Climate change, which is inflicting untold hardship on people in various parts of the world, is at the top of the agenda of all UN agencies. In this connection, a high level moot called the UN Climate Ambition Summit was held at the UN Headquarters last week, with heads of state and world leaders announcing new commitments on climate action. The summit followed a massive march in the streets of New York where people called for an end to fossil fuels.
Taking place alongside New York Climate Week, the SDGs Summit and UN General Assembly, the Summit has been described as an important milestone on the road to COP28 in Dubai where world leaders will decide what how to respond to the Global Stocktake report findings to keep the 1.5 degrees C goal alive and minimize climate impacts.
The report shows the miserable lack of progress by countries in reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and adapting to the vagaries of climate change. According to an expert, “It’s hardly surprising that moving forward is so slow when policies that put the brakes on climate action are deep-coded in our financial, legal and economic models; from the international treaties that protect polluters’ interests, to government spending that props up industries harming the planet, and an international finance system that penalises the poor. We need to tackle these issues and those hell-bent on putting short-term profit over the future of the planet by removing these brakes. Without swift, concerted action and a truly global response to this crisis, more and more of us will find our homes, livelihoods and loved ones threatened by wildfires, heatwaves and flooding.”
Addressing the Climate Ambition Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the “gates of hell” are at hand as climate change intensifies, and the world’s leaders still aren’t doing nearly enough to curb pollution of heat-trapping gases. He said: “Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects. Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods. Sweltering temperatures spawning disease. And thousands fleeing in fear as historic fires rage.”
The message from the UN Climate Ambition Summit is loud and clear: that humanity is in the midst of a climate emergency and fossil fuels are the chief culprit. Yet, the urgent actions needed are not being taken. The latest scientific assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has once again underlined the need for urgent action. The damage from the climate crisis is massive and widespread, and global greenhouse gas emissions remain at record high levels. The world needs immediate and deep reductions in emissions now, and over the course of the next three decades, to limit global warming to 1.5°C degrees above pre-industrial levels and prevent the worst impacts.
It is an irony that countries that are the least responsible for the climate crisis are suffering the most. They need immediate help to adapt and recover from the damage already suffered. This is basically an issue of equity and justice which requires immediate attention from governments and international financial institutions.
Pakistan’s case illustrates the point. Despite contributing less than one percent to global emissions, Pakistan ranks among countries most vulnerable to climate change. Last year’s unprecedented floods underlined this grim reality, with a third of the country submerged, 1,700 people killed and over 8 million displaced. Pakistan suffered more than $30bn in economic losses. Yet, global responses have been insufficient. In his address to the UNGA, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar spoke of how first the Covid pandemic and then climate change have exacerbated Pakistan’s triple food and fuel challenge. He urged countries to come to the aid of Pakistan without further delay. It may be added here that a few months ago UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric had revealed that only 40pc of the pledges made to Pakistan were fulfilled. Also remains an unrealized $100bn annual climate pledge and the establishment of a ‘loss and damage’ fund, as a step towards climate equity.
Despite contributing less than one percent to global emissions, Pakistan ranks among countries most vulnerable to climate change. Last year’s unprecedented floods underlined this grim reality, with a third of the country submerged, 1,700 people killed and over 8 million displaced. Yet, global responses have been insufficient. In his address to the UN General Assembly, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar spoke of how first the Covid pandemic and then climate change have exacerbated Pakistan’s triple food and fuel crisis, and reminded the world of the $10bn in aid that was pledged to Pakistan in January.
There are dire warnings of global temperatures rising by 2.8°C in coming years. Pakistan, for no fault of its own, is a helpless victim of climate disaster, including floods and erratic rainfall which adversely affect agriculture and livelihoods of millions living in the rural areas. Last year’s unprecedented rains rendered over 8 million people most of whom still await help to rebuild their homes. While urging the international community to fulfil its pledges, Pakistan on its own must urgently develop a comprehensive indigenous plan of action to tackle the rigours of climate change.