COP27 or cop-out in a cop state

The official deliberations of COP27 conclude today

Dr Pervez Tahir November 18, 2022
The writer is a senior political economist and President, Council of Social Sciences (COSS), Pakistan


The official deliberations of COP27 conclude today. Global summits are about incremental change. This is true even if the subject is a catastrophe like climate change. COP27 that is likely to deliver far, far less than expected is no exception. Nay, an exception there is. The revolutionary spirit abroad usually on the following Saturday when the civil society march steals the show will be missing. Alas! The hundreds of thousands of activists running amok on the avenues of the venue city, be it Copenhagen, Paris or Glasgow, won’t be witnessed. It would be restrained in the cop state of Egypt to chanting, “We Have Not Yet Been Defeated”, in solidarity with a prisoner of conscience.”

Yes, the good old “Polluter Pays Principle” is the rage. Just before the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the OECD had accepted it as a guiding principle. Over the years, it has been established by scientific studies that the rich nations are largely responsible for the emission of greenhouse gas. It is, therefore, for these polluters to pay for it. The latest estimate of the payment is a staggering trillion dollars annually until 2030. In response, the rich nations first agreed to set up funds for mitigation and adaptation. The disbursements were in millions against the requirements of billions. Frustrated by this lack of interest, the poor nations, especially the seriously vulnerable island nations, came up with the idea of a Loss and Damage financing facility. The rich resisted and prevented any discussion at COP26. The major achievement of the COP27 is the placement of the proposal on the formal agenda for the first time. It is likely to be a major disappointment also because of the tough talking by the rich.

Pakistan contributes less than one per cent of the world emissions, but is among the worst sufferers. Amnesty International best captures the state of affairs when it demanded of COP27 and G20 summits “justice and support for those living at the intersections of climate and economic crises”. At the conference, the country made its presence felt at the highest level. Seeking compensation for the loss and damage is at the centre of the diplomatic offensive launched by its dynamic minister for climate change. Heading a group of 134 developing countries, Pakistan has submitted a proposal for immediate provision of new and predictable resources to cover loss and damage caused by climate change. What is predictable here is the nothing-doing response of the developed countries.

So the last hope that the world will come to Pakistan’s assistance, as in the past, has been dashed. The world now knows that we want the world to support our people, while the elite captures the state. A single appointment gets more attention than the loss and damage caused by the floods. The budget allocated to the victims is less than the technical supplementaries allowed to the military and the political class. In FY21, just 87 billion rupees were allocated to environment by the federal and provincial governments together. Of the 91 billion rupees earmarked for natural calamities and other disasters, 88 billion rupees flowed to the current budget. The neglect of health, education and agriculture is well-known. The post-flood loss and damage assessment of $30 billion is a piece of the old theories about the wealth drained by the colonial powers. And this from believers that Allah does not help those who do not help themselves. The cop-out at COP27 in a cop state should bring home the age old lesson that charity begins at home.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2022.

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