December 1, 2022

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Pakistan floods confirm debate over who pays for climate damage

Pakistan floods confirm debate over who pays for climate damage


Since mid-June, torrential rains have changed the landscape in Pakistan, inundating villages and fields, destroying homes and killing at least 1,000 people. But if the human losses are catastrophic, the financial losses are almost unimaginable: according to the Pakistani finance minister, the damage is likely to exceed so far 10 billion dollarsor a whopping 4 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.

“Pakistan was already facing the catastrophic impacts of climate change,” Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change, said. He said At a press conference on Thursday. “Now the most devastating monsoon rains in a decade are wreaking havoc across the country.”

But even when Pakistan turns to donors around the world they ask for helpThere is one thing the country will definitely not get: compensation from countries – including the United States – that They are most responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.

While the two issues may seem unrelated, for decades developing countries have asked wealthier nations to provide financing for the costs they face from heat waves, floods, droughts, sea-level rise and other climate-related disasters. They argue that nations that got rich from burning fossil fuels like the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan have also warmed the planet, Causing “losses and damages” in poor countries.

Flood victims in Pakistan carry items they can salvage from their submerged homes as they roam a flooded area in Dera Allah Yar on August 28 (Video: Associated Press)

At the UN summit, poor countries demand rich countries pay compensation for climate damage

The issue has become a bright spot in global climate negotiations. in teacher 2015 Paris Agreement On climate change, countries have agreed to recognize and “address” the losses and damages caused by these dangerous climate impacts. Last year, at the major United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators from developing countries hoped that negotiators would finally establish a formal institution to transfer cash to countries hardest hit by climate disasters.

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But the United States, despite being The biggest historical motive of carbon dioxide, hampered such efforts at every turn. In Glasgow, the Biden administration joined group of countries in Resist efforts to make payments to developing countries hard hit by climate change.

Responsibility is one of the main issues. American delegates fear that if a formal Loss and Damage Fund is created, the United States might open itself up to litigation from poorer nations. “We always remain thoughtful on the issue of responsibility,” John F. Kerry, the US international climate envoy, said during the Glasgow summit.

Priti Bhandari, Senior Adviser for Climate and Finance at the World Resources Institute, He notes that UN negotiators reached a side agreement in 2015 that said addressing losses and damages did not provide any basis for legal liability. “I think there is likely to be a lot of caution on the part of the United States and other developed countries,” she said.

But as the damages mount, some are already starting to file lawsuits, as citizens and politicians from vulnerable nations seek reparations for the loss of their livelihoods, homes or farms. In Peru, a farmer sues a German energy giant; Meanwhile, island nations are trying to create a commission that would allow them to sue major nations for climate damage.

Kerry also argued that channels exist to help provide relief to countries like Pakistan that are experiencing weather disasters. The US Agency for International Development, for example, offers $100,000 In Humanitarian Relief in Pakistan. But such donations pale in comparison to the mounting toll of climate change in the developing world. a Report Released by humanitarian organization Oxfam in June, it found that over the past five years, appeals for relief from severe weather were only 54 percent. funded on average, leaving a shortfall of tens of billions of dollars. Current regulations also require developing nations to rely on charity, rather than a uniform system of who owes what.

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The United States and other developed countries will have to think about this question at the next major UN climate meeting, known as COP27, scheduled for November in Egypt. But unless the Biden administration’s perspective changes, much progress is unlikely.

“This particular issue could lead to COP27 or not being made,” Bhandari said.


An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that COP27 is scheduled to take place in December. In fact, it is scheduled to take place in November. This version has been corrected.

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