From the Asia Pacific Forum in Colombo     | Pakistan Today

From the Asia Pacific Forum in Colombo    

Pakistan speaks up on Climate Change induced loss and damage

‘Where adaptation ends, loss and damage begins’ said Hina Lotia, one of the few Pakistani experts speaking at the 5th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum, 2016. Hina, Programme Director at Leadership for Environment and Development, a leading think tank on climate change in Pakistan, is one of more than 800 members of civil society, government, researchers and journalists gathered in Colombo to hash out ‘Adapting and Living under 2 degrees Celsius’.

The conference aims to bridge the gap between policy and practice, and in the case of a subject as debated as Loss and Damage, this may be easier said than done.

While Hina Lotia presented methodologies being tested in Pakistan to measure the loss and damage despite climate adaptation and mitigation, speakers at the conference from all over Asia highlighted loss and damage being a warning that we are not doing enough to counter the impacts of climate change.

This may not be a surprise since the Asia region as a whole faced the most climate related disasters between 2000 and 2008, and cost 27.5% of its total GDP in this period.

Loss and Damage has remained till late a dirty word in the climate change discussions, with developing countries being wary of it being a means to secure more funding.

Saleemul Haq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD)  noted that a significant milestone had been achieved last year at COP 21 in Paris in including Loss and Damage in the New Climate Agreement. He hoped that this would mean that all controversy associated with the topic has now been dispelled. ‘There are no natural climatic events anymore. We have interfered with the planet so much that any changes are now from human induced climate change’, he said.

A day earlier, at a session in the APAN forum on climate financing, the Additional secretary from the finance division of Pakistan, Ghazanfar Gillani, pointed out that almost 3% of Pakistan’s GDP growth rate had been compromised due to the impacts of climate change in the country.

Barney Dickson, UNEP, had already highlighted at a high level plenary that climate change adaptation may cost a lot more post 2020 than previously imagined. According to a report by the UNEP, previous estimates put the figure for adaptation to climate change post 2020 at 100 Billion USD. The report claims that this amount is now thought to be insufficient, and suggests that a more accurate figure would be in the region of 500 Billion USD by 2050.

The mechanism for disbursing these funds, the Green Climate Fund, has recently approved Pakistan’s first submission to the fund on an adaptation project in Pakistan. The project, dealing with Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in the North of Pakistan, a collaborative effort by the UNDP and the Ministry of Climate Change in Pakistan, has signed off conditional funding of USD 37 million to Pakistan.

It may be too soon to rejoice, however. Of the eight projects approved by the fund to date only one project, a household solar deployment in East Africa, has actually received GCF funding, according to Reuters.

For a subject as intrinsically linked to financing as Loss and Damage, countries such as Pakistan, who are the most vulnerable to climate change, need to overhaul many aspects of how to approach this issue.

Development Sector collaboration with the government may be one way. Mark Brown, Finance Secretary for the Cook Islands, another extremely vulnerable country, pointed out that ‘NGOs know how to stretch a dollar, as compared to a government who would have to go through a whole series of processes before getting an outcome’. It is important therefore for NGOs and governments to divvy up tasks according to skill sets.

Another important task is for Pakistan to collaborate with other South Asian countries on developing better methodologies for valuation of how to quantify loss and damage. This will help to better build the case for securing funding for compensation.

The UN’s State of Food and Agriculture Report, 2016, warns that by 2030, 122 million more people throughout the world could be living in extreme poverty due to climate change. With so much to lose, Pakistan must continue to push for this issue at local, national, regional and international forums to gain the traction needed for better adaptation outcomes.