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EDITORIAL: As climate emergencies, the war in Ukraine and other conflicts, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic pushed an increasing number of people into crisis situations, the UN reckons that some 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year – a whopping 65 million more people than a year ago. This has prompted the UN to launch a record $ 51 billion funding appeal to set in motion what the world body’s aid chief, Martin Griffith, described as the “biggest humanitarian programme” ever seen.

Lethal droughts and floods, he said, are wreaking havoc in communities from Pakistan to the Horn of Africa, while the war in Ukraine has turned a part of Europe into a battlefield. In fact, a deepening climate crisis has affected all parts of the world.

According to Swiss Re, a Zurich-based company which acts as an insurer for insures, “Hurricane Ian [in the US] and other extreme weather events such as the winter storms in Europe, floods in Australia and South Africa as well as hailstorms in France and in the United States resulted in an estimated $ 115 billion of natural catastrophe insured losses this year to date.” Another $ 7 billion of insured losses came from man-made disasters — mainly the war in Ukraine.

Pakistan with less than one percent contribution to global greenhouse emissions has regularly been experiencing extreme weather events for well over a decade. Last June, unprecedented floods hit vast swathes of the country, affecting 33 million people. 1800 lives were perished while crops, livestock, houses, roads and bridge and healthcare facilities were washed away causing a loss of $30 billion.

And yet the UN flash appeal of $ 816 million — revised from an initial appeal of $ 160 million — drew a lukewarm response from developed countries, attributed at the time to aid fatigue. Now that they are distracted by the war in Ukraine that has created a cost of living crisis in most Western countries, they are likely to ignore, at least in large part, the UN’s latest call for its humanitarian assistance programme.

Notably, at the recent COP27 meeting in Sharm el-Shaikh tall promises were made to keep the global temperatures at less than 1.5C below the pre-industrial levels by opting for green energy policies and helping the most affected countries with mitigation and adaptation assistance. But commitments made to help countries like Pakistan, bearing the brunt of what the developed nations have been doing, remain mere commitments. In his address on Thursday at a special event in Islamabad on “COP 27 and Beyond: Pakistan’s Resilience Challenge”, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reminded them of the need of implementing the loss and damages agreement reach at the COP27 moot.

There, of course, is a realisation that we all are in this together, and need to deal with global warming before it is too late. However, Western counties’ involvement in the Ukraine war has exacted a cost far beyond their calculations. In a statement issued last September, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development — an inter-governmental body with 38 member countries — warned that the conflict in Ukraine will cost the global economy $ 2.8 trillion in lost output by the end of next year — and even more if a severe winter leads to energy rationing in Europe.

Then there are some $ 53 billion the US alone provided that country in military supplies and civil aid by May of this year, and much more in the following months. It can only be hoped that good sense will soon prevail, and all involved will work towards a negotiated settlement.

Some of the money going into that destructive project ought to be spent on making the world livable for the present and future generations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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