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‘The Future We Want’— Gearing Up For 26th UN Climate Change Conference

Being on the front lines of the “climate emergency”, Pakistan has been placed on the fifth spot on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change by the Global Climate Risk Index 2020. The recent events strongly indicate that people are not left with much choice but to cope with this climate crisis and global warming that in its cascading effect has led to melting Himalayan glaciers impacting water availability, sea levels, threatening biodiversity, changing monsoon patterns – resulting in freak weather events – essentially everything compounds our vulnerability considering the fact that Pakistan is essentially an agrarian economy.

In its attempt to counter climate change, Pakistan pledged a low-carbon future by 2030 where renewable and low carbon energy will replace the traditional fossil fuel energy by almost 60% while shifting 30% of transport towards green electric mobility (National Electric Vehicle Policy). The measures would include scrapping down coal powered projects, creating green jobs, and promoting eco tourism which is closely complemented by increased tree plantations (for instance, Ten Billion Tree Tsunami).

To help secure bilateral climate finance, Pakistan intends to raise $500 million with the sale of its first Green Eurobond, whereby the funds received will be used for Diamer Basha and Mohmand dams. However, these efforts alone will not yield the desired results. This calls for financial support from developed countries which is crucial for climate adaptation. Pakistan’s cumulative abatement cost amounts to approximately $40 billion that calls for an increased global financial support for adaptation. Meanwhile, these adaptation needs have been identified to range between $7 billion to $14 billion per year (Asian Development Bank Report 2017). As of 2012, Pakistan had only received $15 million in disbursements of multilateral finance explicitly for climate change; the aforementioned target is unachievable with such meagre funding.

UNFCCC 1992 that was adopted to address the harmful impact of human activities on climate change and global temperature increase was established on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities” that calls for the developed country Parties’ convention to provide financial assistance to developing country Parties in implementing the objectives of the UNFCCC. Under Paris Agreement, the global community resolved that “developed countries must contribute funds – $100 billion a year committed from 2020 – with the aim of increasing fund mobilisation after 2025, so far no breakthrough has been made in this regard.

On the other hand, the way the available climate finance flows reveals an unequal gap in terms of funding efforts that aim at reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and dealing with their effects. According to the analysis by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 19% of climate finance mobilised in 2017 went to projects that helped communities adapt to climate change, making it severely under-funded. As feared by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), it could lead to a drop in agriculture yields by nearly a third by 2050 and as observed by World Bank can push more than 100 million people below the poverty line by 2030.

While climate finance from developed countries reached $78.9 billion in 2018, it’s far short of the target agreed in 2015 by 197 countries as part of the Paris Agreement. The increasing trend on the part of developed countries was to provide loans over grants for climate finance, making recipient countries pay significant amounts in loan repayments and interest. COVID-19 pandemic has further reduced climate finance delivery.

Climate finance to Pakistan has been much lower than expected. According to Pakistan Economic Survey (2020) Pakistan was a recipient of $3.8 million grant from World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in 2015 for reduced emission from deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN REDD+ Programme). It was followed by an additional grant of $4.01 million to further support the preparedness activities in Pakistan until June 2020. In 2019, Green Climate Fund (GCF) transferred USD 35 million to a FAO project to enhance the climate resilience of farmers in Pakistan’s Indus Basin. In March 2021, Pakistan officially began the process of mapping out its National Adaptation Plan for building resilience to climate change, supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the Green Climate Fund with USD 2.7 million. However these funds insufficient as they are can solve many but not all problems, for countries like Pakistan that despite being low on emission is spending around 6% of its annual financial budget to adapt and mitigate the harmful impacts of climate change.

With the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC scheduled to take place in November in Glasgow, UK and the global campaign of Race To Zero, there is an increased focus on decarbonised economy, sustainable growth – even involving actors outside national governments with the ultimate objective of “uniting the world to tackle climate change”. It will not be a win-win proposition unless the COP 26 rolls out a robust recovery package that provides catalytic support to the vulnerable developing countries – hard hit by COVID-19 – for managing their debt distress. A serious commitment by developed countries to mobilise $100 billion per year and engaging private capital in climate-resilient transition is imperative.

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Naya Daur