Climate justice finally arrives – 03 Dec 2022

The impacts of global warming have become more frequent and ferocious

The decision at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to establish a fund to help developing countries address loss and damage from the adverse impacts of climate change was a momentous signal of hope for humanity and the planet.

The impacts of global warming have become more frequent and ferocious. Those who have contributed the least to rising temperatures are suffering the most. For 30 years, the most vulnerable countries have pressed for a fund through which those who have contributed the most to global carbon emissions can help the vulnerable countries recover from climate disasters and other consequences of climate change — rising sea levels, droughts, hurricanes and floods.

As the current chair of the Group of 77 and China — a coalition of developing countries — I proposed the discussion on a loss and damage financing facility in June in the preparations for COP27. We faced familiar resistance to placing the issue on the conference agenda.

The epic floods in Pakistan this year, however, brutally confirmed the growing magnitude of climate disasters: with thousands of people killed or injured; millions displaced; 13,000 kilometers of roads, two million homes, 500 bridges and five million acres of crops destroyed; and one-third of the country under water. My home province of Sindh has been the most devastated. It was only after seeing first-hand the scale of loss and damage, realising there was no international financial mechanism to address disasters of this scale, has driven home the concept of loss and damage.

This monumental disaster, along with simultaneous floods in Nigeria, drought in the Horn of Africa and hurricanes in the Pacific and the Caribbean reinforced the determination of developing countries to secure climate justice. Pakistan led developing countries in the subsequent negotiations at COP27 to press for creating the fund. We commend the G77’s solidarity in pursuing the establishment of such funding arrangements and the fund itself. We appreciate the acceptance of the proposal by developed countries, including those in the European Union as well as the United States.

Developing countries look forward to urgently working in the Transitional Committee of 24 member states to finalise the institutional arrangements, structure, governance and terms of reference of the fund. They must also define the elements of the new plans to identify and expand the sources of financing and ways to ensure coordination and complementarity with current arrangements. Among the most important tasks for the committee is to identify the scale of funding that is needed to meet today’s consequences of climate change.

A first test of climate justice will be the response to Pakistan’s plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction from the flood disaster and building resilience against future catastrophes. This plan will be submitted at a pledging conference to be convened jointly by Pakistan and UN Secretary General António Guterres in January 2023. The World Bank has estimated that Pakistan suffered damage amounting to more than $30 billion and will require at least $16.5 billion for urgent external support.

Since the loss and damage fund has yet to be activated, Pakistan expects that financing for its rehabilitation and reconstruction plan will come from industrial countries and international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and multilateral development banks. Such support could include debt write-offs, swaps and restructuring; new special-drawing right (SDR) allocations or rechanneling of unused SDRs of the developed countries; direct support for reconstruction projects as well as private investment for projects that can be structured (for example, with blended finance, to be commercially viable). We also expect expressions of solidarity from Pakistan’s friends in the Islamic world and the global South.

Although climate effects have become inevitable due to the 1.1 degree Celsius global warming trend that has occurred over the last 150 years, it remains vital for the world to limit the impacts of climate change as soon as possible.

It is therefore concerning that the adaptation plans of so many developing countries are still not funded. The decision at COP26, in Glasgow, to “at least double” climate finance for adaptation must be immediately fulfilled. At COP27, Pakistan proposed urgent implementation of this decision. We expect that at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates next year, we will be able to establish a mechanism to measure and monitor financial flows for climate adaptation.

Most important, the commitment made since 2009 to mobilise $100 billion annually in climate finance has not been met. Developed countries need to urgently fulfil this commitment and agree to a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) target for larger climate finance from the floor of $100 billion by COP28.

Of course, the ultimate common goal is to halt global warming and avoid the tipping points that climate scientists have been predicting will propel a global catastrophe. However, the onus to ensure that global temperature rise is limited to 1.5 degrees is mainly left to industrial countries, which have consumed two-thirds of the so-called “carbon budget” over the past 150 years. The remaining one-third of the budget is what developing countries will need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, it was evident at COP27 that industrial countries have not implemented the mitigation commitments they agreed on in Glasgow and were reluctant to agree again to a larger, faster path to reduce emissions and keep the 1.5 degrees target alive.

As Pakistan ends its tenure as chair of the Group of 77 and China this year, we will make a final push to advance the SDGs and climate goals at a ministerial conference of developing countries in New York City in mid-December. We hope the meeting will set the agenda that the global South will promote at the SDG summit and COP28 next year. (A version of this article originally appeared in ‘China Daily’).

Read more