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Money matters and climate action

Containing the average global temperature to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels will be difficult if things remain as they currently stand, even with the Paris Agreement in effect. Global average temperatures will still go up to about three degrees above pre-industrial levels, even if all signatory countries adhere to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the agreement. The optimistic goal of the agreement can only be achieved if countries can make and then stick to a set of highly ambitious targets. This is not particularly likely in the context of the US — which recently pulled out of the agreement.

By contrast, Pakistan has come a long way since 2015 when it submitted a rather modest set of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). In 2016, Pakistan resubmitted a revised version of its INDC (now NDC), ratified the Paris Agreement, and passed a Climate Change Act that lays the foundation of a Climate Change Council, a Climate Change Executive Authority and a Climate Change Fund.

However, it is necessary to complement the important task of building climate change institutions with on-ground action. In fact, the creation of new and empowered climate change institutions will eventually create pressure for results. Meanwhile, our progress in the international climate negotiations will be measured by our ability to fulfill our NDCs, which call for a 20% reduction in emissions by 2030, in addition to an increase in adaptation efforts subject to provision of finances by the international community.

International financing will be essential to the success of our efforts to tackle climate change. As a developing country, access to these funds is our right under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Developed countries are obligated to support their developing counterparts for their climate action needs.

Pakistan’s low emissions rate and extreme climate vulnerability make mobilising international climate action support even more critical. Unfortunately, climate finance remains a sticky issue. Even before the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the resulting removal of $2b that it had pledged, the developed world fell way short of its pledge to provide $100b per annum in financial assistance to developing countries by 2020. In fact, till 2015, all the climate finance commitments made by the developed countries and multilateral development banks amounted to approximately $67b, according to the OECD.

Still, it is important for developing countries to demonstrate value for money if they are to attract adequate climate-related investments. Since Pakistan’s contribution to global emissions is minuscule, it may not attract much international climate investment on the mitigation front. Nevertheless, considering its high vulnerability to climate impacts, it stands a good chance in drawing adaptation finance. But this in itself may not suffice as globally the pot of adaptation finance remains far smaller than mitigation finance, even though the ratio as per the agreement was supposed to be 50/50.

If Pakistan itself is not serious enough to realign its own resources for climate action, why would the international community be? Arguing for a more unilateral commitment by Pakistan on its NDC, Aisha Khan, executive director of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change, states, “given our vulnerability we cannot afford to make all our contributions conditional to external financing. Before the global stocktaking we need to review the NDC and make it more specific and credible.”

The next round of submitting an updated and enhanced NDC is due in 2020. Until then, Pakistan has an opportunity to demonstrate measureable progress that it is making in terms of climate action. This would be a good opportunity to show the impact it has made with the $37.5 million Green Climate Fund project that it bagged for the flood risk reduction in mountainous northern area.

To prove Pakistan’s commitment to climate action, the momentum set by putting in place the right institutions ought to be matched by the political determination for implementation of plans and policies.

Qaisrani, Ayesha. Money matters and climate action. The Express Tribune, August 25, 2017.

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