Coping with climate challenges

COP28 will be crucial

The latest scientific assessment of climate change systems has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era. The lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the globe are under severe threat of climate change disasters. The masses are facing these issues every year now, last year in Pakistan and this year in India. Last year saw various climate change-related calamities like floods in Pakistan, China and South Africa, droughts in Europe and China, hurricanes in Canada and the Caribbean, and heatwaves in Europe and Asia.

The floods, heat-waves and tornadoes have once again alarmed the world to secure this globe. In November 2022, Egypt hosted COP-27 to discuss challenges regarding climate change. The participants of the conference reiterated that the global community would fulfill its commitments to cope with the challenges emanating from climate change. The major and positive development of COP-27 was the consensus to establish a Loss and Damage Fund.

The Loss and Damage Fund was a major success of COP-27. Pakistan played a leading role in bringing all the stakeholders onto the same page for the establishment of the Fund. During the conference, a few Western states seemed reluctant to finance countries who suffered because of climate change. It has been eight months since the establishment of the fund. Still, the fund is not fully operationalized.

First of all, the process to complete procedural matters for full functioning of the Loss and Damage Fund is being delayed. Some deadlines have already been missed by committees responsible to give final shape to proposals related to designing mechanisms of financial support to be presented at COP-28.  Such delays raise questions about the sincere efforts of rich nations to turn the Loss and Damage Fund into reality.

Secondly, rich countries are having various concerns about finance for poor countries. The idea of collecting $100 billion for the Green Climate Fund annually to support projects on mitigation and adaptation fell short of achieving its goals. Similarly, many countries mentioned ambitious targets to phase out fossil fuels and mitigate carbon emissions in their National Determined Contributions (NDC) but in reality, they are not taking practical steps to achieve those targets. According to UN Environment Programme Emission Gap Report 2022 “updated national pledges since COP26 – held in 2021 in UK – make a negligible difference to predicted 2030 emissions and that we are far from the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C. In such a scenario, where previous goals and commitments to tackle climate change on an emergency basis are undermined, how can these rich nations can be trusted to provide financial support to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund’.

Developing states are still looking towards developed states to honor their commitments. Likewise, developing a consensus on the mechanism of financial support will be another challenge for the global community. Several questions need to be discussed and pondered while developing the final proposal for the Loss and Damage Fund to be presented at COP-28. What will be the criteria to fix the number of funds to be collected in this fund? One mechanism can be to collect funds annually equally gathered from rich nations.  If such a criterion is finalized, then rich nations with fewer carbon emissions can raise a hue and cry. The second option is to collect funds from a developed nation directly proportional to the amount of carbon emission of that particular nation. This option can also be deliberated while finalizing the draft of the proposal.

If consensus is developed on this mechanism, then the next step will be to fix the exact amount to be donated against a mutually agreed measuring scale of carbon emission. Another issue will be to allow or forbid any nation to directly invest in green projects of the country affected by climate disaster rather than depositing the amount in the Loss and Damage Fund. If more than one developing or developed nation become a victim of climate disaster in a year then which country will be supported on a priority basis? What factors and elements will be taken into account to make such a decision? The second option can also be criticized if elements of empathy and human suffering are ignored just because the suffering nation could not develop solid plans due to lack of capacity or any other reason.

The Loss and Damage Fund is a dire need of underdeveloped or developing nations that are directly impacted by the negative impacts of climate change despite their minimal contribution to global carbon emissions. Several questions are required to be discussed to develop consensus. The procedural delays and challenges ahead are putting a question mark on the time working and activation of the Loss and Damage Fund.

Likewise, the priority should be given to rescue and relief missions such as food and medicine. Moreover, the fund can also be used for long-term plans of rehabilitation. Similarly, the modus operandi for the transfer of funds can also be discussed as to how the money will be given to vulnerable states. In this regard, NGO and INGOs may take the lead to help climate- affected states and these organizations may be provided with money from the Loss and Damage Fund.

In Pakistan, climate change raises concern with its social, environmental and economic impacts. Pakistan is frequently exposed to natural hazards like floods, droughts and cyclones. These hazards, when combined with vulnerabilities in shape of poverty, exclusion and inappropriate political decisions and actions, make people more susceptible to impacts of hazards. The agriculture sector is most vulnerable to climate change and changes in cropping and productivity as a result of weather changes will affect the poor rural communities of the country. Considering the tough facts, Pakistani authorities should adopt immediate actions to combat detrimental effects of climate change.

The heatwave and devastating floods in 2022 are a reminder that climate change-induced disasters can significantly set back Pakistan’s development ambitions and its ability to reduce poverty. The damage to infrastructure, assets, crops, and livestock has also been massive, with more than $30 billion in damages and economic losses.

Pakistan faces significantly higher average temperatures than the global average, with a potential rise of 1.3°C-4.9°C by the 2090s over the 1986-2005 baseline, according to a study, which also noted that Pakistan had some of the highest disaster risk levels in the world, ranked 18 out of 191 countries by the 2020 Inform Risk Index.

Pakistan is a low-middle-income country with a primarily agrarian economy; however, it is gradually industrializing and more than a third of the population currently lives in cities. Agriculture continues to be a significant occupation for 42 percent of the population. Irrigation from the glacier-fed River Indus and its tributaries supports about 90 percent of farmland. Glacier melt has accelerated due to climate change, increasing the likelihood of glacier lake outpouring floods (GLOF) and mudslides downstream.

To cope with climate challenges, Pakistan can implement a combination of short-term and long-term strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change and promote sustainability. Following are some key points that Pakistan can take: –

  • Invest in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Implement energy efficiency measures in industries, buildings, and transportation to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
  • Increase efforts for afforestation and reforestation to expand forest cover and enhance carbon sequestration. This can also help reduce soil erosion and protect biodiversity.

Climate change is one of the most important global environmental challenges facing humanity, with implications for food production, natural ecosystems, fresh water supply, health, among others. The harmful impacts of climate change are already manifesting themselves around the world in the form of extreme weather events like storms, cyclones, floods, and droughts that are mounting in frequency and intensity.

The Loss and Damage Fund is a dire need of underdeveloped or developing nations that are directly impacted by the negative impacts of climate change despite their minimal contribution to global carbon emissions. Several questions are required to be discussed to develop consensus. The procedural delays and challenges ahead are putting a question mark on the time working and activation of the Loss and Damage Fund.

Asad Ali
Asad Ali
The writer is a freelance columnist

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