The Pakistan team at COP27, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman, attended the climate summit to advocate on behalf of the Global South for funding for loss and damage caused by climate change. After a long, hard fight, in which Minister Sherry Rehman’s unwavering efforts were lauded by all, developing countries have finally persuaded the developed world to establish what has been dubbed a Loss and Damage Fund.
The historic agreement reached at the summit’s conclusion has been lauded by vulnerable countries, which hope the fund will assist them in dealing with the damage caused by climate change, which is primarily the result of actions taken by developed countries. This is, without a doubt, a historic step toward climate justice.
The world has been hit by climate change events in the last 12 months, particularly in the Global South. Pakistan was given a platform at COP27 to demonstrate to the world how the developed North’s actions have impacted vulnerable countries. The recent floods in Pakistan submerged one-third of the country, displaced over 33 million people, and caused a total loss of $30 billion.
Pakistan is ranked 147th out of 182 countries in terms of vulnerability to climate change and preparedness. And, while climate change has affected developing countries, it is the poorer countries that are suffering the most and are least able to put in the resources needed to rescue people from disasters.
While the accomplishment at COP27 has been rightfully celebrated, there is one word of caution: aside from the “loss and damage” breakthrough, COP27 has promised little else.
In line with previous COPs, the phase-out of fossil fuels remained unresolved at the summit after oil-rich countries refused to cooperate once more. While the “Global Shield” initiative has been lauded as a timely step to allow recipient countries to benefit from pre-arranged financial assistance in the event of a climate disaster, there are concerns that some countries may use it as a replacement for the loss and damage fund.
However, if implemented correctly, the Global Shield initiative will provide financial assistance quickly in the event of a disaster. A pre-existing structure of this type is likely to facilitate immediate resource mobilisation, though its performance will be heavily dependent on how this structure functions in the future.
COP27 demonstrated that there is a chance for climate justice if the Global South bands together to demand what it is owed and if the UN provides a safe and strong forum for these countries to speak out. There is no denying that industrialised and wealthy countries bear a responsibility to assist vulnerable nations around the world, as these are the economies that have caused environmental degradation through ruthless resource exploitation and carbon emissions. Vulnerable countries have already paid a high price in terms of missed opportunities and growth prospects. Every person has the right to live in a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
That right can only be realised if the effects of climate change are mitigated as much as possible while also allowing affected nations to rebuild from the devastation already caused by natural disasters.
COP27 may not be enough, but it is a significant step forward in recognising what the developed world owes us.