COP26 will end in failure without a finance deal : Imran Khan

RED BOX | IMRAN KHAN : Wednesday March 31 2021, 12.01am, The Times

London: The Times

Monsoon season in Pakistan is time of hope and fear. Hope because the rains irrigate our farmlands and refresh our cities after the intense summer heat. Fear that the rains will overwhelm us, bursting river banks and unleashing urban flash floods.

Last summer Pakistan experienced the heaviest rains in a century, with an unprecedented cloudburst leaving much of the sprawling metropolis of Karachi inundated, rendering thousands homeless and over a hundred dead. Pakistan is used to coping with heavy monsoon rains, but 2020 was unexpectedly intense, and scientists tell us this will become increasingly common as our planet warms.

The Global Climate Risk Index ranks Pakistan as the 8th most vulnerable country to climate impacts. Over the past decades, the frequency and intensity of climate disasters have been constantly rising. Since 2000, Pakistan has lost 9,989 lives, suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion and witnessed 152 extreme weather events - all triggered by climate change.

While Pakistan is not a contributor to this globally changing climate, emitting less than 1 per cent of global carbon emissions, we are committed to being a part of the global solution by endeavouring to push our growing economy on to a greener, cleaner and low carbon future.

My government has set in motion plans to shift, by 2030, 60 per cent of our energy mix towards clean carbon free energy and 30 per cent of our transport towards green electric mobility. This clean energy shift is complemented by our ambitious vision for planting ten billion trees, with $650 million being rolled out to plant the first 3.3 billion by 2023 and, thereby, aiming to restore over one million hectares of carbon-absorbing forests.

Pakistan is the only country in the world with an expanding mangrove forest, increasing this carbon rich ecosystem by 300 per cent in the past few decades and now further increasing it to over half a million acres within the next three years.

My government has put its trust and confidence in “nature based solutions”, with the associated benefit of creating 85,000 new green jobs in the past year alone. Our green stimulus programme includes expansion of our protected areas coverage to 15 per cent of our land area and 10 per cent of our marine area by 2023. Already, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have announced 15 new national parks covering over 7,300 sq km of land - all acting as wilderness carbon sequestration zones. We are also investing in protecting our farmers through climate-smart agriculture to cope with the growing unpredictability.

Adapting to climate change remains a challenge, compelling us to invest in early warning systems, climate proofing of flood-prone infrastructures, establishing cross-country disaster management networks and working with local communities. Subsequently, our climate change expenditure is already hovering menacingly at about 6 per cent of the annual federal budget, a figure poised to rise further as impacts begin to bite. Pakistan's commitment and all these efforts to address global climate now need to be augmented with supportive climate finance and green investments

Adapting to inescapable climate change comes with acute economic costs. With rising impacts, our adaptation finance needs have been estimated at $7-14 billion every year. Moreover, like all developing countries' economies, we have been further stressed by the human and economic catastrophe of Covid-19. In this backdrop, the Glasgow COP26 summit is critical as it gives us a rare opportunity to address these challenges through understanding, collaboration and co-operation.


We expect this to be a moment for the world's major economies to come forward and galvanize supportive finance for responsible countries, like Pakistan, that are doing their best to reduce emissions while braving out the impacts on the front lines of climate change.

In 2015, analysis indicated that developing countries would need about $400 billion in climate finance support to shift towards low carbon development pathways. There are now rising fears that just when they are needed the most, investments in clean energy are stalling in developing countries. This drop in clean energy transition ironically coincides with the failure of developed countries to deliver the promised $100 billion a year of climate finance by 2020.

Unless there is a debt relief programme for the global south and enhanced global climate finance leveraging clean investments in these regions, the default fossil fuel powered pathways will remain unchanged and the invaluable opportunity of a clean energy transition will wither away. Again, Pakistan is piloting a sovereign debt linked nature bond to bring innovation to this dialogue but much more needs to be done.

I want to travel to COP26 in Glasgow with hope and optimism, showcasing Pakistan's positive climate actions. However, what is clear to me is that without a strong climate finance deal on the table, there may not be any agreement at COP26 - an outcome we can all ill afford.

Pakistan reflects the glory of nature with its lofty mountains and lush valleys, its gushing rivers and its burgeoning mangroves. But as glaciers melt and rains become erratic and unpredictable, my people are suffering. Climate change is already upon us and we are living through the era of forced adaptation.

Pakistan will fight for a deal that delivers a climate-secure future for its citizens and the world: they deserve no less and they will settle for nothing less.

Imran Khan is prime minister of Pakistan

January , 2021

Last updated: January , 2021

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday
1000 to 1730 hrs.