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EDITORIAL: With the COP27 UN climate summit due in the iconic Egyptian holiday resort of Sharam al Sheikh this November, pressure is growing on ‘rich polluting countries’ for a dedicated fund meant to help developing, at-risk countries reduce emissions and grow their economies. This debate got nowhere during last year’s summit in Glasgow, Scotland, when countries representing six out of every seven people on the planet called for a loss and damage ‘facility’ that could be accessed by poor nations to help recover from extreme events, only to be offered a “dialogue” in return.

Now, though, since the whole world has seen the damage done by extreme weather events in countries like Pakistan, for no fault of their own, more than 400 aid agencies and environmental groups have signed an open letter demanding that loss and damage finance be added to the official negotiation agenda.

This makes a lot of sense. It’s the rich polluters that have got the world into this predicament, after all. And Pakistan, for example, is not even responsible for a fraction of one percent of carbon emissions that are putting the whole planet at risk right now, yet it is among the first in line when it comes to bearing the brunt of it.

Why, then, should it have to beg and borrow money for green technology, especially when it just lost more than $10 billion, about half its crops, and at least two percentage points off its GDP just because of a couple of months’ rain? Let’s not forget also that this country, just like all other poor countries, is still finding its feet after the shock and shutdowns of Covid-19. It could well default on its debt if its delicate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) do not stay on track; and one of the most controversial issues relates to subsidies; a lot of which are going to be needed to rebuild the country after the devastation of the floods.

At such times if countries with the money do not step forward and bail out countries without it, especially when the former’s excesses are hurting the latter, then who would be responsible if poor countries start going belly up? Such questions can no longer be brushed under the carpet. That is why the proposal to cut and reduce the outstanding debt of these suffering countries will also have to be taken a lot more seriously than before.

First, the rich countries hurt the climate in their own pursuit of high growth and riches. Then they made a fuss about getting everybody to cut carbon emissions to “save the planet”. And now they want other countries suffering because of their actions to cough up the money for it; which is not even a remote possibility.

It took a lot of effort to bring everybody together after the Kyoto Protocol expired. Yet all that effort would be for nothing if all they can do two years later is just talk about climate problems that all countries are already pretty aware of.

Just setting and issuing warnings will not get the job done. They will have to make quantifiable contributions. Otherwise what seems like an impending climate catastrophe will snowball into a much bigger, worldwide problem; one which also involves economic and social trauma across much of the third world.

The time to act is now. If poor country concerns do not find a credible voice at COP27, then the get-together would be little more than an expensive, five-star vacation for representatives of countries that plunged the world head first into this climate disaster; nothing more. And there would be very little long term hope for countries like Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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