The historic floods in Pakistan provided much of the impetus for COP27 participants to push through a ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ — a first-of-its-kind disaster relief fund to help the world’s poorest countries deal with the fallout of extreme climate events. The agreement has also turned out to be the biggest achievement at COP27, as no consensus was found on a deal on controlling global temperature increases. In fact, independent climate experts were quite critical of developed countries’ efforts to first throw a spanner in the works by raising unnecessary roadblocks. Developed nations were also accused of playing many of the agreements reached as achievements when they were really rehashed versions of decisions from past COP conferences. Even the language on fossil fuels continues to be astoundingly lenient on all countries, rich or poor.
Several foreign analysts and media outlets also credited Pakistan’s representatives — led by Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman — for their efforts to bring onboard several holdouts during negotiations in the Sharm el-Sheikh town of Egypt. It is worth noting that beyond suffering the worst climate disaster in recent memory, Pakistan also played a leading role in the negotiations because it is the current chair of the G77 group of developing nations. While Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, nominated as Vice President of the COP27, himself did a good job making a case for compensation for Pakistan by highlighting the sufferings of the flood victims in the country, he commended the efforts of his climate change minister by saying that establishment of the relief fund is a “manifestation of excellent climate diplomacy that made this possible”.
However, the deal that was eventually reached is not without its weaknesses — for one, it pushes several decisions relating to who will pay what into the fund to next year’s COP summit instead of having these details hashed out over the next few weeks and months, meaning that the fund will probably not be available sooner than 2024 at the earliest. Recall that the developed world has still not kept its promise from 2009 to spend $100 billion a year in climate aid to help poor countries with disaster preparedness and green energy adoption. Even Sherry Rehman, the minister, made it clear that the deal is just a first step, noting that Pakistan looks forward to the fund “being operationalised, to actually become a robust body that is able to answer with agility to the needs of the vulnerable, the fragile and those on the frontline of climate disasters”.
Still, we cannot ignore the efforts of everyday global citizens who put pressure on their governments to do something. Sherry Rehman noted that “when the US was close to stepping away, American civil society groups pushed hard, lobbying congressional leaders. It made it hard to back away without being cast as the villains.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2022.
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