COP27 — a pyrrhic victory

Pakistan attracted global traction for investing in nature-based solutions, showing a strong commitment to environment


Malik Amin Aslam Khan November 30, 2022

The expectations of a world, stunned by climate disasters, were very high from the yearly political huddle at COP27.

The climate negotiators had to stop debating and start delivering.

In this context, the loss and damage fund was a critical outcome of COP27 but came with a significant compromise — a pyrrhic victory that forced attention away from the real issue which is delivering funds as opposed to creating another fund.

The UNFCCC already has four funds under its wings — the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund with the last three of these catering to climate adaptation.

This new fund now adds to this tarnished list of mostly unfunded funds.

All of them have been created over the past two decades, and all of them have proven to be mere lollipops while confronting the rising challenge of climate change.

What the developing countries needed was a realisation of the already promised funds by developed countries, the $100 billion a year which remains a pipedream, but what they got duped into was the creation of yet another new fund.

In an arena littered with failed promises, announcing a fund without funding should be little cause for overzealous trumpeting.

Ideologically there is certainly a ray of renewed hope.

Standing in solidarity with the most vulnerable the fund universally accepts and endorses the long-ignored principle of climate justice and reaffirms the polluter pays principle.

However, the last 28 years of climate negotiations have proven that principles don’t generate funds and that the devil always resides in the details.

These details, which will unfold over the coming year, will actually thrash out whether the polluters will actually pay, whether the climate damages to countries like Pakistan can be compensated by this fund and whether the issue of climate reparations will actually form a template for attributing just financial responsibility.

COP27 has just delivered another promissory note, without any guarantees which shall remain a false hope without actual money on the table.

For Pakistan, which is really reeling from continuous climate disasters, there is little respite.

The climate damages hitting Pakistan cannot wait for these negotiations to conclude and the funds to get funded.

The debt-stressed country is presently burdened with a climate invoice crossing $30 billion with almost no relief at hand and this has already pushed another 9 billion people towards extreme poverty.

The latest World Bank estimates (CCDR) point out that 6.5 to 9% of the country’s GDP/year could get hit by climate change with the cumulative need for climate finance burgeoning to $348 billion by 2030.

These are daunting numbers and, in Pakistan’s current economic scenario, a dire warning to say the least.

The victim card played incessantly by the Pakistan delegation at COP27 managed to galvanise sympathy but, unfortunately, neither creates a platform for attracting financing nor do the generated concerns translate into support funds.

The window for climate concern in today’s world is small and may already have moved on from Pakistan to the next country and the next climate disaster.

In contrast, last year at Glasgow COP26, Pakistan had created a unique niche for itself by investing in nature-based solutions and doing so with its own funds and thereby displaying a strong solution-oriented political commitment.

This had created the platform for catapulting Pakistan as a natural leader which attracted immense global traction.

It was chosen by UNEP to host the World Environment Day and launch the UN decade of ecosystem restoration, it was selected by UNEP as one of the three global forestry champions and by WEF as one of the three nature leaders at Glasgow.

This invaluable repute was solidly built upon actual projects on the ground enhancing nature-based climate resilience, such as the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami, the Protected Areas Initiative, the Recharge Pakistan and the Living Indus initiatives.

It was this platform that had positioned the country to attract innovative climate financing through bilateral green MOUs with the US, the UK, China, Saudi Arabia and Germany (Global Shield) and with other multilaterals such as the World Bank and ADB wanting to support nature-based solutions.

Pakistan’s recognition as a nature solution provider to the world, and not just a pleading victim or climate beggar, had the sustainable magnetism to attract climate funding and the model was working.

However, this position has been eroded at COP27.

Nobody talked about Pakistan as a nature leader and the only incessant cry heard from the Pakistan pavilion was of hapless climate victimhood.

COPs will come and go but climate change has already gate-crashed into Pakistan.

As the next year unfolds, so will a new climate finance architecture which will remain intrinsically linked to nature performance and enhancement of climate resilience.

Pakistan does not have an option but to align itself with this new unfolding reality if it is to bridge the huge gap in climate finance that it inescapably faces.

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