COP27: success conduces responsibility – 29 Nov 2022

Suffering nations, including Pakistan, demanded compensation for ‘loss and damage’

The Vulnerable 20 Group of Finance Ministers (V20) of 58 climate vulnerable economies and the Group of Seven (G7) launched the initiative of Global Shield against Climate Risks at the 27th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), also known as COP27. Previously, the core agenda of developed nations at the COP26 was to reduce the gap between the existing emission reduction plans and the emissions cut-off requirement so that the rise in the global average temperature can be limited to 1.5 degrees. At COP27, suffering nations, including Pakistan, demanded compensation for ‘loss and damage’ –formally known ‘polluters pay’ — to be part of the core agenda. Successfully, the nations at COP27 have agreed for the first time to include this topic on the formal agenda, especially after years of reluctance by richer polluters to accept open-ended responsibility and liability. The operational guidelines of these funds are not available. It is apprehended that these funds will carry FATF-type compliance mechanism from donors.

The developed countries have impliedly categorised these funds not because of financial and legal obligations but supporting vulnerable countries facing unavoidable threats from global warming. To examine this ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change, a legal campaign has been launched by the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu to take advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to clarify what obligations governments have in order to protect their own populations and of others. Out of 200 countries, 86 countries gave support to this resolution to finalise a legal question and submit it before ICJ if they win a planned vote at the UN General Assembly in mid-December. Making it a human rights issue, the developing countries can open a legal-based future (climate Justice) negotiation by proposing what financial obligations countries have on climate change as well as the scale and magnitude of economic and non-economic losses. Now onwards, countries have to be more diligent in assessing Post Disaster Needs Assessment and identifying losses and damages. Environmental scientists have to devise technology-based adverse climate impacts strategy, financial losses and budgeting for climate negotiation under the UN legal framework.

In the past, the richer countries had promised providing $100 billion a year to help developing countries. An initial funding of more than 200 million dollars will be made available to seven affected countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Fiji, Ghana, the Philippines and Senegal — also called pathfinder countries. According to initial estimates from the World Bank, Pakistan immediately needs an amount of $53.5 billion.

The Global Shield Financing Facility will implement its agenda of financial protection by channeling grants to developing countries through World Bank projects or through projects prepared by other participating partners, including UN agencies and multilateral development banks. It will provide monetary assistance to integrated financial protection packages that offer coordinated and consolidated financial support to those powerless against climate shocks and calamities. These financial packages will encourage investments in climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Such packages will also enable private capital for better financial strength, by offering private financial solutions, including state-owned insurance and other risk transfer instruments such as catastrophe bonds. These state-owned insurance companies will cover loss of crops, livestock property and other goods and protect the state infrastructure, community and state assets.

Indeed, there needs to be great appreciation for all environmental scientists and countries like Pakistan who alerted the G7 and rest of world to take a swift action against climate change risks by inventing this term of ‘polluter pays’. However, the work does not cease here. Being one of the first beneficiaries of the Global Shield Financing Funding, Pakistan now has an ever-greater responsibility than before. This success will conduce great need for reformation and responsibility on domestic levels. As observed, the funding will work on a larger scale to create policy, reform and objectives; it does cover redressal of issues at grossroots level. The weaknesses at domestic level will remain indolent if Pakistan does not take urgent actions.

The COP forum does not cater to developing countries’ domestic inabilities to handle climate disasters, it rather focuses on impact of global warming due to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from advanced economies. As the main contributors of GHG emissions are the US, EU and China. Pakistan with less than 1% share has an insignificant contribution to the larger phenomenon of global warming and faced unfair burden on the economy evident from the recent floods that affected 33 million people across the country.

Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate disaster but least prepared to cope with it. Being in the limelight, Pakistan has to improve its existing environmental infrastructure to combat climate change and improved hazard identification and risk assessment. New competencies and silo-crossing abilities must be developed at all levels of governance. In North, Pakistan has a high range of Himalayas, Hindukush and Karakoram with largest reservoir of ice outside the polar region, ignoring the possibilities of glacial advance, fast glacial retreat and the issues that come with it. Pakistan has to make laws for Glacier Protection (GLPs) as the country has experienced erratic weather leading to flash floods, drought, glacial lake outbursts, scorching heatwaves and increased rainfall variability.

Pakistan needs to focus on developing legislation on illegal encroachment on river belts, canals and water courses; take legal and administrative actions against timber mafia; protect agriculture lands from private housing societies; take steps against harmful air pollutants; work on preserving world heritage and ancient civilisations (Indus Valley, Mohenjo Daro, Gandhara, Harappa); promote the need for use of more renewable energy; reduce the use of emission-producing vehicles; carry out large-scale tree plantation; and build water lakes and reservoirs for storage purposes. Moreover, Pakistan should also address the need for emergency management and advance preparedness. If not, the pressure group of G7 with their aid will now require results and answers.

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