Climate justice and Pakistan

Pakistan has championed the case of climate justice not only for itself, but all G77. The writer is pursuing a PhD degree from Quaid-i-Azam University. Her areas of interest include contemporary security and security and conflict analysis.

The establishment of a fund for loss  and damage by COP27 has been  lauded as a great achievement of  Pakistan’s foreign policy. This fund will  address losses and damages due  to climate change in developing  countries. Pakistan expressed  its hope that the operationalisation of funds would reduce  disparities in the climate finance architecture. Pakistan vows to contribute  constructively to global climate  change negotiations and policy actions.  Pakistan’s young Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has remarked that  the inclusion of cost and damage funds  on COP27’s agenda is something to be  optimistic about. Amid all the hopes of  equitable treatment to deal with the  existential threat of climate change,  here the question arises “is the world  ready to compensate Pakistan over a  man-made crisis?”

Pakistan, despite being one of the  most vulnerable countries to climate  change, has championed the case of  climate justice not only for itself but  all G77. There is a long-distance Pakistan has to pass between the conceptualisation of an idea and turning it  into policy action. Certain restraints make the practical  possibilities of climate justice a long  and tortuous process. Before discussing restraints we first need to understand what Pakistan expects in terms  of climate justice. The tentative features of climate justice are debt relief,  time-bound financing for energy transition, degrowth & cutting down emissions in the Global North.

When a highly indebted developing  country like Pakistan is affected by climate change, then debt relief becomes  an essential part of policy response to  meet its emergency needs. Repayment  of loans coupled with the cost of rebuilding makes it difficult for the economy to recover. A Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) was carried out  by the World Bank and IMF in 2020 to  let countries use financial resources  to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Such  initiative was not extended to extreme  climate events.

Pakistan at this point needs a fiscal  space to adapt to climate shocks and  debt relief would be crucial to overcoming the fiscal deficit. One of the  biggest restraints for any international initiative for debt relief is the Russia-Ukraine war and the international  economic situation developed consequently. According to the Organization  of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the world’s leading economies are going through a recession  and steep inflation due to the RussiaUkraine war. It has cut growth by more  than previously predicted.

The OECD further remarked that central banks need to hike rates to overcome inflation, predicting that major  central bank policy rates would be increased by at least 4 percent in 2023.  Although the World Bank has warned  that such a rate hike would hurt the  economy of developing countries the  most. Another restraint in this regard is  the geo-political rivalry between eastern and western creditors. Paris Club is  a group of western rich creditor countries. Their biggest apprehension is that  debt relief would end up benefiting Chinese firms, which have been funding infrastructural build-ups in developing  countries for the past decade.

China on the other hand shows concerns that if it proceeds with a cut in  principal and interest payments then  the money would go to American dominant financial institutions like IMF and  World Bank. These apprehensions between both sides have hurt debt relief  efforts which began under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).

The International Energy Agency  (IEA) has urged countries around the  world to speed up their transition to  clean energy to ward off the disastrous  effects of climate change. Energy is profoundly essential in poverty alleviation,  achieving better health and education  facilities, building infrastructure and  industries, ensuring food security, and  dealing with extreme climate events.

Finding ways to ensure these essentials in developing countries while  avoiding high-carbon emissions is one  of the biggest challenges in today’s  world. Transitioning to clean energy is  crucial for sustainable development in  Pakistan and other developing countries. However, the strength of the investment in the energy sector is weaker because of a crisis in public health  which also triggered a recession in the  global economy. All around the world,  there is less fiscal space to support  economic activities.

The pandemic has heightened pressure on financing and major investment players, thus, practically reversing progress in expanding access to  clean energy in developing countries. The historical Carbon Dioxide (CO2)  emissions in the atmosphere are due  to economic activities carried out by  highly industrialized countries or Global North. Yet developing countries or  the Global South are facing most of the  wrath unleashed by climate change due  to these emissions.

The consensus among developing countries is that the Global North  should lead efforts to reduce carbon  emissions and bear more responsibility  to help the Global South through the financing of infrastructure, clean energy,  and other emerging technologies. The  US alone is responsible for 25 percent  of global emissions which is the highest  in the world. It also plays an important  role in climate negotiation and global  policy making.

The US has come up with a climate  law that roughly offers $400 billion  worth of incentives to finance the transition to green energy. It also includes  subsidies for the manufacturing of  electric cars and the promotion of industries such as renewable energy and  batteries. French President Macron has  expressed concerns that such policies  will create fragmentation in the West.  It will disrupt market competition  through Massive subsidies to American  companies and will undermine European industries. “Perhaps this law will  solve your problems but it will make  mine worse,” he said. He has called on  the EU to formulate the “Buy European  Act” which will offer similar subsidies  to domestic industries.

Thus, the economic interests of the  west make the transition to green energy very complex.

Leading COP27’s agenda was a historic moment for Pakistan. It urged developing countries to mobilize on the issue  of Climate Justice. The Pakistani officials highlighted the urgency to tackle  climate-related issues or else they will  continue suffering the consequences of  climate change.

Pakistan’s robust foreign policy action on climate change is commendable. At the same time, Pakistan needs  a holistic approach that looks at climate  change from all angles going from micro  to macro. It should also aim to address  a constructive aspect of climate security i.e. something is considered a security problem when it is securitised. Securitisation would allow policymakers  to view Pakistan’s environmental challenges through a 3-level framework of  local, International and structural.

Annie Shabbir

The writer is pursuing a PhD degree from Quaid-i-Azam University. Her areas of interest include contemporary security and security and conflict analysis

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