November 7, 2022
ISLAMABAD – THE timing of this year’s Conference of the Parties, or COP27, could not be better for the Global South; many countries have of late been witnessing the disastrous effects of climate change. Record rains, flash floods and heatwaves have swept the entire globe, engulfing even the developed world. The US, Europe and the UK, as well as the Indo-Pacific region, have suffered alongside the usual climate disaster hotspots in Africa and South Asia. While the COP is not a donor conference and may not lead to pledges, it is imperative that Pakistan capitalise on this opportunity to advance its ‘climate justice’ agenda, a mantra that has been repeated several times by everyone, from the foreign minister to the finance minister, in the aftermath of this year’s devastating monsoon floods in several parts of the country.
Although the stakeholders (read: the nations of this world) primarily concern themselves with reducing emissions and limiting global temperature rises, equipping the developing world with the tools and finances necessary to build climate-resilient infrastructure is very much on the agenda this year. But this may also be the year when the question of ‘loss and damage’, a sore point for all the states involved, takes centre stage. Developing countries are increasingly coming around to view compensation for the ravages of climate change perpetrated upon them by the big polluters as their moral right. Developed nations, on the other hand, are obviously reluctant to concede any ground that may dent their coffers. But with the US climate envoy John Kerry signalling that Washington is ready for the issue to be brought to the table at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, things are looking up for the traditional underdogs.
This year, Islamabad also has adopted a strong negotiating posture thanks to the legwork done at the international level by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman and the previous finance minister Miftah Ismail as well as the incumbent Ishaq Dar. Ms Rehman has already been projected by the international press as someone to look out for in this year’s discussions, and for good reason. In recent briefings and interactions with the media, Ms Rehman has eloquently described Pakistan’s position and has showcased the homework done by various departments ahead of the moot. It seems that for the first time in many years, we may have something to contribute at the UN climate summit. Pakistan also has the UN chief himself in its corner; Secretary General António Guterres has been championing Pakistan’s cause ever since the calamitous monsoons hit, and has lent weight to the argument for climate compensation. Climate change does not respect geographical boundaries, nor does it discriminate between north and south, rich or poor. Combating it is a problem facing all of humanity, and it’s not going away anytime soon.