In the wake of the massive floods in Pakistan, the developed world should seriously work to cut emissions and address the concerns of the developing world
hile Pakistan is shoulders-deep in the crisis caused by massive rains and flooding during the monsoon seasons, the two-week United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, comes as a ray of hope, not just for Pakistan but also for the rest of the developing world.
One of the noticeable aspects of COP27 is that it has financing for the “loss and damage” on its agenda for the first time. It is somewhat reassuring that high emitters have finally heeded the demand of the developing countries that they should compensate the low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) for the effects of climate change.
Until recently, the higher-income countries preferred to direct their climate finance towards mitigating the effects of climate change, such as supporting green energy development and adapting to a warmer world.
Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman has spoken about loss and damage and the issue of climate justice at many occasions. Pakistan sought to operationalise this agenda at the summit and succeeded.
The figure for Pakistan’s losses and rebuilding has been estimated at more than $30 billion. This is in addition to the human cost. More than 1,700 people lost their lives in the floods and two million homes were damaged or destroyed. The floods came at a time when Pakistan’s economy is already under great stress with an increasing current account deficit, rising inflation and massive depreciation of the rupee.
Many farmers from the flood-affected areas fear that if the rainwater continues to cover their lands for the coming weeks there will be hard days ahead, severely affecting their livelihood. First, their crops had to bear temperatures that reached 51 degrees Celsius in May, only to be drowned in monsoon rains that affected a third of Pakistan.
According to news reports, the situation is likely to reduce the wheat production for the coming year by 50 percent in Sindh. With food inflation at around 27 percent, the heavy monsoon rains and floods destroyed huge amounts of ready-for-harvest crops, causing shortages of vegetables and fruits in the markets, resulting in increasing prices of essential commodities.
If wheat harvest is poor it is likely to affect the prices of flour and other related items over the coming months. Farmers estimate that only 50 to 60 percent of their land will be available for crop production for a few months due to inundation of huge tracts of farmland.
Many farmers from the flood-affected areas fear that if the rainwater continues to cover their lands for the coming weeks that will mean hard days ahead. According to one estimate, the situation is likely to reduce the wheat production for the coming year by 50 percent in Sindh.
The rains badly damaged cotton, dates, chilies, cauliflower, onions and other fruits and vegetables in Sindh and Balochistan. Sindh accounts for 55 percent of the country’s onion production. According to one estimate, around 90 percent of the onion crop in Sindh was destroyed by the rains. Cotton and sugarcane crops in the province lost 75 and 30 percent of the yield, respectively.
Date producers have been the worst hit in Sindh and Balochistan as almost 80 percent of the crop has been destroyed. The farmers had expected a harvest of about 220,000 tonnes this year, but the heavy rains destroyed around 150,000 tonnes of dates, according to the farmers. Pakistan is the world’s fifth-largest date producer, contributing about 11 percent to the global production, with around 130 varieties of the fruit. Khairpur district is one of the largest date-producing districts in the world.
It is in this backdrop that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif told world leaders at COP27 that Pakistan needed more funding, not debt, to rebuild a resilient infrastructure in the face of the losses it has incurred due to climate change.
In his national statement at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, he urged the Global North to understand Pakistan’s situation — a country where climate change-induced catastrophic flooding had impacted 33 million people, including a large number of women and children. He presented a few facts, saying that the floods had destroyed over 8,000 kilometres of highways, damaged more than 3,000 kilometres of railway track, and washed away crops over four million acres. He lamented that the pledges made at Copenhagen (COP15 in 2009) for generating $100 billion per annum by 2020 had still not been realised, even in the face of increased frequency of climate catastrophes.
The prime minister’s call for the creation of a Global Climate Risk Index for all parties to the UNFCCC should be heeded. According to the GCRI, Pakistan is responsible for less than one per cent of the world’s planet-warming gases while the US is responsible for 21.5 percent, China for 16.5 percent and the European Union for 15 percent. Unfortunately, Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis.
Waterborne diseases are another challenge for the resource-starved medical practitioners in the area. The stagnant water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, spreading dengue fever and malaria, skin diseases and diarrhoea. Another serious health concerns is malnutrition. According to reported figures, more than 40 percent of mothers in Pakistan suffer from anaemia and maternal mortality rates are rising.
Given the context it is understandable that leaders from poor countries criticised wealthy governments and oil companies for causing global warming and demanded payments for the damages being inflicted on their economies. To make things better, there should be a mechanism to keep tabs on the commitments made at the conference. Those responsible for climate change should seriously work towards a world that is safer for all countries and more sustainable.
The writer is a staff member. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org