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EDITORIAL: Given the presence of 600 plus fossil fuel lobbyists, the success of climate change conference at Egypt’s sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in establishing the ‘loss and damage’ fund demanded by vulnerable states is no mean feat.

It was a hard fight lasting two weeks which at times appeared to be lost to the carbon-emitters’ stout opposition. But at the end the conference did succeed in hammering out a unanimously supported the ‘loss and damage’ fund — to be operationalised next year by the COP’s meeting at Dubai.

The fund will be geared towards developing nations “that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”. As many as 134 countries will benefit from the fund. This fund covers a wide variety of adverse climate change effects like losses to crops caused by flash flooding, displacement of flood-hit populations and destruction of infrastructural facilities like roads and bridges.

It will, in a way, will be situation-specific funding and promptly delivered, as is the case of Pakistan where torrential rains and flash floods have adversely affected nearly 30 million people and caused losses worth about 30 billion dollars.

Pakistan, some African states and about 40 island nations are the worst victims of climate change resulting from atmospheric heating — a punishment for the crime committed not by them but by others whose prosperity is dependent on extensive use of fossil fuels.

No wonder then Pakistan took the lead in piloting the cause for ‘loss and damage’ fund and changed the tone and tenor of the conference, as it was taken into confidence first by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and then managed by Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman.

However, doubts have been expressed about conversion of this so-called Global Shield into reality on the ground. And that is the record of the COP’s top-level meetings, particularly the ones held at Paris and Glasgow. UN chief Antonio Guterres says of course the conference did take an “important step towards (climate) justice,” but it fell short of pushing for an urgent carbon-cutting that is needed to tackle global warming.

According to him, “our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now and this is an issue this COP did not address.” Similar views have been expressed by EU Vice President Frans Timmermans, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Britain’s Alok Sharma, who had chaired COP26 at Glasgow.

But as against the history of COP calls for cutting emissions and stabilising temperature at 1.5 degree Celsius it was evident from the very start of the COP27 that the issue at hand for the majority of the international community members was making up for the losses caused by global warming.

Rightly then, not the release of emissions by the fossil-fuelled world economies but the immediate relief to the adversely affected countries came to the fore as the main challenge before the conference and led to formation of ‘loss and damage’ fund.

According to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, “the first pivotal step towards the goal of climate justice”. He has also said that “It is up to the transitional committee to build on the historic development”. However, the person on the field who fought for the cause of climate justice was Climate Change Minister and former ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman.

And given that Pakistan is going to be one of the seven countries that would benefit from Global Shield, a tough challenge is now cut out for Sherry Rehman who has to ensure that the transitional committee succeeds in putting on ground implementation of the ‘loss and damage’ fund.

Last but not least, it is important to note that although Pakistan is responsible for less than one percent of the world’s planet-warming gases, it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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