Climate Resilience through Collective Responsibility – A Reminder of Agenda 2030

“Climate change knows no borders. It will not stop before the Pacific islands and the whole of the international community here has to shoulder a responsibility to bring about a sustainable development.”-Angela Merkel

Pakistan is right now encountering the deadliest climate-induced humanitarian crisis in its history. There are myriad reasons which have caused this disaster. These factors include but are not limited to – the carbon emission of the industrialized world, the changing weather patterns in the developing states, and the incompetent governments of the suffering states. Along with climate destruction, every developmental sector has been harmed, creating even more obstacles for Pakistan to realize Sustainable Development Goals. Besides this debate exists the aching land and the people of Pakistan. This side of the story might not attract most of the international audience as it is just the hues and cries of a drowning state. The displaced people, who’ve got nowhere to go, are not just aching for food and shelter but also for their beloved land. This land connected them to the legacies of their ancestors and the generations to come.  The soil has been washed out in Baluchistan, Sindh, and Southern Punjab, and will never have the same warmth for the people and fertility for the seeds. The villagers, the farmers, the tribes, and the residents are in mourning. The last breaths of the dying earth will take us all with it. With the economic crisis, loss of crops (majorly cotton for Pakistan), lives, homes, and businesses, there exists a drowning world that is not easily visible. This leads us to the one reason which has always been the baseline for this pile of causes, which is a lack of responsibility and collective effort. For this, the world has to come together to mitigate this threat to humanity. With time, the gap between the core states and the peripheral states has only expanded. Moreover, the core of the core states interacts only with the core of the peripheral states, widening the gap between the majority of the earth’s population. This gap has resulted in a lack of communication and inclusiveness. To solve any problem, a global movement comprising the majority of the world population needs to take concrete steps that can be for the betterment of our planet earth. We need to be working together, on the same step at the same time, but unfortunately, that has never been the case on our planet Earth.

With the surging climate crisis in third-world countries and the floods in Pakistan, tensions between the developed and developing nations have thrived over the very question of fairness. Is it fair to make developing countries face the consequences of the actions of the Global North? Today the world is busting out with the Global South frustration created by the Western Hypocrisy over climate-related actions and policies. The attitude and policies of the Global North are not helping in any possible way. North’s excuses for the current crisis are making it worst. It’s not the first time that the world has seen this Global North-South divide and its consequences.

The economic crisis and the rising inflation across the developing world are the result of many facts that involve majorly the North’s actions. Food prices globally were recorded high in March. Then the gas and oil prices increased creating a further economic recession. Natural gas is a vital component of Nitrogen Based fertilizers. While most of the developing countries are saddled with enormous debts from the Post Covid 19 Pandemic, events including the Russia-Ukraine crisis and restrictions specifically on trade by various nations including India’s ban on wheat export, the ongoing trade bans on India by UAE and other states, the increasing commodity prices, issues relating supply chain and the Indonesian Palm Oil Export Ban are catalyzing the inflation and hunger drive across the globe. When debts are equal to approximately half of a country’s GDP, a country is said to be in or close to “debt distress,” which affects 60 percent of low-income countries. The debts owed by developing nations will become increasingly more arduous if US interest rates rise. According to the report penned down by the experts on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Sixth Assessment Report) IPCC AR6, in 2021, António Guterres from the UN forewarned that the ongoing climate situation is a “code-red” for the planet. The report further showed the amount of damage it can cause in the future. Almost 195 states were there to sign this report off thoroughly which looked quite promising, however, they all had a consensus that we are all in danger! Petteri Talas even said that our atmosphere is on “steroids”, doped up with “fossil fuels”. The clarity of the causes and the effects are commendable.

In 2022, the United States’ record on climate change is considerably worse, making accusations of hypocrisy and failed pledges even more compelling. The optimism that perhaps the Biden government may still enact a Build Back Better package with significant clean energy tax rebates, providing the US a chance to reach the emission reductions it proudly promised in 2021, was destroyed at the start of the year. Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist perfectly explained how Global South is suffering more than 90% of the disastrous effects of the current environmental crisis. Moreover, throughout the globe, 98% of the deaths in the ongoing climate crisis are due to floods, famines, diseases caused by the climate crisis, fires, droughts, and displacements. The Global North is developing at the expense of the Global South.

The climate crisis and the historically generous monsoon rains in Pakistan have all added up to cause the current flooding happening in the country right now. Pakistan along with the entire Global South is suffering the consequences of the irresponsible development of the rich states. The reason is the impermeability of the relations between the peripheries of the core states and the peripheries of the periphery states. More than 1000 people have died in the ongoing floods. 1/3rd of Pakistan is under water which statistically means that 35 million people are displaced. The donations that the United States has provided ($30 million) are less than $1 per displaced person. Pakistan has produced 0.98% per capita CO2 emission which means the country has contributed 0.5% to the climate crisis, however, is the worst hit state by the calamity. The responsible state for this climate crisis is not one, all the industrial powers collectively have contributed to dismantling the environmental balance which was naturally sustained if not purposely disturbed. For instance, Canada has contributed 15.5 metric tons of C annually, which means it is playing a major role in the climate crisis. Meanwhile, Canada has offered $5 million of aid to the 35 million displaced people of Pakistan which is a mockery of everything going on.

Planning Minister of Pakistan Prof. Ahsan Iqbal said that it will take approximately 5 years to regain what Pakistan has lost in the recent floods. On the other hand farmers, the victims from the periphery believe that they have gone 40 years behind. If we want to solve the problem, only blaming the colonial states and the government’s incompetence won’t help. All the nation-states whether from North or South need a core-periphery inclusive relationship and meetings to understand the problem and to sustainably solve it for the future so that a country’s core and periphery are not 35 years behind or ahead of each other but they are together side by side and the smaller goals of our states are aligned to the bigger global goals (SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals) and we all without any segregation of Global North or Global South, can altogether move towards the vision (Agenda 2030) that desperately needs to be achieved right now because there is no Planet B!

Only by institutionalizing and strictly enforcing SDG-12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG-13 (Climate Action), and SDG-17 (Partnerships to achieve the Goal), can we save the Earth and promise a sustainable future by securing a sustainable present. The International Community and the elites of the North, as well as the South, have the responsibility to engage the peripheries of these states in planning too. Inclusive cross relationships are needed among these states which means, the periphery of one state must have representation on the matter, so the core of the other state understand the issue more clearly, similarly the periphery of the other state should also be present in the discussion, so their opinion is also taken under consideration. The opinion of the public including the farmers of the global South specifically Pakistan in this case, and the opinion of the public of the global North is crucially important if we want to make our infrastructure much more resilient to climate change. Also, we need to upgrade our agreements with our actions to save the world from this type of humanitarian crisis. The first step needs to be from the side which is the most responsible for the current crisis. These high carbon producing democracies must consider that their abysmal reputation in climate policies and actions will eventually weigh them down in other policy areas too. It’s time that we stop taking only military threats as a threat from each other and start taking these irresponsible climate insensitive actions and policies of states as a threat too because this kind of threat is not just to one state, but to the entire planet!

Syeda Saba Batool
Syeda Saba Batool
Research Fellow Hanns Seidel Foundation Germany Teaching Fellow Teach for Pakistan Editor Journal SPIR M.Phil. International Relations Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan