Thirty-year-old Saddam Hussaina was at home in the Sohbatpur district of Balochistan when devastating floods hit Pakistan this September. A few days later he developed a high-grade fever, so he took painkillers to relieve the fever and body aches. There were no health facilities where he lived so he had no option but to self-medicate. Only later did he find out that he, along with of the rest of his family, had all been infected with malaria due to the standing flood water in the area around his house. »My six-year-old niece died in my arms, as an untrained doctor was unable to diagnose her properly and told us to take her to the city for better treatment. She died on the way«, Saddam told Climate Tracker.
According to the United Nations, the people of Pakistan are the victims of »a grim calculus of climate injustice«. Despite the country being responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is paying a »supersized price for man-made climate change«. The weakness of early warning systems in Pakistan was one of the factors that contributed to the lack of advance preparation to deal with this »climate carnage«, which, up to the start of October 2022, had a death toll of nearly 1,700. »The poorest and weakest countries suffer from higher disaster deaths. These are deaths that can be prevented through early warning and early action. According to our report, countries that have reported having weak early warning coverage had around 8 times the disaster mortality rate of countries with strong coverage«, said Loretta Hiber-Girardet, Chief of the Risk Knowledge, Monitoring and Capacity Development Branch at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in a statement to Climate Tracker.
On 13 October, a new report was published by the UNDRR and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which indicated that half of the world’s countries are not protected by multi-hazard early warning systems.
Climate change is »unjust«, as about ten developed countries emit 68 per cent of greenhouse gases, led by China, the US and the European Union, compared to only 3 per cent of emissions from 100 other countries. The losses and damages, however, impact everyone, with developing countries suffering most due to their weak financial technological capabilities and fragile infrastructures. Between 1970 and 2019, of the more than two million deaths worldwide due to climate, weather or water hazards, more than 91 per cent were in developing countries, according to a report by the WMO. As the Conference of Parties 27 (COP27) began on 6 November in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, for the first time in 28 years, 194 nations agreed to include loss and damage funding on the official agenda of the UN climate summit. This came after the Group of 77 (G77) and China, represented by Pakistan, wrote a letter to the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC proposing that funding arrangements for loss and damage be included as a sub-item on the agenda under »matters relating to finance«. The Group of 77 reiterated that including this as a sub-item would provide a decision-making space for »solutions to address the longstanding gaps in the existing funding arrangements for addressing loss and damage«. This is particularly important given that developing countries have been demanding such financial arrangements, while developed countries, especially the United States, have been firmly opposed to it.
»The UN Secretary-General recently said that the lack of support to vulnerable countries is an issue of climate justice, international solidarity, and trust. We hope that the implementation of his call for global universal early warning coverage will help address part of this injustice«, Hiber-Girardet added. She also said that in the face of more extreme weather events, there is still a lot that can be done to prevent disasters, or at least minimise their impact so it does not become devastating. »This is the basis for a campaign we are launching in the lead-up to COP27, where we are calling for a world with Zero Climate Disasters. The key to this is reducing vulnerability. This means achieving the Sustainable Development Goals to lift people out of poverty and put in place accountable institutions and enforceable laws, to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience«, Hiber-Girardet said. »We need to integrate disaster risk in all decision-making, private and public. In the long term, this is the best approach to reducing disaster losses and protecting lives and development«, she added.
Dr Hisham Issa, an Egyptian environmental expert, said that achieving genuine climate justice is mainly related to providing and supporting early warning systems in developing countries. This can protect lives and livelihoods, help the population adapt to climate changes, and reduce its harmful effects on their lives. He added that developed countries must honour their pledges of climate financing to developed countries and commit to paying the $100 billion they promised at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009. This is something they have failed to do so far. »We cannot talk about protecting developing countries from the risks of the unfair climate crisis without providing the financing and technology needed for this. Also, the financing should be in the form of grants and not loans, because developing countries already suffer from many debts«, Issa added.
Under an ambitious new United Nations target, everyone on earth should be protected by early warning systems against increasingly extreme weather and climate change within the next five years.
Hadeer is an Egyptian freelance journalist. She focuses in her work on sustainability, climate change risks, and solutions for a better and sustainable future. She covers stories about climate change, agriculture, and smart solutions to adapt climate change. Her job had taken her to cover international conferences in Egypt, Rwanda, Tunisia, and Berlin.