Climate action

Updated 05 Dec 2019

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IN an alarming, though not wholly unexpected, revelation, Pakistan has jumped three places to take fifth position on The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 in the list of nations most affected by climate change.

Last year’s report had ranked Pakistan as the eighth most vulnerable country.

The 10 countries/territories most affected by climate change include Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal and Dominica. The report reiterates that of the places most affected by climate change in the past 20 years, seven are developing nations — in the low- or middle-income category.

Sadly, poor countries like ours are paying the ultimate price for the unbridled greed of the big polluters.

The release of the climate index report coincides with the two-week-long 25th UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Madrid where representatives of nearly 200 countries, including Pakistan, are meeting to discuss and strategise the impacts and solutions for slowing down the pace of global warming.

The climate risk index has called on participants of the Madrid summit to address the dearth of “additional climate finance” to help poor countries that must tackle the damage wrought by recurring extreme weather events. It asserts that developing countries are hit harder by climate change because their vulnerability is increased by a poor capacity to cope.

These remarks are especially true for Pakistan where the climate crisis, along with the rest of the world, has perhaps reached a point of ‘no-return’ in the words of UN chief António Guterres.

Explaining Pakistan’s increased vulnerability to climate change, David Eckstein, one of the authors of the report, said that the country’s geographical location made it more “prone to extreme weather events, in particular, heavy rainfalls”.

Between 1998 and 2018, some 10,000 people died due to extreme weather events including floods and heatwaves; the economic loss, meanwhile, was to the tune of nearly $4bn. In fact, where economic figures are concerned, Pakistan ranked third among the most affected countries of the world over this period. This shows that climatic hazards, besides having a devastating impact on the ecosystem, also affect the overall development of nations, including public health, agriculture and the economy.

Pakistan, says the report, needs technical and financial support from the international community through platforms such as the Green Climate Fund to meet ambitious national goals set under the Paris Climate Accord.

However, it would be a mistake to expect foreign donors to come to our rescue unless we ourselves appear to be taking the crisis seriously and are ready to self-correct.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has highlighted the dangers of climate change both at home and internationally. But that in itself is not enough.

The country needs drastic steps to, among other things, improve its air quality and harness renewable energy sources if it is to tackle the damage inflicted by changing weather patterns.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2019