UNITED NATIONS: This summer’s floods in Pakistan were a stark reminder that the changing climate will bring more disasters in the near future, warns a UN report released on Wednesday.

The United Nations’ 2022 Year in Review report on Climate and Environment notes that “whilst some regions suffered from a lack of water” in the outgoing year, others were hit by catastrophic floods.

“In Pakistan, a national emergency was declared in August, following heavy flooding and landslides caused by monsoon rains which, at the height of the crisis, saw around a third of the country underwater. Tens of millions were displaced,” the report adds.

The UN is hosting an international conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva on Jan 9 to consider various options for supporting the country in dealing with the consequences of the changing climate.

Quoting from various UN-sponsored studies, the report underlines the continued warming of the Earth as a major threat and regrets the failure of humanity to lower carbon emissions and get to grips with the climate emergency.

The report also emphasises the need to cut fossil fuel use, and support developing countries in dealing with man-made climate changes, causing droughts, floods, and extreme weathers.

The UN report also refers to a recent study by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which shows that heat waves will occur more and more frequently, into the 2060s.

Little headway made at COP27 on phasing out of fossil fuels, climate report notes

WMO, a UN weather agency, notes that the pattern is linked to the warming of the planet, caused by human activities. The changing climate raises “serious concerns for the planet’s future”, the report warns.

The UN report also quotes from a WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which details record levels of the three main gases — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, which saw the biggest year-on-year jump in concentrations in 40 years.

It identifies human activity as a principal factor in this change. “Despite all the evidence that a shift to a low-carbon economy is urgently needed, the world’s major economies responded to the energy crisis precipitated by the war in Ukraine by reopening old power plants and searching for new oil and gas suppliers,” the report notes.

‘Delusional’ reaction

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has decried their reaction as “delusional”, reminding the rich nations that if they had invested in renewable energy in the past, they could have avoided the price instability of the fossil fuel markets.

In another statement, Mr Guterres compared the behaviour of the fossil fuel industry to the activities of major tobacco companies in the mid-twentieth century: “Like tobacco interests, fossil fuel interests and their financial accomplices must not escape responsibility,” he said. “The argument of putting climate action aside to deal with domestic problems also rings hollow”.

In July, the UN General Assembly declared that access to a clean and healthy environment is a universal human right. Mr Guterres hoped that the landmark declaration would help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps, and empower people to deal with climate disasters.

The UN report, however, notes with satisfaction that in November the UN Climate Conference in Egypt established a funding mechanism to compensate vulnerable nations for the loss and damage caused by climate-induced disasters.

The report notes that since vulnerable nations have spent decades arguing for such a provision, the inclusion was hailed as a major advance. However, it also notes that little headway was made on other key issues, particularly on the phasing out of fossil fuels, and tightened language on the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2022

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