Climate emergency

Depiya Thoudam
Since mid-June 2022, Pakistan has been reeling under extreme monsoon rains, the largest amount in three decades, which the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described it as a “monsoon on steroids”, highlighting its unusual nature. With an estimated deaths of at least 1,208 people, 4,82,030 people displaced, 3.3 Crore people  affected i.e. over 15% of the country’s population, in recent times, it has been one of the worst natural disasters in the neighbouring country Pakistan. Pakistan Planning Development and Reform Minister AhsanIqbal stated that he believed the recent floods are way worse than the flood of 2010, believed to be the deadliest in the country’s history with more than 2000 recorded deaths.  With more than 3.6 million acres of crops damaged and raging floods sweeping away large numbers of livestock, the country is on the way to face serious food shortages in the coming days. In this regard, the news that the Pakistan Finance Minister Miftah Ismail may propose lifting the ban on trade imposed on India since the disagreement regarding the J&K reorganisation in 2019, to import vegetables and other important items is a step in the right direction.
Many factors are responsible for the disaster, but it is an irrefutable scientifically proven fact that an overheated world with warmer atmosphere holds more water, thus making the downpours extreme, putting climate change and global warming at the top of the list of factors. The downpour has been further compounded by more water tumbling down from global warming accelerated melting of glacial ice of Himalayas, for Pakistan has the largest number of glaciers outside of the polar region. Other factors worth mentioning here are the various human activities destabilising the fragile balance in the ecosystem including long-term deforestation; overexploitation and degradation of wetlands; and the failures of government to make the required adaptive changes since the devastating flood of 2010.
The Pakistan government declared a national emergency on August 30, with the United Nations Office calling for international aid for humanitarian relief efforts. There is no doubt that humanitarian aid will come from different parts of the world in the immediate aftermath of this disaster, but the doubt is whether the developed nations who are responsible for 79% of historical carbon emissions, would pay to prevent a repetition of such disaster or not. Even before this flood disaster, Pakistan was having an economic crisis negotiating with the IMF over a bailout. So the flood is “ghee” to the fire of the economic crisis in Pakistan. Not only Pakistan, all of the south Asia countries, being one the world’s regions most vulnerable to climate change, is worried that the flood is caused by climate change. Most of the developing countries in south Asia are poverty stricken and therefore diverting the already scarce finance and resources from social welfare programmes and schemes to environment adaptive programmes is a tall task for the government, leading to underinvestment in various climate resilient and adaptive infrastructures further enhancing their vulnerability to climate change and global warming induced natural disasters. So rich nations must extend support to these countries that are bearing the burns of their reckless actions, financially and technologically. Moreover, floods can increase the transmission of viral diseases especially water borne infections. We cannot take this lightly, we all know the extent of havoc a viral disease can pose and we all are still under the shadow of COVID-19, a viral disease.
We are now living in a climate emergency and immediate actions are required from every country. Recently Pakistan paid the price of climate change; we cannot say that the next turn is not for India. It would be churlish and short sighted of India to turn its back to the sufferings of Pakistan, acting childish considering the state of bad ties with Pakistan. In the time of disaster, all domestic considerations should be put aside and help should be extended in every dimension possible. India should make all the efforts to make itself a climate change resilient and adaptive nation so that when any climate change related disaster comes, damages are minimised in every dimension possible. Moreover India should take the opportunity of UNFCCC COP 27 which is happening in Egypt from 6 November to 18 November, 2022, all the more seriously to strongly underline the need for the rich developed nations to enhance their climate promises including on climate finance and technology support, provision of adaptive finance, etc. And implementation of climate actions in developing countries is very much dependent on the delivery of climate finance, the transfer of technology know-how and other support from rich nations.So, cooperation and giving helping hands to one another wherever needed in the fight against climate change is a must to ensure climate justice to all.