Opinion Author: Nimra Naeem Comments
ASIA: Pakistan

Pakistan ranks as the 8th most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index although it produces less than 1% of the World’s GHG emissions. It draws a sad picture of how poor countries have to pay the price for the emissions generated by the richer countries.

However, the rich countries can make up for it by pledging money under the UNFCC framework. In 2009, developed countries pledged $100 billion annually until 2020 in climate funding. Schemes such as the Green Climate Fund work within the UNFCC to provide mitigation and adaptation funds to developing countries which are highly vulnerable to climate change.

In order to access climate funds such as the Green Climate Fund, Pakistan is required to set up a National Implementation Entity. There is little that can be done if a country doesn’t have a body which is accredited to have direct access to climate funds. These entities are responsible for efficient disbursements of funds. After careful consideration, a National Rural Support Program was approved as the first National Entity by GCF to execute readiness support fund. The purpose of the program is to manage climate finance in Pakistan as per GCF standards.

Up until now, only the Global Lake Outburst Floods fund has been approved by GCF. One of the reasons for the delay in getting new projects approved has been the inability of provincial committees to put forth a dedicated plan.

There are usually two requirements that the recipient countries have to meet in order to qualify for these funds: transparency in operations of institutes involved in handling climate funding; and the country’s own contributions to financing climate change.

The countries which have committed themselves to providing climate change funds want the recipient countries to devise policies which encourage the private sector to invest. What attracts private sector investment in a particular project is a high internal rate of return. So when they fund a project, they may not necessarily be aware of the climate change implications but instead would choose to fund the project which will give them higher returns. 

As for the second requirement put forth by the recipient countries, to have a transparent governance and institutions for handling  climate funds, this is justified when the widespread institutional corruption is taken into consideration.  Transparency International reported that, after the 2015 cyclone in Bangladesh, $3.1 million were committed for the rebuilding of houses. However, when the team from Transparency International visited the country, they discovered that those houses had been built without walls. This is just one of many instance of corruption and mismanagement from the side of the institutions responsible for managing climate funds.

However, it isn’t only the responsibility of recipient countries; developed countries also have to take responsibility. An argument which was raised at the Paris Climate Summit 2015 was whether the loans or investments in developing countries should be counted as part of the $100 billion climate fund or not. Take, for example, the European Union funding the high cogeneration power plants in Pakistan. This is an investment in Pakistan’s private sector (sugar mills) to fund bagasse based power generation (a cleaner form of energy) and cannot be counted as a part of climate funding. However, countries are often able to get away with it as they disguise their loans and investments as part of climate funds.

The main issue with Pakistan is that, even though there is a policy for everything in the country, there is hardly any enforcement. With the vulnerability of Pakistan to climate change increasing with each passing day, the country cannot afford to waste any more time. The crops being destroyed due to flooding each year in Pakistan also puts its people at risk of food shortages. All the provincial ministries have to coordinate their efforts if they want to devise adaptation solutions since it is already too late for mitigation efforts. UNDP has set forth recommendation that all federal ministries and divisions have to identify the climate related allocations through a Budget Call Circular. There needs to be better coordination between all the committees and ministries because, at this point, all the institutions have to be on the same page for the greater good of the country.

*) Nimra Naeem is currently working as a freelance journalist with an interest in environment and energy.