THE 27th annual Conference of Parties under The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded at Sharm El Sheikh last weekend. The two-week-long conference resulted in a historical commitment for a loss and damage fund for particularly vulnerable countries but fell short of a consensus on phasing out fossil fuels, and thus endangering humanity’s hope of restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The biggest takeaway for Pakistan, however, was the powerful advocacy and diplomacy displayed by its delegation at the conference.

Even with limited resources at their disposal, the Pakistani delegation at COP27 was able to successfully highlight the nation’s misery against climate destruction brought by the monster floods this year. Using the warning slogan of ‘What happens in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan’, the delegation strived to find common ground with countries facing similar climate and economic threats.

Even though the floods had already put Pakistan in the global spotlight, the kind of organised advocacy, diplomacy and negotiations that came out of the Pakistani pavilion this year were unprecedented in our historical participation. For two weeks at Sharm El Sheikh, loss and damage rhetoric overwhelmingly dominated the conference with Pakistan being at the forefront. For climate professionals in the country, and around the world who have been following these conferences, this is a refreshing improvement.

To begin with, Pakistan used its office as the chair of G77 plus China to push for loss and damage on the COP27 agenda. This was a big win going into the negotiations as developed nations have historically resisted the topic of loss and damage to evade liability of historical emissions.

Pakistan displayed powerful advocacy.

Over the two weeks, the Pakistani pavilion hosted 22 events including several full-house sessions. Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman attended a host of bilateral and multilateral panels where she advocated for Pakistan’s cause of a loss and damage financing facility. Her approach was pragmatic, and she avoided harsh slogans that would have damaged any tangible outcome. “A walkout is premature. It’s not going to be helpful, look at the existential crisis we are facing. We are waiting for a plan to be operationalised,” she responded when asked if she would prefer a walkout in protest.

She made sure that not only was her voice heard but that it found common purpose to gather the support required for the loss and damage facility. Her leadership and powerful voice for the cause of vulnerable developing countries were acknowledged by several leaders from Bangladesh to the EU.

It was also announced that Pakistan is going to be a ‘pathfinder’ country for the Global Shield Against Climate Action, a multimillion-euro programme to protect vulnerable countries against climate disasters. Pakistan is going to be the first country to use the programme to gather data for swift action if climate-related damages occur. Pakistan’s pioneering role in the programme was acknowledged by Svenja Schulze, the German minister of economic cooperation and development.

As COP27 came to its close, the anxiety regarding its outcome peaked when negotiations continued overtime. Experts had already declared that without the commitment for a loss and damage facility, Sharm El Sheikh would be a failure. But the united efforts of vulnerable countries bore fruit when the outcome document contained a written commitment for the establishment of a loss and damage financing facility. This is a historic feat, considering that any effort to secure this facility has resulted in a failure in the past 30 years.

On the downside, COP27 could not build consensus on phasing out fossil fuels and the text did not improve from COP26. This has alarmed experts who think that hopes of limiting global warming to 1.5°C might be waning.

Even though Sharm El Sheikh promised a loss and damage facility, there is a lot to be sceptical about. Historical evidence overwhelmingly points to a less hopeful prospect of the successful operationalisation and allocation of such a fund. The Adaptation Fund promised in 2001 fell miserably short of its promised funding and one has every reason to fear that this fund might face a similar fate. Pakistan and other vulnerable countries will have to fight long and hard in the upcoming months and years to operationalise this fund, ensure that the commitments are adequate, and are allocated transparently where they are most needed. Pakistan’s performance at the COP27 is praiseworthy but is the first step in a long battle. For us, climate change is nothing short of an existential threat.

Zukhruf Amjad works as a consultant at the World Bank. She consults in Paris Agreement compliance, energy sector decarbonisation pathways and energy access.

Soman Ul Haq is a climate change and renewable energy professional. He consults for the Pakistan-German Renewable Energy Forum.

Twitter: @zukhruffamjad @somaanulhaq

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2022

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