In the aftermath of last year’s catastrophic floods, several of the world’s wealthiest and most advanced nations promised to provide Pakistan the funds it needed to recover from the disaster. Around $9 billion was pledged to help the country rebuild back in January, after unprecedented flooding inundated a third of Pakistan, displaced an estimated eight million people and left around 1700 dead. But, nine months on, only 69 per cent of the target has been reached and that too mostly in loans. Loans are hardly something Pakistan needs more off, with the country’s economy already being crushed under a mountain of debt. The $9 billion we sought in January was already a rather modest amount, considering that the government has estimated that the flood disaster ended up costing the country around $30 billion. The reluctance of the rich countries to provide even such conservative amounts in compensation for climate-related disasters is a depressing outcome for developing countries like Pakistan, which are disproportionately affected by the adverse impacts of climate change despite our relatively trivial contribution to the problem. In our case specifically, we are responsible for less than one per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and yet our people are 15 times more likely to die from climate-related disasters.
In response to this blatant breach of trust and responsibility, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres labeled the broken promises to rebuild the country as “a litmus test for climate justice” and implored the nations most responsible for global warming to do the most in order to solve the problem. This includes the creation of a “loss and damage” fund that aims to provide financial aid to the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. While this fund was promised at COP27 last year, it has yet to materialize. Given how lightly the developed world has taken its responsibilities so far, the promise to provide $100 billion in annual climate financing to the developing countries seems a distant dream.
One hopes that the upcoming COP28 might be a turning point not just for the prospects of the loss and damage fund, but for how seriously the wealthy nations take their climate justice obligations in general. Meanwhile, many of those affected by the floods of 2022 are still waiting for help and not only have they been let down by the international community but their own government as well. Unicef estimates that around eight million people in the flood affected areas, around half of whom are children, still lack access to safe drinking water. Civil society organizations involved in the relief efforts claim that in some of the worst-affected districts, hundreds of acres of agricultural land are still inundated, schools and dispensaries have not been rebuilt and remain closed and that local residents are complaining that cash handouts from the government are beginning to dry-up. Others experts have claimed that the rehabilitation plans the government shared with the international community lacked sufficient detail and that relief efforts lack transparency. Having been let down by every person in an official position with a responsibility to help, it remains unclear who exactly the flood victims are supposed to turn to now. There is also the question of where Pakistan will get the substantial funds it needs to meet its climate needs over the coming years. The rich countries seem reluctant to part with their cash and only do so when there are guarantees they will get their money back, while our government remains as incompetent and bereft of answers as ever.