Pakistan Must Adapt to Climate Change. But Who Will Help Us? – TIME

The record-breaking mega-flood in August 2022 that impacted 33 million people in Pakistan brought home to the world the urgency and scale of the climate crisis afflicting developing countries. At the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP 27), it triggered widespread worry among other countries about the state of preparedness many will have to gear up to—even if, like Pakistan, they remain negligible emitters of the greenhouse gases. In 2022, Pakistan’s pavilion at Sharm-al-Shaikh positioned not just the global connectedness of the crisis by pointing out that “what goes on in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan,” it also became the hub of the climate finance deficits that are growing exponentially in inverse proportion to global emissions. This has led, in part, to the creation of the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund at the end of the conference.
Yet as G20’s energy ministers remained unable to agree on a roadmap to reduce emissions by July 2023 (even as COP28 approaches) the realization set in that many of us will remain in the frontline of the burn. Pakistan has been home for three successive years where on at least one day temperatures reached 53°C (127.4°F). The hope that we were working with needed a home-grown plan. As heatwaves coupled with slow global action transformed the earth into a red planet in the summer of 2023, Pakistan launched a National Adaptation Plan in July to chart a strategic whole-of government approach with a framework toolkit that allows it to protect its population.
For instance, the province of Sindh, which to this day stands transformed by the 2022 deluge, and recently saw evacuations in the coastal areas from cyclonic activity in a warming Arabian Sea, began its rehabilitation process by transferring new land titles to the women of afflicted households. In all such crises, the most vulnerable always remain the poorest, the women and children, impacted disproportionately by multiple crises of food insecurity, displacement, and disease.
That said, while Sindh is struggling to cope with a cascade of disasters, it will need not just the National Adaptation Plan, but the resources to transform municipal, rural, and agri-water governance for the dangerous decade ahead—all of which needs time, capacity, and liquidity. Similarly, the province of Balochistan has already declared a flood emergency, while the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is impacted too by a gathering storm.
Read More: ‘I Lost My Son in This Water a Few Days Ago.’ Photos of Pakistan’s Catastrophic Flooding
For countries drowning in extreme weather, exogenous shocks, and high public debt, where will this money come from? Especially in the amount that the World Bank in its 2022 Country Climate and Development Report calculated for Pakistan: a staggering $348 billion by 2030. This is just the number to stay resilient—to keep our heads above water and build sustainability into a climate-adaptive future. All this while a summer of fresh flooding and melting glaciers redefines our lives, our social and economic experiences, into a lifelong struggle to rebuild with resilience while we fight the climate devastations wreaking havoc again.
Who is coming to the rescue of such countries? While U.N. has been in the frontline of immediate relief, even its flash appeals globally remain under-funded. Structural reforms involve pain. We are willing to undergo more pain, especially for enabling resilience, but some amount of change has to come from the Bretton Woods system—the monetary management structure that controls the U.S., Canada, Australia, Western Europe, and Japan—meant to lead the world out of egregious inequality and now climate distress. The financing gap to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries has enlarged from $2.5 trillion in 2019 to $4.2 trillion in 2023. Add to it the cost of realizing climate goals, and the amount reaches a whopping $5.2 trillion annually.
Our National Adaption Plan (NAP) is designed to build climate-adaptation goals into every aspect of development planning. The international financial system must do the same. As we approach COP 28, the Global Goal on Adaptation remains under-capitalized, while the L&D fund is yet to start functioning. The U.N. Secretary General António Guterres made detailed recommendations in a press conference on July 27 that countries must operationalize and scale up the funding of renewables. Donor countries have been bilaterally supportive but they too need to fulfill their commitment to provide 0.7% of their Gross National Income as development assistance. Multilateral Development Banks should be recapitalized and be enabled to provide portfolio and budgetary support to developing countries, rather than project finance only. They should vastly expand grant and concessional lending to developing countries, enhance the vote and the voice of the developing countries in both International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and link the distribution of new IMF SDRs to development and climate goals.
The transition to a sustainable global economy will require an investment of around $1.5 trillion each year in the developing countries. Business as usual will certainly not work. A large part of this funding pool will have to come from the private sector, which will need new structural incentives to bring their leverage and capital to the business of bending development history. Vulnerable countries cannot attract investment in times of epochal climate distress, but they do need more than band-aid financing. We now need transformational milestones to building global consensus for a financing architecture that can face the 21st century’s rapidly changing conditions that challenge resilience while fueling crippling inequalities.
Critical assistance for the most climate vulnerable countries must not further burden the poor. Actions will be as important as pledges and plans at this point. A real message of change from global leaders would contribute substantially to the success of the forthcoming SDG Summit in September and COP28 in December, and restore trust in global cooperation and international solidarity. Our people are looking to us with renewed hope for action. We must not fail them.
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