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Tuesday January 31, 2023

Towards climate justice

By Editorial Board
November 21, 2022

The Pakistan team at COP27, led by PM Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman participated in the climate summit with the aim to advocate on behalf of the Global South to secure funding for loss and damage arising from the adverse effects of climate change. After a long, hard fight – in which Minister Sherry Rehman’s relentless efforts have received kudos across the board – developing countries have finally persuaded the developed world to set up what has been called a Loss and Damage Fund. The landmark deal at the end of the summit has been hailed by vulnerable countries which hope the fund will help them deal with damage caused by climate change, which comes essentially as a result of actions taken by the developed countries. This is no doubt an historic step towards some form of climate justice.

During the past 12 months, the world – the Global South, in particular – has been hit by climate change events. COP27 provided a platform to Pakistan to show the world how the actions of the developed North have been affecting vulnerable countries. The recent floods in Pakistan left one-third of the country underwater, displaced more than 33 million people, and resulted in a total loss of $30 billion. Pakistan is ranked 147th out of 182 countries scored by their vulnerability to climate change and readiness for it. And, even though climate change has also touched developing countries, it is the poorer nations that are suffering the worst and are least able to put in the resources required to rescue people from the disasters they face.

While the achievement made at COP27 has been justifiably celebrated, there is a word of caution added in: apart from the ‘loss and damage’ breakthrough, there is little else COP27 has promised. First of all, the Loss and Damage Fund may have been announced but the finer details on it are missing. It is worth noting that the fund was nearly not going to happen since most of the larger developed countries were not in favour. It was the push by countries like Pakistan that saw it through, with the help of intervention by the EU. We are still unclear though on how it will be funded, when it will be finalized and so on. In keeping with previous COPs, fossil fuel phase-out too remained unresolved in the summit after oil-rich countries’ once again refused to cooperate. While the ‘Global Shield’ initiative has been hailed as a timely step to enable recipient countries to benefit from pre-arranged financial support in times of climate disasters, there are concerns that some countries may use this as a substitute for the loss and damage fund. If deployed rightly, though, the Global Shield initiative will provide financial support quickly in the event a disaster is taking place. A pre-existing structure of this nature is likely to facilitate immediate mobilization of resources though its performance will greatly depend on how this structure functions in future.

COP27 has shown that there is a chance at climate justice if the Global South comes together to demand what it is owed, and if the UN provides a safe and strong forum to these countries to raise a voice. There is no denying that industrialized and rich countries have a responsibility to support vulnerable nations around the world as these are the economies that precipitated environmental degradation by a ruthless exploitation of resources and carbon emissions. Vulnerable countries have already paid a lot in terms of lost opportunities and missed growth prospects. Every human being has the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. That right can only be fulfilled if climate change effects are mitigated as much as possible, while also allowing affected nations the right to rebuild from the devastation already caused by climate disasters. COP27 may not be enough but it has served as a very important step forward in recognizing what we are owed by the developed world.

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