Using climate funds – 18 Jan 2023


CLIMATE justice is a concept that has been gaining traction in recent years. The funds pledged by international donors to help Pakistan rebuild and recover from last summer`s catastrophic floods must be used in a way that is consistent with climate justice principles. Heavy rains and riverine, urban, and flash flooding have led to an unprecedented climate-induced disaster, affecting 33 million people, with hundreds of lives lost and over 2m homes impacted. Experts suggest that the national poverty rate may increase, pushing an additional 9m people below the poverty line.

The recent International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva, hosted by the UN and Pakistan, was a significant milestone in the country`s fight against climate disasters. The conference saw donors pledge over $9 billion to help the country recover from the devastating floods of 2022. The conference was a major test case for determining who should bear the burden of damage caused by climate change.

The staggering extent of destruction made a compelling case for a global lossand-damage climate policy at COP27. This led to the donor conference in Geneva convened to support the victims of the disaster in Pakistan. The conference had two goals: (i) t o present the Resilient Re covery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework, which focuses on institutional, financial and implementation arrangements for post-flood recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction; and (ii) secure international aid and put in place long-term alliances with the aim of strengthening Pakistan`s climate-adaptation capacity and resilience.

The amount pledged at the conference is to be used to rebuild infrastructure, provide humanitarian aid, and support vulnerable communities. It has been pointed out that `most of the essential institutional, legal and economic reforms are part of the unfinished agenda of the 18th Amendment`.

This must be considered when disbursing the funds. It is, therefore, essential that Pakistan learn from its past experiences and take steps to ensure that the funds are used in a timely, impactful manner, especially to support vulnerable communities and address the underlying inequities rather than simply giving compensation for the flood damage.

The government has pledged to use this money in a transparent and accountable manner and has announced plans for independent, outside monitors to ensure transparencyin spending.

While the money pledged will undoubt-edly help Pakistan address the immediate needs of those affected by climate disasters, it has yet to be determined whether the amount will be enough to guard against the impact of another climate change disaster. It is necessary to invest in long-term measures, such as climate change-adaptation projects, early warning and better weather forecast systems, as well as in strengthening the capacity of local communities to cope with another natural disaster. To this end, education and awareness campaigns are essential for helping communities understand the risks of climate change and to take appropriate, preventive steps to protect themselves from natural hazards.

As one climate expert has written in these pages, Pakistan has been provided with a `rare opportunity to shed its image of a passive recipient of climate disasters.

Instead of being a victim only, the country can now undertake a series of well-deliberated, long-term measures for strengthening the resilience of its people andin f r a s tr uct ure ` to ensure that it is better prepared for any future climate-induce d disasters.

However, it is also important to note that not allinternational pledges will be delivered in the immediate future; this can in part be attributed to donor fatigue but it is also true that Pakistan`s delayed or slow implementation of public sector projects has not escaped the notice of foreign donors.

Top-down investments can only succeed by strengthening the coping capacity of the local communities. Given the urgency of the situation, Pakistan must take a fresh look at how best it can spend the development funds, while building a political consensus on the need for undertaking immediate reforms for climate security.

The government`s apparent commitment towards building a resilient country is commendable, and the $9bn pledge is a major step forward.

As funds come in, the government must ensure that they are used effectively and efficiently and that both people and infrastructure are strengthened to be better prepared for climate-induced disasters in the future.• The wúter has an LLB from the University of London and works as a research associate at the Centre for Law and Secuáty zahrasubzwari@gmail.com Twitter: @ZahraSubzwari

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