Climate Change, COP27 and Pakistan | By Dr Muhammad Khan

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Climate Change, COP27 and Pakistan

ON November 20, 2022, the United Nations Climate Change Conference; Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, commonly known as COP27 con-cluded with a major breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.

This is a major outcome of the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) which debated vari-ous issues related to climate change and its harmful impacts.

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly referred to as The COP27 was held from 6 November to 20 November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The Pakistani delegation led by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif participated in the conference with obvious grievances against those states which are in-strumental to climate change.

It is worth mentioning that, conduct of COP27 took place just few weeks after devastating flood in Pakistan which caused destruction in various parts of the countries.

Three provinces of Pakistan were severely affected by this flood; Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

More than 33 million people were severely affected by this flood and the coun-try suffered losses of over $30 billion.

This is unfortunate that, despite clear signs of climate change and environ-mental degradation, there existed misperceptions among majority masses and even governmental officials, whether there is a climate change, taking place in reality.

Indeed, there are four realities about the climate change. The first real-ity is that, climate change is really taking place for the past many decades and it is accelerating with the passage of time.

Two, climate change is mainly caused by human activities like rapid industrialization, pollution and deforesta-tion besides natural causes.

Three, the global north consisting of rich indus-trial states are mainly responsible for the rapid clime change at global level but cannot be questioned.

Four, the global south, consisting of developing and under developed states are ultimate sufferers of the climate change.

Fifth, the climate change threat-ens the national security of developing states like Pakistan as a threat multi-plier.

In a way, the climate change is related to national security of any state and states like Pakistan are more vulnerable from this perspective.

As per the assessment of the security community from across the globe, the extreme weather conditions have more and direct impact on national security of states.

The national security is an all-encompassing concept including food security, human security, security of water sources, border security and all other as-pects of the state security.

Apart the rapidly changing patterns of climate are severely damaging critical military bases, diverting and critically undermining significant national defense resources too.

The Global Climate Risk Index-2022 has placed Pakistan 8th on the list of countries vulnerable to climate change.

Vulnerabilities to climate change im-plies; water stress, desertification glacier melting, extreme weather and flood-ing as experience in August-September 2022.

Unfortunately, despite meagre contribution to the Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (0.8%) Pakistan is climatically most affected state in the world.

Three regions of Pakistan; Thar desert, southern Punjab and southwesternBalochistan are more vulnerable because they totally depend on agriculture and herding, which depend on weather, and weather is marred by climate change.

A recent World Bank report predicted that Pakistan is expected to experience a decline in living standards across its territory by 2050 under both climate sensitive and carbon intensive scenarios.

These poor living standards may lead to poverty, diseases, and increase in the crime rate. Such conditions ex-acerbated by climate change may provide an ideal breeding ground for organ-ized crime, militancy dissident movements, terrorism and violent political up-risings.

The significant aspect of the climate change is that, it is fuelling con-flicts based on ethnic and provincial factors.

In Pakistan there is growing ten-sions between provinces over the resource allocation, inequalities especially over the distribution of water from Indus Water System.

The accusations and counter accusations have put Pakistan into a dilemma. The process in turn gave way to provincial and ethnic rivalries.

A conflicting situation and likeli-hood of chaotic environment will impede the political stability and economic progress of Pakistan.

At the conclusion of COP27, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Mr Simon Stiell, said, “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we ad-dress the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ru-ined by the very worst impacts of climate change.

”But, this statement is just a promise without any meaningful and sustainable action. It is a promise for the post damage compensation (funding) which is even not binding.

No worth-while strategy has been worked-out to stop or reduce the occurrence of cli-mate change, which is purely on the part of rich and industrial states of global north.

Rather relying on the promises of COP27 for the “funding for loss and dam-age” Pakistan must work out its owing national strategies at three levels: short term, medium term and long-term.

The short-term strategy should cater for immediate measures to stop further upturn in environmental degradation and climate change or to minimize its impact.

Through medium term strategy, all stakeholders should be taken on board for attainment of two objectives; a gradual stoppage of manmade and artificial causes to climate change and preservation of the vulnerable regions through nation-wide remedial meas-ures.

In all eventualities, both strategies must include the construction of large and small dams and workable drainage system for preservation and disposal of flood water especially during the monsoon.

The long-term strategy should aim at introducing a constitutional package for the formulation of national policies on all issues for national preservation and constitutional safeguards against any attempt to cause environmental degradation and causing a climate change.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.