay for problems that richer countries had caused.

“It is utterly unjust and not sustainable at all,” Callaghan said. “We hope the Scottish Government continues its leadership on the issue of loss and damage and challenges other ­countries to follow suit. The First Minister helped to break the taboo around the issue last year but we need to see a much bigger ­global ­commitment from other richer ­countries to a global finance facility.”

Callaghan added that there also needed to be more action in Scotland in terms of reducing emissions.

“It was in Scotland that the Industrial Revolution was kicked off with the creation of the steam engine and its use of fossil fuels which has driven the climate change impacts that we are seeing worldwide today,” she said.

“It is those who have done the least to cause climate change that are the most impacted so we have to reduce emissions and move away from fossil fuel reliance.”

The National: Anne Callaghan. Pic: Chris HoskinsAnne Callaghan. Pic: Chris Hoskins

Callaghan said that the cost of ­living crisis and the climate crisis are drawn from the same root problem in the use of more fossil fuels “We have got to move to renewables and energy efficiency because that is much better for the planet, ­better for energy security and costs for ­everyday living, and better for more insulated homes,” she said.

“We are all dealing with an energy crisis and now is the time to invest in a just transition.

“We are at a point of existential ­crisis and we need to move away from fossil fuels in order to save us all.”