Climate finance and Covid-19

October 25, 2020

Experts warn that the pandemic is only the trailer; the movie is coming to world theatres in the form of climate crisis in less than a decade’s time

Pakistan was one of the eight Asia-Pacific countries to conduct Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Reviews (CPEIRs) in 2015 and 2017 at the federal and provincial levels. This set a reform agenda in policy and action to align and assess climate finance to climate policy objectives.

The CPEIR indicated that Pakistan’s climate expenditure was 8 percent of total annual development expenditure at national level. It noted that most federal funds were oriented towards mitigation, whereas, the provincial funds were mainly directed to adaptation efforts. CPEIR helped develop tools and indicators for budgetary and institutional assessments for policy and operational guidance.

It was noted that Pakistan’s climate expenditure compared well with other countries of the region, though; it needed to be increased and supplemented with local, national and international financial flows, in view of the worse impacts in future.

Four years down the lane, there is a need to assess climate investments in various sectors, especially the agriculture sector on which the country’s food security depends and identify bottlenecks in implementation including data collection, allocations of funds, institutional development and project management.

Moreover, an assessment of climate expenditure quality is needed, i.e. cost-effectiveness, including drivers, impact and access to climate finance through the internationally accepted assessment tools and indicators. There is a need to identify gaps in capacity and flow of funds for climate proofing of development projects and plans by resolving methodological issues relating to measuring, reporting and verification.

In addition, a review of the climate change policies at federal and provincial levels is needed to identify gaps as per new realities, especially Paris Agreement and subsequent submission of Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) by Pakistan. The federal government had adopted its climate change policy in 2012 followed by the provinces of the Punjab, Sindh and the KPK.

Finally, city officials need to be involved in handling the available pool of climate finance, which is being mostly handled by national level agencies. City officials, who are operational heads, are nowhere on the scene. The recent Covid response shows that cities (even dysfunctional ones) continued to provide essential services even during lock-downs, such as Solid Waste Management and communication campaigns, which contributed to slowing of the infection. Their ability and capacity to respond should be utilised in handling climate finance.

As Covid-19 is expected to divert both the finances and attention of national governments and international agencies to achieve their Paris Agreement commitments, cities should be put on the steering wheel for generating new streams of funds and expending the available climate finance to lay foundations for circularity.

City officials need to be involved in handling the available pool of climate finance, which is being mostly handled by national level agencies. The city officials who are operational heads are nowhere on the scene.

There is a need to empower local governments and finance their projects and initiatives focused on infrastructure and capacity development in waste recycling, wastewater management, drinking water, flood protection, and epidemic surveillance and response systems. “The economic recovery from Covid-19 should be climate smart.

Countries and development agencies must invest in their wastewater and solid waste management sectors by involving communities through education and communications”, says Murad Rana who is a waste management expert based in Lahore.

Covid-19 has taught us again that the poor are the most vulnerable in the time of crisis; the governments and other stakeholders can act very swiftly and effectively if they feel the need for it; and the damage can be controlled by involving communities, diverting resources and transforming behaviours. In the case of climate, the urgency or the feeling of crisis is missing.

Experts warn that the pandemic is only the trailer; the movie is coming to world theatres in the form of climate crisis in less than a decade’s time. Just as the pandemic is expected to push 71 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 under the baseline scenario according to World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects Report, and undo the progress made since 2017, additional levels of extreme poverty will be seen due to climate induced disasters.

“The recent urban flooding in Karachi has mainly been recognised as a solid waste and wastewater management issue but the disaster response is characterised by an alienation of the poor urban communities who happen to live on storm water drains in the city,” says Rafi ul Haq, a Karachi based consultant in urban ecology who has been closely associated with the UNDP and the CPNE project to prepare Climate Smart Reporting: A Handbook for Journalists and Communication Professionals.

The way governments rummaged their coffers to generate Covid-19 response funding to meet the challenge at the appropriate scale and urgency, a response is needed for climate financing. A climate action supported by science and evidence and not politicians and conspiracy theorists will stop if not reverse the negative impacts of changing weather conditions of Earth.

The Pakistan government’s policy of soft and local lockdowns has paid off to reduce the economic effect on the urban poor while successfully managing the pandemic. The decision to open up its construction industry and the announcement of the ambitious Ravi Urban Development Project in the middle of the pandemic are some of the desperate measures to give a push to economy and employment generation. If climate lens is added to these projects, a sustainable recovery is achievable.

The writer has a vast experience of working in the development sector. He can be contacted at    [email protected]

Climate finance and Covid-19