The Calm After The Storm: Generations of Debt is Owed to Pakistan

Opinion: Global leaders at COP2 need to come together and help Pakistan rehabilitate from its most recent devastating floods

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Opinion: Global leaders at COP2 need to come together and help Pakistan rehabilitate from its most recent devastating floods

Pakistan is still fighting for survival. It’s been over two months since the most disastrous floods in a decade showed us a glimpse of a dystopian future. The rainfall during the summer saw Sindh, the southernmost province of Pakistan, receive 464% more rain in just a few weeks compared to a 30-year average for the period. The result – a third of the country is submerged underwater. That’s the size of the entire United Kingdom. Millions of lives have been permanently changed by the climate-induced disaster this year. Therefore, it is imperative to address expectations to rebuild with equal attention given to those responsible for rising emissions.  

Pakistan played an important role at the COP27 summit this year, serving as one of two co-chairs invited by Egypt. As talks of loss and damage took place, urgent efforts must be focused on the unimaginable debt Pakistan faces and those most responsible for the rising emissions must answer for their crimes in destroying the lands of the least responsible. The calm after the storm includes generations of debt now owed to Pakistan.  

A land of agriculture, natural craftsmanship and stewardship is on their knees with an unfathomable debt while rich nations in the West discuss plastic straw bans and recycling of endless latte cups. Record-breaking rainfall and seven thousand glaciers melting in the north of Pakistan have contributed immensely to the water level rising in dams and rivers. This caused erratic flash flooding and homes were destroyed overnight. By morning, women and children were stood on the broken rooves of their homes awaiting aid – their homes destroyed relentlessly in exchange for a life lived in harmony with mother earth.   

Although wealthy countries are responsible for a disproportionately large contribution of cumulative gas emissions; loss and damage affects poorer countries like Pakistan because they lack the advanced tools and resources to adapt and mitigate.  

If Pakistan is left to rebuild on its own, it will have to recover 1.2 million of the livestock perished. Vulnerable communities who have since been living under the open sky with no source of food and water, will then be expected to move stagnant water to reveal the more than 2 million homes that were taken by the flood. The phase of rebuilding will face its own challenges. 

Pakistan does not have the resources to retaliate against the impact of extreme weather and climate related events. While our people do what they can – including globally recognised reforestation efforts – the expectation to survive extreme weather is unjust. Measures to adapt and mitigate cannot operate without a sufficient loss and damage finance on the basis of equity, historical responsibility, and global solidarity. Without this, the efforts of our people are thrown away and it will be sincere farmers suffering from debt and poverty every time they are hit by climate disasters they did not cause.  

A decade ago, Pakistan suffered catastrophic flooding which the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said was “greater than anything he had ever seen before” and required “weeks, months and years of need”. History has repeated itself and global leaders have not learnt from their mistakes. Whilst generous donors have provided the funds for life saving aid efforts to agencies like Islamic Relief, the action must come from global leaders at COP27.  

World leaders hold the power and influence to make real, systematic change. This includes addressing the loss and damage head-on through a delegated relief fund by the UN committee, coaction with the government of Pakistan in long-term rebuilding efforts, and concrete preparation for future climate events.  Despite the climate challenges and economic disparity Pakistan remains a nation of resilience that works in harmony with the planet, against all odds.   

Islamic Relief’s report on the Pakistan floods can be found h13ere