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Wednesday October 05, 2022

A case for climate justice

September 03, 2022

Pakistan is among the world’s top 10 nations most affected by climate change. Global warming is caused by uncontrolled and unabated greenhouse gases emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – mostly generated by industrialized nations – are taking a toll in poor countries.

Countries that are responsible for greenhouse gases are the least vulnerable to climate change. However, those countries which are emitting the least amount of greenhouse gases are the most vulnerable to the disastrous effects of climate change. Pakistan is one of them; others include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi and Niger. The US is responsible for a quarter of all carbon emissions alone while the rest is shared by industrialized nations.

This situation requires an urgent global action based on the concept of climate justice. Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has eloquently informed the international community about its responsibility for working towards climate justice. Through his interactions with the international and national media, he has successfully sparked a global debate on the issue. Global warming is a global crisis, but its effects are borne by countries which are the least responsible for its causes.

It is hoped that Bilawal’s call for climate justice will reach every nook and corner of the world. There is no denying that now those countries that are being devastated by climate change-driven floods, unprecedented rains, crop and livestock losses and extreme weather conditions have finally got a voice, which is being heard by the international community.

According to the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, at least 85 per cent of the world’s population is impacted by climate change, which is affecting poor third-world nations at a fast pace. Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse emissions is just one per cent.

However, it recently became the worst victim of climate change as evident from the ravages of heavy rains and floods it had not experienced for the last 65 years, when its population was just 45 million. Today it is a nation of 220 million people.

The climate change-driven floods in Pakistan have made one-third of the country disappear under rainwater. One in seven people suffered due to the unprecedented rains within a span of two months – July and August. Sindh and Balochistan have witnessed large-scale destruction while parts of southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have also borne the brunt of the recent natural calamity of immense proportions. Around 33 million people have become homeless and are compelled to spend days under the open skies or in temporary shelters provided by the government and NGOs.

Official sources say that Sindh and Balochistan have received at least five times more rainfall than their average during past monsoon seasons. More than 1,500 lives have been lost. The total loss to infrastructure and the economy is yet to be calculated as some parts of the country are still expected to witness rains. Several cities and towns in the hinterland have been completely inundated, and standing crops at two million hectares worth billions of rupees have been washed away. More than one million herds of cattle have died. The tale of devastation is unending. The impact of the current disaster has overshadowed the destruction caused by the 2010 super floods in Pakistan.

For an economy that had been dragged into fragility by a four-year misrule of unguided political missiles, nature’s current blitzkrieg has emerged as a severe blow. It seems that a crisis of colossal magnitude has unfolded for the Pakistani people. Rescue and relief activities are top priority for both the government and all those who care for humanity. Food, medicines and shelters are required urgently. Every person who has seen the gory scenes of devastation seems moved. A nation-wide campaign is unfurling to help flood victims.

It has been observed that developed nations put aside their political differences when faced with a crisis of this magnitude. But, in our part of the world, some leaders are spending millions of rupees on public gatherings. They don’t seem to care that one-third of the country has disappeared under rainwater and that millions of Pakistanis have lost their belongings and life savings.

Bilawal along with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres collected a huge sum of Rs131 billion in just one hour during the UN’s Flash Appeal for the affectees of the Pakistan floods. These international donations have started to pour in; the foreign minister has also visited several districts and villages to assess the losses. By doing so, he has emerged as an inspiring leader that Pakistan needs to survive and swim through the oceans of crises.

Unlike Imran Khan, Bilawal is leading the nation in its worst period of natural calamity. In international media too, the only visible personality presenting the true picture of the devastation in Pakistan is Bilawal. The young leader is using leading new outlets to launch global awareness for climate justice. It is important to keep repeating that Pakistan is responsible for only one per cent of greenhouse gases emissions, but it is among the top ten countries currently suffering from climate change.

He is informing the world that rich countries should act for climate justice. The way he is building a case for climate justice will certainly encourage the international community to share its responsibility. Industrialized nations have to play their role in rehabilitation of the affected people and rebuilding of the infrastructure lost due to climate change-driven natural calamities. They should make sincere efforts to minimize their greenhouse gas emissions. This planet cannot bear such large-scale crises anymore.

The writer is a PPP MPA in the Sindh Assembly. He tweets @SurendarValasai

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