SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja says developed countries need to help vulnerable economies recover from the effects of climate change.

The archbishop’s comments came as world leaders were meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the United Nations COP27 climate change conference.

In an email interview with Crux, the prelate said “rich nations stand to gain from stabilizing the most vulnerable economies.”

He said it was unjust that developing nations that did little to cause climate change should be suffering from its effects, and called on wealthy nations to “step up support for Africa and vulnerable countries in addressing past, present, and future impacts of climate change.”

Following are excerpts of that interview.

Crux: There is a push by African nations at the COP27 for polluters to affect loss and damage payments to help them cope with the destruction caused by climate change. Is there merit in this?

Kaigama: “Loss and Damage” refers to costs already being incurred from climate-related weather extremes or impacts. Dealing with this phenomenon is pushing developing countries into ever-greater debt and their economies to the brink of collapse. Quite apart from the moral imperative, the ‘polluter pays’ principle, rich nations stand to gain from stabilizing the most vulnerable economies.

Why do you think Western nations get so nervous whenever mention is made of loss and damage payments?

Wealthy nations must step up support for Africa and vulnerable countries in addressing past, present, and future impacts of climate change. Africa has suffered disproportionately from the climate crisis, although it has done little to cause the crisis.

The damage to Africa should be of supreme concern to all nations. This is partly for moral reasons. COP26 which took place in Glasgow, recognized the obligation of developed countries to address loss and damage in the developing world but failed to detail how finance would be mobilized. While the issue of loss and damage and who pays for it is raised at almost every COP, the overall picture since the Paris Agreement in 2015, has been one of stagnation.

If countries do agree to launch a fund, they would need to thrash out details such as where the money should come from, how much wealthy countries should pay, and which countries or disasters qualify for compensation. Providing finance for loss and damage has been resisted by some developed countries for a host of reasons. The U.S. and the EU, historically the world’s biggest emitters, argue that agreeing to such terms would open them up to never-ending litigation. These fears are coupled with a view that not only is the quantum of finance too great, but that the money would be better spent on mitigation and adaptation.

What do you make of African countries always rushing to the West, cap-in–hand in search of financial assistance?

African countries are overly dependent on external financing – donor driven or from foreign direct investment. The lack of development of local capital markets means that this scenario is likely to continue, although a strategic injection of seed finance in the right sectors can be transformative. The new fund should be set aside solely for the purpose of paying for the impact of climate change.

Loans should be targeted and strictly monitored. In the past, funds coming from abroad have been misapplied or embezzled through corruption. It shouldn’t be the case in this situation. Besides, African Countries must continue to find ways and means for their financial autonomy. We have the resources, human and natural, to be financially independent. The fact of the matter is that Africa is not poor, it is poorly managed.

Based on your experience with climate negotiations, do you think based on current commitments that the world is on track to meeting the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit to global warming?

The primary focus of climate summits remains to rapidly reduce emissions so that global temperature rises are kept to below 1.5°C. The biggest reason for pessimism after Glasgow is that the record on implementation is low. Agreement, ultimately, is built around commitments by individual States. Commitments have not been met by many States. Therefore, even as commitments in Glasgow fall short, the question is: will even these insufficient commitments be upheld? For example, available data suggests that, only 26 of 193 countries that agreed to step up their climate action last year have followed through with more ambitious plans.

What is the reality of climate change in your home country, Nigeria, and Africa as a whole?

Last month, floods in Nigeria killed more than 600 people and displaced 1.3 million. South Africa experienced its deadliest storm on record which killed more than 400 people in April this year, and an unprecedented drought is underway in the Horn of Africa. Other African countries that have been so flooded in varying degrees. The impacts of these events and ensuing costs are the losses and damages wrought by climate change.

As momentum on the issue of loss and damage grows at COP27, it will be important for African countries together with the G77 and China, to retain their unified position on loss and damage finance, and ideally build on these principles as a basis for agreement.

What has been, or what should be the role of the Church in the fight against climate change?

By remaining attached to the fundamental dynamic of the mission, which is to announce the Good News of salvation, the Catholic communities in Africa will have to rethink some great perspectives of their missionary activity in the light of the climate change crisis.

The climate change crisis has made the African populations very poor, which has worsened the suffering of the populations. Today, the Church in Africa must respond effectively to the suffering populations. She must not betray this hope. To do this, she must redouble her efforts in her service of charity. She must be at the forefront of supporting and helping the poor, whose numbers continue to truly grow. It’s a fight that the Church of Africa will not be able to win if she does not work seriously to meet the challenge of her financial autonomy.

This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.