The United Nations Climate Change Conference is being held in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh this year. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman have left the country to attend the conference. This year, Pakistan is the conference chair and is headed there to get the world to commit to helping countries like Pakistan deal with the growing loss and damage caused by global warming. While richer countries debate how to slow rising temperatures while continuing to produce the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, poorer states are already feeling the effects of a hotter climate and more extreme weather, from worsening floods and droughts to deadly heat and rising sea levels.
Speaking alongside UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the COP27 climate conference, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif claimed that Pakistan’s rising public debt was impeding the country’s economic recovery. The country witnessed large-scale destruction in the monsoon season this year, and a loss of at least $30 billion was calculated. People were displaced, and much of the infrastructure was destroyed. In some urban centres, the blame was put on the administration for not taking adequate measures before the monsoon season, however, it is quite clear that the fault lies not in how the government tackled the floods but in countries that have actively participated in aiding climate change. Pakistan contributes to less than 1% of global emissions, yet it has to face so much destruction due to the actions of others. The country is also mired in economic instability, which can be partly attributed to climate change, and so it is Pakistan’s right to be given compensation by richer countries that heavily contribute to climate change.
Pakistan and other climate-vulnerable nations are urging the UN to mobilize “loss and damage” funds for disaster-hit nations at this year’s climate talks in Egypt. Some argue that wealthy nations have a responsibility to cover these costs because historical emissions are largely to blame for current global warming. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the country mobilized every available resource towards the national relief effort, but it was not enough due to a large amount of damage. The broken roads and bridges will need renovation and reconstruction, and this is the least concerning issue as millions of people have lost their homes and their rehabilitation comes first and foremost. The lack of funds, however, is making everything extremely difficult for the country. Moreover, the stagnant water is now destroying the agricultural landscape, which is the backbone of the country.
In order to help middle-income nations like Pakistan focus on reconstruction rather than repayment, Guterres urged international financial institutions like the World Bank and leaders at the upcoming G20 summit in Indonesia to reform policies that govern debt relief and concessional loan decisions. He said that there should be a way in which the debts that these countries owe are swapped with the payments they should receive for the climate crisis.
Pakistan is truly in need of assistance in mitigating the effects of climate change. The people have to suffer greatly due to the actions of large corporations around the world, and with already high rates of inflation and unemployment, more suffering is intolerable. Countries responsible for this destruction must aid Pakistan and other poor, affected nations.