COP-27 and climate paradigm in South Asia | By Dr Khalid M Shafi

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COP-27 and climate paradigm in South Asia

THE United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) 2022 is being held from 6 to 18 November 2022 in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, which rightly is at the international focus.

In climate context, we failed to mitigate the rise in temperatures due to extensive fossil fuels, later on adaptation was not coherently resorted to resultantly there was loss and damage issue, which is centre to the current COP.

Had we timely handled the first, there would have been no need for the ones to follow. Now we have to tackle all three.

While the main voice heard is that in addition to the rich nations, the oil and gas companies should pay, but who will actually pay to whom and how much are the contentious issues where there are no common grounds.

Concurrently, the issue is stalled and there is no funding strategy. Big economies being the bigger emitters and developing nations being the main sufferers, the question of global financial morality is complex.

While collectively it would be difficult to arrive at conclusive actions and roadmap, it would be intriguing if we assess it from bottom-up approach and see it at regional level.

South Asia with its eight member states (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) comprises more than one fifth of the world population.

The region has the World’s third largest polluter and three nations among the top ten on Climate risk index (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal).

The region can be abashed for having maximum cities out of top ten for being most polluted based on annual average Particulate Matter 2.5 concentrations.

This is a despicable state of most populous part of the world, which has been environmentally degraded and deteriorated.

Global targets cannot be achieved if we do not have local and regional cooperation and coordination.

India is the second most populous country and one of the biggest polluters in the world. The country is ranked 178 out of 180 countriesin terms of carbon emissions and 20th in the Climate Risk Index.

Additionally, the latest report of IPCC has shown a very bleak picture for the biggest country of South Asia, warning that Indiacould face numerous climate change-induced calamities in the next two decades if concrete mitigation steps are not taken.

In Glasgow climate summit of 2021 (COP 26), Indian Prime Minister, Mr Modi, vowed that India would reach net-zero carbon emissions after 49 years by 2070.

India came into spotlight after it opposed a commitment to “phase out” the deadliest coal and later on it was replaced by “phase down”.

India also did not pledge to stop deforestation and cut methane gas emissions. Mr Gautam Adani, president of $200 billion sprawling conglomerate and thirty years old associate of Mr Narendra Modi is to become the world’s largest coal importer.

Thus, in spite of the alarming situation, India will be burning coal in far greater quantities, for decades to come. ?

Pakistan has been facing significant threats due to climate change and global warming for many years, lately one third of the country was submerged due to floods aggravated on account of climate change.

The country is now ranked 8th in global CRI while it contributes only 0.64 percent to global carbon emissions.

Factors like high population growth, dependency on the agriculture sector, and limited resources have drastically increased the impacts of climate change.

Melting of glaciers, flooding, heavy rainfall, droughts, rising temperature, water shortage, and spread of pathogens have affected all the components of human securitywithin the country.

In the recent years, the gravity of the situation has been acknowledged and many policy measures have been introduced to address the grave situation in line with the international protocols.

Bangladesh ranks 7th on the CRI despite only 0.56% to global carbon emissions. The country has famous waterways which have rich agricultural land, promote widespreadtransportation by ships and boat providingaccess inland.

These same waterways make Bangladesh one of the most susceptiblecountries to rising sea level.

Latest IPCC report shows that 56 percent of the Bangladeshi people dwell in “high climate exposure areas”.

A slight increase in sea levels can see more than half of the population submerged in water. Bhutan is a carbon negative country, implying it absorbs more carbon than it emits, yet is threatened due to melting Himalayan glaciers.

The accelerated retreat of glaciers due to increasing temperatures, make the country exposed to the Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOFs).

These floods pose extreme threats to the life, and livelihood of the people. The country is not equipped to deal with such massive existential threats.

Nepal is extremelysusceptible to climate change and just like Bhutan, the country’s retreating glaciers pose the threat of extreme flooding.

Sri Lanka’s coastal provinces in the Northand North West are considered the mainhotspots and stand enormously exposed to climate change.

Half the population of Sri Lanka reside in low lying littoral areas and are thus exposed to rising sea levels.

A slight increase in the sea levels can lead to floods, spread of infectious illnesses, and a great loss of livelihood of the people.

Maldives constitutes the small islands which are facing existential threat. More than 80 per cent of the country is less than one meter above sea level.

A rise of a single meter in sea level, which is not far away will cause the entire country to be submerged in water.

Additionally, the coral reefs across the country are also at risk due to sea water warming. These reefs are a main source of attraction for tourists and support the fishing industry.

Any damage to these coral reefs will lead to insurmountable economic loss to the country. Thus, the situation is very bleak for the nations in South Asia.

The region in addition to having a high sensitivity and vulnerability level is seriously lacking in climate change adaptive capacity.

Adaptation includes climate change preparation, building resilience and strengthening collective capacity to respond.

Funding strategy being formulated in COP 27 needs to keep in mind the plight of the people in South Asia.

They have suffered a lot and are daily battling the high temperatures, floods, glacial outbursts and rising sea levels, without being responsible for global warming.

The nations of South Asia besides maintaining peaceful relations with one another should also make peace with the nature.

The issues of smog, river water disputes and immediate rescue and relief during natural calamities as earthquakes can be mitigated by regional cooperation among neighbours.

The societies and states of South Asia need to manage the unavoidable so that they can avoid the unmanageable.

—The writer is an academician, a practitioner and author of two books on Climate change.