Climate Justice – The Effectiveness of International Climate Change Conventions

Climate Justice and Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries by climate change in the past 20 years due to its geographic vulnerability (German Watch). Global Climate Change Risk has ranked Pakistan as the 8th worst affected country even though it has one of the lowest carbon footprints.

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Last year, a UN report revealed grave warnings about extreme weather conditions as all key climate change indicators broke new records. From greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions to ocean heat and rise in sea levels, all indicators reached high levels.

The result of these indicators can be well seen in the form of flash floods across Pakistan. A grotesque picture that is bound to aggravate each year as the climate data predictions by World Bank indicate. The global temperature is set to rise by 1.4-degree centigrade by 2050 (World Bank).


Climate Change and its Impact on Pakistan


Climate Change Impact on the World


Up till 2020, Pakistan suffered a loss of 0.53% per unit GDP, with economic losses amounting to $3792.52 million, and a record of 152 extreme weather catastrophes due to climate change between 1999-2018.

Coming to 2022, the situation has aggravated worse than predicted with Pakistan facing the brunt of one of the most extreme climate accidents – unprecedented flash floods and heat waves.

The 33 million displaced people demand we evaluate climate justice in international efforts. In recent history, no other natural disaster has caused so much damage as the flash floods in Pakistan. There is an immediate need to prevent floods in Pakistan.

In Kashmir Earthquake, around 3.5 million people were displaced, that too centred in Pakistan, and in Haiti Earthquake, around 2.3 million people were displaced.

It is high time we revisit international climate interventions with an analytical lens to see how effective their enforcement has been. Because for countries in Global South like Pakistan, it is a matter of survival or death.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)


The main treaty for climate change mitigation is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), founded in 1992 during the Earth Summit. The treaty aims to mitigate man-made interventions with the natural climate systems via strategic negotiations for climate change mitigation.

The main decision-making body of UNFCCC is the “Conference of the Parties (COP)” which comprises representatives from all parties. It is bound to meet on an annual basis to oversee accomplishments against the previous year’s resolutions.

Kyoto Protocol (1997)


Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change Mitigation


The Kyoto Protocol was formulated during the COP3 meeting on 11 December 1997. The protocol went through an array of ups and downs before its enforcement on 16 February 2005 with 192 country members.

The main purpose of the Kyoto Protocol is the operationalization of the UNFCCC whereby industrialized countries are committed to reducing their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions against their individual targets.

Owing to climate justice, the Kyoto Protocol has allocated “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities” to the developed countries emitting the highest levels of GHGs.

It sets 5% emission reduction targets binding 37 industrialized economies in the European Union in the first commitment period.

In 2001, the United States withdrew from the protocol, putting forward a climate mitigation alternative titled “Asian Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate” that fixated more on clean energy than GHG emission targets.


Paris Climate Agreement (2015)


Paris Agreement - Countries Unite to Battle Climate Change


One of the major feats among the international treaties on climate change is the Paris Agreement adopted on 12 December 2015 by 196 countries. It is an unprecedented landmark because for the first time all countries of the world came together on one platform to accomplish a “climate neutral” by 2050.

The main target of the agreement is to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius degrees and keep it below 2 Celsius degrees at all times.

The Paris Agreement also built a technical, financial, and capacity-building framework for countries in need to reach the agreed goals.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Pakistan


Climate Change in Pakistan


In 2022, Pakistan was reported to emit 217.025 megatons of CO2 emissions, making it the 158th highest contributor. China, the highest contributor of CO2 emissions, emits 9,877 megatons in contrast.

This shows a harsh difference between carbon emissions in the Global South and specifies how the climate change damage caused in the underdeveloped and developing world must be borne by the highest carbon emissions contributors.


Climate Justice – A Critical Analysis


1.5 Celsius Degrees Global Temperature


Despite the progressive international organizations working on climate change, the global temperatures are rising and GHG emissions remain unprecedented with scientists blaring the alarms that should the situation persist, environmental catastrophe will begin to devastate the world.

These catastrophes include but are not limited to droughts, floods, sea-level rise, widespread species loss, and the emergence of climate refugees – a reality hitting Pakistan hard in the monsoon rains of July and August 2022.

70% of global carbon emissions come from 10 countries worldwide comprising China, the United States, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iran, Canada, and Saudi Arabia respectively.

According to an OXFAM report, the carbon footprint of wealthier nations in the north is a hundred times greater than the poorer nations in the Global South. The consumption patterns of the Global North still surpass 35 times the targets set by the Paris Agreement.

On the other hand, Pakistan is the 8th most affected country by climate change whereas it ranks 158th out of all countries in GHG emissions.

A just world would see that the highest carbon emitter receives the brunt of the natural disasters, however, it is the developing world battling the high tides and steering through the heaviest storms.

Climate justice received the harshest blow when the United States responsible for 1/4th of the world’s carbon emissions, exited the Paris Agreement in 2015 as ex-President, Donald Trump, took office. Although, the current US President, Joe Biden, resumed the agreement on a priority basis.

The precedent remains to dictate the privilege with which wealthier nations can terminate their commitment to climate change interventions at any time.

Climate change experts uphold that despite the Paris Agreement, the global temperature is rising constantly. The 10 warmest years are from 2013 to 2021, with 2021 being the 6th warmest. In 2022, with unprecedented temperatures in the United Kingdom and Global South, chances are this year will make it to the top of the list.

Climate justice is a call for the international community to devise climate change mitigation strategies that direct more responsibility on the industrialized economies to pay for the destruction caused in poorer countries.

Where money alone could never bring homes back to the 33 million people displaced in Pakistan, it can help nail a new foundation for their homes.

Conclusion – UNFCCC Conference 2022 and Pakistan


COP 27 - Planet Over Profit


The roles of the Ministry of Climate Change and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the upcoming COP27 convening on 6th November 2022 are critical for Pakistan. Recently, the Minister of Climate Change said that there is an urgent need for mobilizing the international players for humanitarian efforts in Pakistan.

It is of importance that UNFCCC focuses on the predicament of climate refugees, funding for worst-affected countries, failures of international climate change treaties, and the stringent measures of monitoring carbon emissions by topmost contributors.

Pakistan needs to raise its voice because the dilemma of climate change is bound to worsen in the coming years as glaciers in the north continue to melt, monsoon rains wreak havoc across the nation, and the infrastructure running the economic supply remains crippled.

Most of all, a narrative change is needed in the international climate change mitigation efforts whereby Global North shifts the lens from “We are saving you” to “We are responsible for the damage in your country”.

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