Pakistani Minister of Climate Change, Sherry Rehman speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022.Aneela RashidLongreadThe South Asian country of 220 million is currently facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reported the total fatalities as amounting to 1,314, with over a third of them (458) children.Sindh province, situated in the south of the country, is the worst affected, where authorities have reported a total of 522 deaths so far, including 219 children. Tens of thousands of livestock have perished and over one-third of the country is covered by floodwater, with 33 million people displaced as their homes now lie in ruins.The floods, caused by torrents of monsoon rains, have battered most of South Asia this year. Northeastern India and Bangladesh have also faced extreme rainfall, and millions have been displaced. As climate change is gaining momentum, scientists warn such cataclysmic events are just the beginning.In a recent interview with a foreign publication, Pakistan’s minister for climate change, Sherry Rehman, expressed her anguish over the tragic flooding in the country, saying there is so much loss and damage with little restitution provided by rich countries, who caused the climate change in the first place.
According to Rehman, "Global warming is the existential crisis facing the world and Pakistan is ground zero – yet we have contributed less than 1% to [greenhouse gas] emissions. We all know that the pledges made in multilateral forums have not been fulfilled."
The floods serve as a dire warning of the devastating impact of climate change and, according to the minister, the countries most responsible for causing the climate crisis must provide compensation and remedy for the loss and damage.Talk of quantifying national responsibility for climate breakdown has been ongoing in the scientific community, but the theory is not being put into practice.Pakistan is bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, despite being a small contributor to greenhouse emissions. In 2019, Pakistan’s greenhouse gas emissions stood at about 433 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year — this is 0.9 percent of the global emissions.It is well known that emissions of greenhouse gases of human origin are the main cause of climate change. Their effect on global warming is detrimental and despite the ongoing efforts to curb the emissions to stop humans from destroying the planet, not enough is being done.Most of this pollution comes from just a few countries: China, for example, generates around 30% of all global emissions, while the United States is responsible for almost 14%.
Dr. Jason Hickel an economic anthropologist and a professor, recently said in a Tweet, "The people of Pakistan need urgent international assistance, and it should come in the form not of aid, or charity, but reparations for climate damages, shouldered by the elites and corporations that control and profit from fossil capital."
Following the tragic floods, Pakistan has declared a national emergency. The total damage estimates exceed $10 billion and further crisis is inevitable as the economy is struggling, water-borne diseases are spreading, and food production has ground to a halt.For an agriculture-based economy, such a cataclysmic event is an absolute disaster. Nearly two million acres of agricultural land have been destroyed, and the price of basic vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and potatoes have increased at least fourfold.The situation is made worse by the fact that diseases are now spreading in the flooded areas. Dengue, malaria, cholera, typhoid, and other viruses are infecting the population, but medical assistance is inefficient and without adequate sanitation, communities are increasingly having to opt for open defecation, putting them at even higher risk of contracting diseases.As Sherry Rehman said, “The whole area looks like an ocean with no horizon – nothing like this has been seen before. I wince when I hear people say these are natural disasters. This is very much the age of the Anthropocene: these are man-made disasters.”She further said that it is becoming very obvious that the bargain made between the Global North and South is not working.”You can’t walk away from the reality that big corporations that have net profits bigger than the GDP of many countries need to take responsibility,” Rehman said.WorldFlood Disaster, Rising Inflation, & Political Turmoil Puts Pakistan’s Ruling Elite Under Scrutiny6 September, 15:28 GMTTaking about the annual UN climate talks, this year referred to as COP27, due to take place in Egypt in November, the minister said that Pakistan will be making its stance very clear and will push the polluting countries to pay up after a year of devastating drought, floods, heatwaves and forest fires.
“We’re going to be very clear and unequivocal about what we see as our needs and due, as well as where we see the series of larger global targets going. But loss and danger to the south, which is already in the throes of an accelerated climate dystopia will have to be part of the bargain driven at COP27,” she said.
Last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, which was presided over by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US President Joe Biden, and then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson left low-income nations frustrated as they were deeply critical about the slow pace of decarbonization, and voiced their concern over how promises to deliver funding have not been honored.”COP26 has closed the gap, but it has not solved the problem,” Niklas Hoehne, a climate researcher at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said.
Looking further back, one is sadly reminded of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 and Kyoto Agreement of 1997: the biggest climate conferences in history were just a tiny step towards solving a giant problem.
“When 196 parties adopted the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, their individual promises were far too modest to limit global warming in line with the goals they set. If those pledges were fulfilled, the world would be on course to warm by roughly 2.7°C by 2100. And those pledges were not being fulfilled. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in the years since,” according to Umair Irfan, a climate change writer.As far as the Kyoto Protocol is concerned, it was in fact doomed from the start, because it did not consider the world’s largest and fastest growing economies; it excluded developing countries, including China and India, from binding targets, and the US rejected the protocols and did not sign them.The climate target was to limit temperature increases to two degrees C. Yet the last 20 years has seen a rapid rise in global emissions.When the International Energy Agency released their climate change report in 2019, it explained that the momentum behind clean energy is insufficient to course-correct the effects of an expanding global economy and growing population.”The world urgently needs to put a laser-like focus on bringing down global emissions. This calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is committed to tackling climate change,” the report further stated.Such a collaboration of nations and big corporations working toward a common goal is yet to be seen!Obviously, we are all leading the world straight to catastrophe and small island nations and poorer countries are the most vulnerable. Although every country has to contribute to solving climate change, more developed countries have a commitment to help nations that have fewer resources to pay for the unprecedented damages.The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.