The arc of cli­mate jus­tice

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

It is a painful irony of cli­mate change that those least re­spon­si­ble for the prob­lem are of­ten the most ex­posed to its rav­ages. And if any coun­try can claim to be the vic­tim of this cli­mate in­jus­tice, it is Pak­istan. As world lead­ers meet at the United Na­tions Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Paris, the coun­try is reel­ing from the af­ter­ef­fects of dev­as­tat­ing floods that dam­aged build­ings, de­stroyed crops, swept away bridges, and killed 238 peo­ple.

Such weather-re­lated tragedies are not new to Pak­istan; what’s dif­fer­ent is their fre­quency and fe­roc­ity. Deadly floods have be­come a yearly oc­cur­rence; in 2010, record-break­ing rains killed nearly 2,000 peo­ple and drove mil­lions from their homes. Even as Pak­istan fights one of the world’s most pitched bat­tles against ter­ror­ism, in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent weather is push­ing up the cost of food and clean wa­ter, threat­en­ing en­ergy sup­plies, un­der­min­ing the econ­omy, and pos­ing a po­tent and costly se­cu­rity threat.

There is lit­tle doubt that the coun­try’s cli­matic woes are caused, at least in part, by the green­house-gas emis­sions that in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries have pumped into the air since the be­gin­ning of the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion. Even to­day, Pak­istan pro­duces less than 1% of the world’s emis­sions. Mean­while, Pak­istan is con­sis­tently ranked among the coun­tries that are most vul­ner­a­ble to the harm­ful ef­fects of cli­mate change, owing to its de­mo­graph­ics, geography, and nat­u­ral cli­matic con­di­tions.

From 1994 to 2013, cli­mate change cost Pak­istan an av­er­age of $4 bln a year. By com­par­i­son, in 2012, ter­ror­ism in Pak­istan re­sulted in losses of roughly $1 bln. When the coun­try isn’t suf­fer­ing from floods, it is sub­ject to wa­ter short­ages, rank­ing as one of the most wa­ter-stressed in the world, ac­cord­ing to the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank. And cli­mate change is com­pound­ing both prob­lems, wear­ing away at the glaciers and snow­pack that serve as nat­u­ral reg­u­la­tors of wa­ter flow, even as in­creased ero­sion caused by flood­ing con­trib­utes to the sil­ta­tion of ma­jor reser­voirs.

Mean­while, ris­ing tem­per­a­tures are in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of pests and crop diseases, jeop­ar­dis­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity and sub­ject­ing the pop­u­la­tion to in­creas­ingly fre­quent heat­waves. Ris­ing sea lev­els are in­creas­ing the salin­ity of coastal ar­eas, dam­ag­ing man­groves, and threat­en­ing fish species’ breed­ing grounds. And higher ocean tem­per­a­tures are lead­ing to more fre­quent and dan­ger­ous cy­clones, en­dan­ger­ing the coun­try’s coast.

The out­look for the fu­ture is no less alarm­ing: wors­en­ing wa­ter stress, in­creased flash flood­ing, and the de­ple­tion of the coun­try’s wa­ter reser­voirs. By 2040, pro­jec­tions in­di­cate that an av­er­age rise in tem­per­a­tures of 0.5 de­gree Cel­sius could de­stroy 8-10% of Pak­istan’s crops.

This bur­den must not be left for Pak­istan to carry alone. Thus far, progress at in­ter­na­tional cli­mate-change talks has been in­cre­men­tal at best. Fos­sil-fuel lob­bies, re­luc­tant gov­ern­ments in in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries, and dis­en­gaged elec­torates have de­layed and ob­structed the emer­gence of a ro­bust agree­ment to re­duce global green­house-gas emis­sions. But while expectations of a break­through in the fight against cli­mate change in Paris are op­ti­mistic, a push for eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion of the costs of global warm­ing must be made.

De­spite an in­crease in fund­ing for cli­mate adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion in the de­vel­op­ing world, Pak­istan’s share has re­mained tiny, rel­a­tive to the dis­as­ters it has suf­fered in the last five years alone. By 2050, the av­er­age an­nual cost of cli­mate-change adap­ta­tion in Pak­istan will be $6-14 bln, ac­cord­ing to the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change. Mit­i­ga­tion will run an­other $17 bln per year.

As cli­mate change con­tin­ues to take its ter­ri­ble toll, Pak­istan can­not al­low the bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages it suf­fers at the hands of the world’s largest pol­luters to go un­com­pen­sated. What­ever the ul­ti­mate agree­ment in Paris, cli­mate ne­go­tia­tors must en­sure that the ac­crued losses re­sult­ing from global emis­sions are borne fairly and do not re­main the sole bur­den of those suf­fer­ing the great­est harm.

As one of the world’s smaller pol­luters, Pak­istan is well within its rights in seek­ing re­sources and funds to cope with the im­pact of prob­lems for which it is not re­spon­si­ble. So are many other coun­tries. Our de­mand for a bind­ing in­ter­na­tional mech­a­nism to dis­trib­ute the bur­den of cli­mate change – a mech­a­nism to en­sure cli­mate jus­tice – must not go un­heeded in Paris.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.