Amid floods, Pakistan calls on rich countries to pay for climate damage
A third of the country under water. Crops washed away. Some 33 million people homeless. Billions of dollars in damage. A looming food crisis. And yet, the unprecedented rains are coming. Pakistan’s mega-monsoon dumped up to 700% of usual August rainfall on parts of the country as floodwaters were boosted by melting ice following the massive heat wave that hit the country in March. Climate experts say climate change has amplified the event, if nothing else.
It’s no wonder Pakistan’s Climate Minister Sherry Rehman is calling not only for immediate aid, but also for compensation by wealthy industrialized countries for the damage caused by their greenhouse gas emissions.
Like she said The Guardian, Pakistan emitted less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases, but is already among the hardest hit countries. “The bargain between North and South is not working. . . climate change is accelerating much faster than expected.
Rich countries, however, show little enthusiasm for paying for the losses and damages caused in part by their emissions. But as climate impacts worsen, can it last?
Rich countries don’t want to talk about compensation – and you can see why
One thing is not up for debate: loss and damage from climate change is happening. “Loss and damage” is the term used by climate negotiators at the annual United Nations climate summits to refer to the impacts caused by climate change.
But while the 165 nations party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agree it is happening, there is no agreement on who should pay for it.
The recent G20 talks in Bali failed, partly on this very issue. The question of who pays caused a major debate between industrialized and developing countries, who also disagreed on how strongly to criticize the failure of rich countries to provide the promised 145 billion Australian dollars ( the equivalent of nearly $100 billion) per year in climate finance by 2020.
But that is changing. Increasingly, action and financing of loss and damage is seen as a necessity, even by developed countries. Even so, offsetting historical emissions is still not on the table.
In part, that’s fair enough. Although we know that early industrialized countries like the United States emitted disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gases, determining how much climate change contributed to specific events is much more difficult.
In Pakistan, for example, the monsoon season has always been part of the region’s weather patterns. It would be difficult to allocate compensation fairly if you don’t know how much a high-emitting country contributed to the disaster.
That said, given the key role that fossil fuel companies have played in climate change – and in lobbying to prevent climate action – it will likely be easier to pinpoint the responsibility of private companies rather than entire nations.
It’s not the only problem. Where would the compensation go? Would it go to the most affected communities or would much of it be absorbed by central bureaucracies? And what about big emerging polluters, like China, which is still considered a developing country but emits about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than double the annual emissions of the United States? United ? Which courts would decide the compensation amount, given that there are no “climate courts” empowered to deal with these issues?
Perhaps most important is the legal precedent set if rich countries explicitly compensate developing countries for losses from climate change. Legally, compensation is paid by a person, organization or country to a victim. So if rich countries start paying compensation, it could become a bottomless pit.
This is why the subject of compensation is heavy and controversial. Despite its popularity with some developing country leaders and climate justice advocates, the legal complexities and potentially huge sums involved mean it is unlikely to achieve success.
What we are more likely to see is increased funding and ambition for climate adaptation and disaster response – climate finance, as it is called. The difference here is that the funding is voluntary. But currently, climate finance is falling far short of the levels needed.
Will the issue of compensation block climate progress?
Despite the improbability, some developing countries are heavily focused on compensation. This is understandable, given their relatively tiny emissions and the disproportionate damage caused. But this remains a disruptive factor for rich countries.
The problem is that the issue risks overshadowing crucial climate negotiations. As the issue of compensation becomes politicized, it blocks other areas of climate change action where we urgently need progress, such as securing more immediate funding for those affected by disasters. climate-driven natural resources.
Pakistan will lead the bloc of developing countries in negotiations at the COP27 climate change conference in November in Egypt. Expect tough negotiations and strong opinions on compensation and funding for loss and damage.
This year’s conference was already expected to be tense, given the energy crisis in Europe and the rush for more fossil fuels to fill supply gaps, as well as an increase in disasters. climatic. We can expect tough negotiations and strong opinions on compensation and funding for loss and damage.
As the unprecedented European and American droughts show us, rich countries are not immune to climate impacts. They do, however, have a greater ability to cope and bounce back.
Research has shown that communities and global policy makers are not convinced that offsetting is a solution.
What is clear is that climate finance must increase and be spent effectively. It must be pragmatic and practical, moving away from politicized debate over loss and damage, and compensation to ensure that people on the ground, like the millions of homeless people in Pakistan, can access the assistance.