Climate targets and the case of Pakistan

This is with reference to the report “Guterres calls upon firms to end ‘toxic cover-up’” (Nov 9), which quoted United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for the global corporate sector, as well as cities and regions, to come good on their voluntary net zero pledges. He rightly exposed the corporate world by pointing out that such entities cannot claim to be net zero if they continue to invest in new fossil fuels, cause deforestation or offset emissions instead of reducing them.

The UN chief was delivering his address at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was held recently in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh.

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The corporate sector, and, indeed, the world at large would do well to pay heed to the warning that if things continued unchanged, the ‘toxic cover-up’ and the ‘bogus net zero pledges’ could push the world ‘over the climate cliff’.

COP meetings have been routinely held since the mid-1990s in the hope of mainstreaming the climate change phenomenon, to generate awareness, to set targets and to convert promises into actions in terms of energy transitions, clean technologies and carbon emission.

There is no denying the significance of the core agenda that lies at the heart of the discussion, but one can argue about the narrowness of the debate, discussion and line of action in relation to the critical core. If the climate-related happenings in Pakistan are anything to go by, and they surely are, there is a strong case for a narrative transition towards the vulnerable periphery of the globe.

The environmental security narrative has unfortunately evolved in a degenera-tive manner, fundamentally reflecting the Western framework of mitigation and carbon management.

The fact is that carbon emission reduction cannot be a solution for vulnerable countries, like Pakistan, which contributes only 0.49 per cent to the world’s total carbon footprint, and yet suffers big time for no fault of its own.

Pakistan can, and should, take a lead in this case as scientifically and technically neither carbon emission reduction is a solution, nor seeking financial reparations going to be enough to ensure a climate-resilient Pakistan.

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It is time to acknowledge the significance and criticality of the concept of climate security, and that the universalisation of norms is counter-productive concerning the prevailing asymmetries in the structural and proximate causes of climate calamities across the globe. Any one-size-fits-all approach will not work. One size does not fit all. It just does not.

Highlighting losses and damages and simply seeking reparations under climate financing is never going to be enough to ensure climate security. Adaptation is the most potent solution for not just Pakistan, but for the entire global South. We should focus on such issues and make them part of the global narrative.

Countries like Pakistan should bring back the pragmatic and authentic spirit of the Rio Summit, focussing on adaptation more than mitigation for themselves as part of their responsibility to find a solution for themselves, which, in turn, will help the larger effort going on across the world in this regard. We need to be practical and proactive. To use the words of the UN chief at COP27, though in a different context, ‘the sham must end’.



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