Rich Countries Owe Reparations to Countries Facing Climate Catastrophe, Pakistani Minister Says | Pakistan

RAccording to Pakistan’s climate change minister, according to Pakistan’s climate change minister, the polluting countries that are mainly responsible for the “dystopian” climate crisis have broken their promises to reduce emissions and help developing countries to adapt to global warming.

More than 1,200 people have died and a third of Pakistan is under flood waters after weeks of unprecedented monsoon rains hit the country – which just weeks earlier was suffering from severe drought.

Sherry Rehman. Photograph: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

In an interview with the Guardian, Climate Minister Sherry Rehman said global emissions targets and reparations need to be reconsidered, given the accelerated and relentless nature of climate disasters hitting countries like Pakistan.

“Global warming is the existential crisis facing the world and Pakistan is at ground zero – yet we have contributed less than 1% to [greenhouse gas] emissions. We all know that promises made in multilateral forums have not been kept,” said Rehman, 61, a former journalist, senator and diplomat who previously served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.

“There is so much loss and damage with so little reparations for countries that have contributed so little to the global carbon footprint that clearly the bargain between North and South is not working. We must push very hard for a reset of the targets because climate change is accelerating much faster than expected, on the ground it is very clear.

Residents waded through floodwaters near their homes after heavy monsoon rains.
Residents waded through floodwaters near their homes after heavy monsoon rains. Photography: AFP/Getty Images

The scale of flood damage in Pakistan is unprecedented.

An area the size of the state of Colorado is inundated, with more than 200 bridges and 3,000 miles of collapsed or damaged telecommunications lines, Rehman said. At least 33 million people have been affected – a figure that is expected to rise after authorities complete damage surveys next week. In the district of Sindh, which produces half of the country’s food, 90% of the crops are ruined. Entire villages and agricultural fields were washed away.

The main culprit is unprecedented torrential rains, with some towns receiving 500-700% more rainfall than normal in August. Large tracts of land are still under 8 to 10 feet of water, making it extremely difficult to drop off rations or set up tents. The Navy conducts rescue missions in normally arid areas where boats have never been seen, according to Rehman.

“The whole area looks like an ocean with no horizon – nothing like this has been seen before,” Rehman said. “I wince when I hear people say these are natural disasters. This is really the era of the Anthropocene: these are man-made disasters.

Many have fled flooded rural areas in search of food and shelter in nearby towns that are ill-equipped to cope, and it’s unclear when – or if – they will ever be able to return. The total number of people stranded in remote areas, waiting to be rescued, remains unknown.

The water will take months to drain and, despite a brief pause in the fall, heavier rains are forecast for mid-September.

Rehman, who was appointed climate change minister in April amid a political and economic crisis that saw the ousting of Prime Minister Imran Khan, said the government was doing all it could but rescue missions and assistance had been hampered by the continuous rains and the scale of the needs.

Although sympathetic to the global economic challenges caused by the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine, she was adamant that “rich countries must do more”.

“Historical injustices need to be heard and there needs to be some level of climate equation so that the brunt of irresponsible carbon consumption is not imposed on countries close to the equator who are manifestly incapable of creating climate change on their own. resilient infrastructure,” she said.

A youth walks through a flooded field carrying tree branches in Mirpur Khas, Pakistan's Sindh province.
A youth walks through a flooded field carrying tree branches in Mirpur Khas, Pakistan’s Sindh province. Photograph: Muhammed Muheisen/AP

There are also growing calls for fossil fuel companies – making record profits in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine – to pay for the damage caused by global warming to developing countries.

Rehman said: “Big polluters often try to green their emissions, but you can’t ignore the reality that big corporations with net profits greater than the GDP of many countries have to take responsibility.”

The annual UN climate talks take place in Egypt in November, where the group of 77 developing countries plus China, which Pakistan currently chairs, will press for polluters to pay after a year of devastating drought, d floods, heat waves and forest fires. .

Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to global warming, and the current catastrophic floods come after four consecutive heat waves with temperatures exceeding 53°C earlier this year.

It has more than 7,200 glaciers – more than anywhere else outside the poles – which are melting much faster and earlier due to rising temperatures, adding water to rivers already swollen by rainfall.

A view of the makeshift tents of flood victims taking refuge on higher ground.
A view of the makeshift tents of flood victims taking refuge on higher ground. Photograph: Reuters

“We are going to be very clear and unequivocal about what we see as our needs and our due, and where we see the direction of the set of wider global goals. But loss and danger to the south, which is already in the throes of an accelerating climate dystopia, will have to be part of the deal made at COP27,” she said.

Rich, polluting countries have so far been slow to cough up the money promised to help developing countries adapt to climate shocks, and even more reluctant to engage in serious negotiations on financing losses and damage suffered by poorer countries like Pakistan, which contributed negligibly to greenhouse gas emissions. .

Reparations talks have been mostly stalled, leaving vulnerable countries like Pakistan “to face the brunt of others’ reckless carbon consumption”.

“As you can see, global warming has not diminished, quite the contrary. And there’s not a lot of adaptation we can do. Melting glaciers, floods, drought, forest fires, nothing will stop without very serious promises being honored,” Rahman said.

“We are on the front line and intend to keep loss and damage and climate disaster adaptation at the heart of our arguments and negotiations. There will be no getting away from this.”