The million dollar question at COP19: Where’s the money?

The COP 15 at Copenhagen was probably the most hyped up one of all the Conference of the Parties, and one of the most disappointing. Despite the presence of so many Heads of State, including the newly elected US President Obama, there was hardly any outcome that could be called encouraging, especially for the countries most threatened by climate change. No wonder people called it a COP-OUT!

Be that as it may, these Conferences are extremely important. Four years down the road, COP19 opened its doors in Warsaw, Poland, buoyed by the IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change) report that has actually taken the wind out of the sails of all climate change deniers, by presenting incontrovertible proof of climate change.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said: “This Working Group I Summary for Policymakers provides important insights into the scientific basis of climate change. It provides a firm foundation for considerations of the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems and ways to meet the challenge of climate change.”

And challenge it is, especially for countries like Pakistan, who have once again figured high on the Global Climate Risk Index. Prepared by Germanwatch, the Global Climate Risk Index 2014analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves, etc.). The most recent data available — from 2012 and 1993-2012 — were taken into account. The countries affected most in 2012 were Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan. For the period from 1993 to 2012 Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti rank highest.

As far as the current COP is concerned, the lead author of Pakistan’s Climate Change Policy, Dr. Qamaruzzaman Chaudhury, former Director General Meteorology Department, and currently Senior Advisor to LEAD Pakistan does not see anything groundbreaking happening in Warsaw.

According to him, “COP19 is being held in the context of growing threat from climate change yet limited actions are taking place. We cannot expect a great deal from this COP 19, as it is essentially a preparatory to COP 21 planned during 2015. As such Pakistan should try to focus on the following areas where some progress is expected:

a) implementation of the Durban Platform around adaptation, loss and damage,
b) finance and,
c) an agreed process on national commitments to the 2015 deal.”

This is essential as most experts and those who have been following the negotiations over the years feel that it is about time some real financing saw the light of day, especially as all the mechanisms and organisational structures are in place.

Developing countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Haiti and now Philippines, who have been so badly hit by extreme events, need financing from the Adaptation Fund to develop adequate coping mechanism. Dr. Pervaiz Amir, who was a member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Climate Change in the previous regime, and is a leading agro economist, says, “Cop 19 in Warsaw Poland will try to break the stalemates of SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice ) which ended at a deadlock in Bonn which I attended this year. Indications are that countries will try to get some timetable in place for carbon emissions reduction.

IPCC warnings need to be heeded to and its 5th report provides new knowledge for debate and discussion. Pakistan should stress for funding for adaptation and urge for urgent action for the most vulnerable populations. It requires much help in agriculture, water and energy adaptation. It should highlight its plight and seek joint venture funding for the above priority areas.

At Copenhagen, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, as well as the Minister for Environment had both represented the country. After the 18th Amendment, the subject has been devolved to the provinces, and the Ministry is now a Division. However, to look at the upside, now the Prime Minister himself holds the portfolio of Environment. Will that fact have any bearing on Pakistan’s stance at the COP 19, still needs to be seen.

The official delegation to Warsaw has as its members the Director General Environment, and the Secretary Environment. What should they be pitching for and how should they safeguard Pakistan’s interest there?

Malik Amin Aslam, former Minister of State for Environment and Global Vice President, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature, believes that Pakistan,

Being a country extremely vulnerable to climate change, Pakistan has a direct stake into the success of the climate negotiations at COP19. In particular, the country negotiation team needs to press for the climate finance architecture to start delivering on its promise for adaptation finance and for the Durban platform negotiations to shape up into a truly robust post-2015 climate agreement. Pakistan is already facing climate adaptation costs to the tune of billions of dollars every year and can ill afford another round of procrastinated political negotiations. The country needs to ensure that its climate vulnerability is reflected in all UNFCCC categorisations and it also need to remain closely aligned to the debate on the “loss and damage” instrument so that its contours can be framed to compensate countries like Pakistan.

The Conference has commenced and already many feel it is a run up to the 2015 one, where the Kyoto Protocol will be up for review. For Pakistan, it is important that the focus remain on getting a good bargain for the country due to its extreme vulnerability. For that to happen, however, the climate change narrative needs to be mainstreamed in the media, at the policy and planning level, and at the community level as they are the ones facing the brunt of the disasters that keep visiting due to the changing climate.

The richer, developed countries, especially those that are responsible for much of the effects on the climate, need to shoulder their responsibilities not only by mitigating the causes, but also by making the resources available to the countries which need to take adaptive measures. They may not be the cause, but are certainly being impacted by the results of climate change, and need to be compensated.

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usman hashmi

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