Climate justice

Samar Quddus
Tuesday, Nov 22, 2022

Amid a global economic and security crisis, all eyes have been on the COP27 agreement. The summit has approved the setting up of a climate fund – to arrange finances needed to help countries adapt to climate change and mitigate its harmful effects.

However, how this step will impact the Global South in terms of climate justice is crucial in determining the summit’s success. Over the last few years, developing countries, in an unprecedented manner, have geared up more strongly than ever before to demand the developed world to pay up for the loss and damage they suffered due to climate change.

In this regard, the 2022 COP27 turned out to be lucky for developing countries as leaders have struck a historic deal on formation of a loss-and-damage fund. Towards the end of the summit, rich countries agreed to compensate developing countries which are most vulnerable to climate change and have limited resources to tackle the climate crisis.

Blame game from both sides – carbon polluters and vulnerable countries – deters the process of building a secure and sustainable world to live in. On the one hand, rich countries have long stalled debates on climate-related loss and damage subsidies to developing countries despite being responsible for a hefty amount of historical GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions. They have been accusing developing countries of corruption and poor governance so as to resist the creation of a loss-and-damage fund that might hit them with large liabilities. On the other hand, developing countries have been trying to hide their inability to effectively confront the climate crisis by only portraying themselves as victims of climate change.

There is no denying that climate change is real and a threat to human existence. And there has been ample literature and research to provide evidence that while climate change discriminates against no one, its consequences are undoubtedly distributed unevenly across countries, leading to climate inequity in developing countries. As a result, countries that have the smallest carbon footprints also become most-vulnerable and susceptible to the deleterious impacts of the climate crisis.

No excuse could justify the failure of wealthy nations to build a climate finance fund and deliver on the $100 billion annual climate pledge they made in 2009 during COP15 to help poor countries mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

As horrific devastation now becomes more visible in the regions with the least climate-altering emissions, demands for the creation of the climate-induced loss-and-damage fund were included in the agenda for the first time. It took world leaders 30 years to realize the importance of the matter and only after witnessing some exceptionally unfolding climate-driven calamities across the world in the current year.

In July this year, separate but connected events of scorching heatwaves occurred in Europe, China and the US. Heavy downpours unleashed flash floods in most parts of South Asia and prolonged droughts in East Africa left thousands of people dead and millions displaced. Large numbers of people were left on the brink of hunger and famine.

Lack of institutional, financial and economic capacity to cope with and adapt to climate variability in developing countries make them helpless at the time of climate emergency. In this regard, Pakistan is ground zero for the growing consequences of global climate change. Its agro-based economy (directly linked to nature) with diverse landscape that stretches from high mountains in the north to flat Indus plains in the east, from dense woodlands to Balochistan plateau in the west, from flood plains to river deltas – combined with rich natural resources and varied climate – has made Pakistan vulnerable to a wide range of climate hazards.

Disastrous floods in Pakistan compelled the country to make a case for ex-gratia compensation payments to countries which recently suffered loss and damage due to climate-change disasters. Now at a time when nations have reached a consensus to build a loss and damage fund – a success for the Global South – it is crucial to highlight the human-made side of disasters in developing countries that exacerbates the effects of climate change.

For instance, despite early warnings and a series of climate change-related incidents in the country’s recent past, no preparations were made by the government to deal with the anticipated floods that later left one-third of the country underwater. Rampant corruption, poor planning and deliverance, and underinvestment in development projects have remained consistent for decades and are a major hindrance in coping with climate-change effects.

It is now almost inevitable to avoid climate-change effects that are intensifying with time, especially for countries with economic and financial constraints. As almost eight million people are still stranded and displaced in Pakistan, the international community should not make any further delays in releasing funds to Pakistan and other countries impacted by climate change.

At the same time, governments in vulnerable countries should be held accountable for poor governance and mismanagement.

The writer is pursuing an MPhil in development studies at the Lahore School of Economics. She can be reached at: