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Thursday May 23, 2024

From Sharm el-Sheikh to Geneva

By Dr Shaukat Ali & Fatima Saeed & M Arif Goheer
January 20, 2023

Pakistan initiated brilliant climate diplomacy at the 27th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6-20, 2022. This diplomacy continued till the convening of the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan, co-hosted by the government of Pakistan and the United Nations, on January 9, 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.

COP27 brought together decision-makers from 200 countries aiming to build on the progress of COP26 during the two-week long strenuous negotiations. Considering the scale of climate catastrophe in the country, Pakistan was elected vice-chair of the COP and chair of G77 + China and got to present its case to the world. Pakistan became the poster country for climate change impacts when 33 million people were adversely affected by mammoth floods drowning one-third of the country. Pakistan faced climate extreme events one after the other during the last year, a heatwave followed by a catastrophic downpour. A country hit by climate calamity leading the COP27 negotiations from the forefront was a unique sight.

During this COP, Pakistan made sure to make rich countries realize that poor and climate vulnerable countries urgently need to build climate resilience. Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman was among the most sought-after climate negotiators at COP27. The collective effort put by her and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto led to the inclusion of Loss and Damage in the agenda of this year’s climate conference. Rehman, while speaking at the Pakistan Pavilion at a panel discussion ‘The Lost & the Damaged: Pakistan’s Climate Catastrophe’, said that delayed climate justice is a “death sentence” for climate vulnerable communities. Her stance came in light of a World Bank report, which estimated that weather and climate-related disasters have caused roughly $1 billion in economic losses each year to Pakistan, affecting over 75 million people in the past 30 years.

For an overall recovery from 2022 floods, the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) estimated that Pakistan requires up to $40 billion for overall rehabilitation and recovery from floods over time. Out of this, $16.3 billion is the initial requirement for urgent reconstruction.

The true landmark output of COP27 was the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund (LDF) – a result of the hard work of the national delegation under the remarkable leadership of Pakistan’s Minister of Climate Change Sherry Rehman. However, the language and modalities of the fund are still a mystery to unfold.

If the LDF comes out to be like the GCF in modalities, it might not be good news for Pakistan after all. The country already lags in securing funds from the GCF. It is alarming that fellow South Asian countries like India and Bangladesh have secured funds worth $528.9 million and $374.0 million respectively for seven projects each. However, Pakistan only managed to secure $131.0 million for merely four projects. Pakistan must evaluate and uproot the issues behind this alarming lag if the country is to get any real benefit from the biggest fund available under the UNFCCC, and the new LDF. To ensure that the language and modalities of the LDF are conscious of the Global South, Pakistan is securing the membership of the transitional committee that is set to meet in March this year. Pakistan intends to maintain its leadership role during the intersessional meetings as well.

The climate diplomacy by Pakistan continued to the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan. This high-level moot aimed to marshal international support for the country in post-flood management. Pakistan presented its case of building back better by officially presenting the Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework (4RF) in the conference. The first part of the framework will focus on flood recovery and reconstruction while the second part will prioritize reconstruction of highways and railways as well as setting up of a warning system. Thus, the reconstruction cost of $16.3 billion as estimated by the PDNA Report, out of which half the cost shall be covered by Pakistan’s own resources as stated by country’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “massive investments” to help Pakistan in post-flood recovery, reminding the world that the country has been “doubly victimized” by climate change and a “morally bankrupt global financial system”. The country’s 4RF received quite a promising response from the international community. At the Geneva Conference, thanks to excellent climate diplomacy, Pakistan has secured pledges of over $11 billion and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reiterated the transparent use of the funds. The pledges made are all concessional loans that shall be paid back by the country at one per cent interest rate over the next 40 years. Pakistan will get the first installment of $2.8 billion this year and the rest – $9.7 billion – shall be released in three years’ installments.

Previously at COP27, PM Shehbaz Sharif leading the climate summit had reiterated that Pakistan owes $1 billion in debt obligation payments by the end of 2022, urging the Global North for debt relief and climate compensation. UN Secretary General Guterres had called for policy reforms in multilateral lending institutions for debt swaps for poor countries. But this was brushed off by the developed world.

So far, the climate diplomacy from Pakistan has been successful in converting climate negotiations into economic support for the country. However, if these pledges which already seem too good to be true, are not converted from climate loans to just climate compensation, they’ll add to problems of an already feeble economy. There is a long series of politically motivated pledges by the international community that were not honoured, and COPs especially COP27 are testament to the fact.

But COP27 failed to deliver the promise of doubling the Adaptation Fund from $100 billion to $200 billion which was below the bare minimum. It is already evident as per OECD estimates that the developed world has never fully paid the $100 billion and the highest payment was $83.3 billion – and that too in 2020. It is also to be kept in mind that the Adaptation Fund was pledged only until 2025. This is especially depressing when the world is on a highway to climate hell. As per WRI estimates, the world will require between $4 trillion and $7 trillion per year, to shift towards sustainable development and meet agreed Paris Agreement targets. But the COP again has failed to convince emission giants like the US to agree upon a phase-out of all fossil fuels for just transition towards cleaner energy. Moreover, the language calling for complete fossil fuel phase-out was coldly replaced by ‘low-emission’ energy systems.

What the climate finance flow will look like after 2025 is what the world, and especially climate vulnerable countries like Pakistan, need to focus on now and must be lobbied for in a proactive manner. Pakistan’s role in the intersessional meetings shall be crucial in this manner.

The government must get down to the district level in developing climate resilience while also preparing for the next round of global negotiations. The way forward for Pakistan now is to further prepare the stance for intersessional meetings, continuing climate diplomacy before COP28 where the procedures of the LDF will be discussed and hopefully decided upon.

The current global landscape is depressing, and it seems like gates are going up and vulnerable countries are going to be left out to clean the mess they had little to no part in making.

The writers can be reached at

pirshauki@gmail.com