WARSAW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Plagued by weak preparations, poor negotiating skills and inadequate political support for its delegation at the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw, Pakistan will struggle to press its case for much-needed support to deal with the impacts of climate change, experts say.
Although Pakistan has suffered climate-related losses and damage worth over $15 billion in the past few years, it has not played a leading role at global climate conferences like that taking place in Poland from Nov. 11-22, also known as COP19.
“It is really disappointing to see how Pakistani negotiators are ill-prepared with their climate vulnerability case for COP19, and how shy they are of putting forward their loss and damage case,” said Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, chief executive of LEAD Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation working on climate mitigation and adaptation issues with community groups.
In its annual climate risk index released on Tuesday, Germanwatch, a sustainable development advocacy group, ranked Pakistan third among the countries most-affected by extreme weather events in 2012, after Haiti and the Philippines.
Christoph Bals, policy director at Germanwatch, said the index could help Pakistan highlight its vulnerability to climate hazards and the losses it has suffered, particularly since the devastating floods of 2010, which affected some 20 million people.
Pakistan has sustained economic damage of more than $15 billion as a result of consecutive monsoon floods each year since 2010, governmental officials say.
In addition, some 4,000 people were killed by flooding, thousands injured and millions displaced from their homes, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-12.
This year, in August, swelling floods in the Indus River and its tributaries in Pakistan – the Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers – again left behind a trail of destruction and misery.
Muhammad Irfan Tariq, a top official in Pakistan’s Climate Change Division and a member of the country’s delegation at the U.N. climate talks, said the Germanwatch climate risk index is a red flag for existing vulnerabilities that may intensify further as extreme weather events become more frequent and severe in a warming world.
“We will try hard to use COP 19 as an opportunity to determine how we can tap in to international sources of funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects in Pakistan, with a major focus on the National Adaptation Plans (NAMAs) and Local Adaptation Plans (LAMAs),” he said on the sidelines of the index launch.
NO MINISTER EXPECTED
Pakistan’s delegation at the talks comprises senior negotiators, policy makers and government planners. It will most likely be headed by Climate Change Division Secretary Raja Hassan Abbas, who is due to arrive next week, officials say. Pakistan’s climate change ministry was downgraded to a government division earlier this year, and now sits under the cabinet office.
Zafar Iqbal Qadir, a former chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said Pakistan had done a better job of advocating for its needs at earlier U.N. climate conferences. But its representation began to weaken following the devolution of the national environment ministry in mid-2011, which no longer exists, he noted.
“How could Pakistan’s delegation do well at COP19 in Warsaw without any senior political leader or minister to lead it?” he asked.
Despite the absence of a minister, the division’s deputy secretary, Sajjad Haidar, said Pakistan will push to get its climate-linked problems heard in Warsaw.
“We will try our best to tell the world that frequent climate-induced extreme weather events are dampening the country’s efforts for economic growth, leading to a rise in poverty, hunger, malnutrition and diseases,” he said.
“Weak economic indicators are leaving us unable to arrange funding from our internal resources to cope with loss and damage from extreme weather events,” he added.
He said Pakistan has “serious interest” in asking the international community to transfer technology, technical knowhow and climate finance to be able to expand clean development programmes.
“We are trying to discuss with different potential donors in government and non-government sectors in the developed world to explore available funding avenues that would enable us to head towards low-carbon development and help us to respond to the unexpected effects of climate change,” Haidar said.
The former director general of the state-owned Pakistan Meteorological Department, Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, said Pakistan’s delegation at the U.N. negotiations should focus on technology transfer from developed nations, as well as the establishment of a new mechanism to help vulnerable countries deal with loss and damage related to climate change.
Chaudhry, who is deputy regional director for Asia with the Climate and Development Knowledge Network and a climate change adviser for LEAD-Pakistan, told Thomson Reuters Foundation expectations for this climate conference are relatively low, as it largely tasked with preparing for the 2015 summit in Paris, which is expected to seal a new global climate deal that will come into effect in 2020.
Nonetheless, presenting a strong case for Pakistan’s climate vulnerability in Warsaw would help draw attention to the negative consequences of four consecutive years of monsoon flooding, he said.
Pakistan accounts for only around 0.8 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to government estimates, but it ranks among the most climate-vulnerable countries, with limited capacity to adapt to extreme weather and shifting climate patterns.
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.