Pakistan’s floods highlight disputes over who pays for climate damage

Pakistan's floods highlight disputes over who pays for climate damage
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Torrential rains since mid-June have transformed Pakistan’s landscape, flooding villages and fields, destroying homes and killing at least 1,000 people. But if the human toll is catastrophic, the financial loss is almost unimaginable: according to Pakistan’s finance minister, the damage done so far is likely to be excessive. 10 billion dollarsor a whopping 4 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.

“Pakistan was already facing the catastrophic effects of climate change,” said Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister. he said at a news conference on Thursday. “The most destructive monsoon rains in a decade are now wreaking havoc across the country.”

But even Pakistan is asking donors from all over the world for helpthere’s one thing the country almost certainly won’t get: compensation from countries including the United States are most responsible for planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Although these two issues may seem unrelated, for decades developing countries have asked richer countries to finance the costs they face from heat waves, floods, droughts, sea level rise and other climate-related disasters. They claim that nations that have gotten rich by burning fossil fuels, such as the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan, have also heated up the planet. causing “loss and damage” in poor countries.

Flood victims in Pakistan carry what they can salvage from their flooded homes as they walk through a flooded area in Dera Allah Yard in August. 28. (Video: AP)

At the UN summit, poor countries are demanding compensation for climate damage from rich ones

The issue has become a flashpoint in global climate talks. In the landmark of 2015 The Paris Agreement on climate change, countries have agreed to recognize and “quantify” the losses and damages caused by those dangerous climate impacts. At a major UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland last year, negotiators from developing countries hoped that negotiators would eventually create a formal institution to transfer cash to countries most affected by climate disasters.

But despite being the United States largest historical issuer carbon dioxide thwarts such efforts at every turn. In Glasgow, the Biden administration joined a group of countries in resisting efforts to create payments to developing countries hit hard by climate change.

One of the main issues is responsibility. U.S. officials fear that if an official damage and loss fund is created, the United States could open itself up to litigation from poor countries. John F. Kerry, the United States’ international ambassador for climate issues, said during the Glasgow summit: “We always think about the issue of responsibility.

Preety Bhandari, Senior Advisor on Climate and Finance, World Resources Institute, It points out that UN negotiators reached a side agreement in 2015 stating that the elimination of loss and damage does not create any basis for legal responsibility. “I think there may be an overcautiousness on the part of the United States and other developed countries,” he said.

But as the damage mounts, some are already taking to court, as citizens and politicians in vulnerable countries demand compensation for the loss of their livelihoods, homes or farms. Peruvian farmer sues German energy giant; and island nations are trying to create a commission that would allow them to sue big countries for climate damage.

Kerry also claimed that there are channels in place to provide assistance to countries like Pakistan that suffer from weather disasters. For example, USAID provides $100,000 Humanitarian aid in Pakistan. But such donations pales in comparison to increasing climate change in the developing world. A report According to data released in June by humanitarian group Oxfam, only 54 percent of requests to escape extreme weather in the past five years funded on average, leaving a deficit of tens of billions of dollars. Current systems also require developing countries to rely on acts of charity rather than a standardized system of who owes what.

The United States and other developed countries will have to grapple with this question at the next major UN climate meeting, known as COP27, scheduled to be held in Egypt in November. But unless the Biden administration’s perspective changes, significant progress is unlikely.

“This particular issue could make or break COP27,” Bhandari said.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that COP27 was scheduled for December. In fact, it is scheduled for November. This version has been fixed.

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