Pakistan worst hit by extreme weather events after Haiti, Philippines: Germanwatch report


An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Nov 14, 2013.

Islamabad – Pakistan was one of the three countries most affected by extreme weather events in 2012, according to the latest climate vulnerability report by Germanwatch, an organisation that works on climate change and development issues.

The organisation’s Global Climate Risk Index 2014, released on Tuesday at an ongoing United Nations (UN) climate summit in Poland, stated that Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan were worst hit by climate-related catastrophes in 2012.

Pakistan has been among the three most affected countries in the world for three straight years now, according to the Germanwatch, whose previous risk indexes are cited regularly by Pakistan’s Climate Change Division.

“Pakistan, which had already suffered severe floodings in 2010 and 2011, was struck again by a rough monsoon season (in 2012) killing over 650 people,” the report stated.

The 2014 report also published a Climate Risk Index for 1993-2010, with Pakistan ranked as the 12th country most affected by climate-related events over the two decades.

According to the report’s assessment, the extreme weather calamities caused Pakistan losses worth USD2.39 billion in the 20 years.

The report’s timing is crucial for Pakistan, which has sent a delegation to the Conference of Parties 19 (COP 19) – the UN climate conference in Warsaw, Poland, which started on Monday.

“This Germanwatch report has come at an opportune time for Pakistan,” said Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, the lead author of the National Climate Change Policy and a climate advisor with LEAD Pakistan. “It will help Pakistan present its case to the world that it is among the most vulnerable countries.”

The COP19, which is a conference of countries that have ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, followed on the heels of a devastating typhoon in Philippines which has killed around 2,000 people, according to official estimates.

A report released at by the World Meteorological Organisation at the COP 19 on Wednesday stated global sea level has reached a “new record high” causing low-lying countries such as the Philippines more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

Frequent disasters, such as the Philippines typhoon and 2010 floods in Pakistan which affected around 20 million people, have made developing countries rally behind the concept of “loss and damage,” a financial compensation mechanism which basically demands developed countries to help developing nations who are facing the brunt of climate change.

The rationale for loss and damage is that rich countries have more responsibility for climate change because of their large share in global greenhouse gas emissions. But the rich countries have so far resisted talks about the mechanism.

Chaudhry, who is in contact with Pakistan’s delegation at the COP19, said Pakistan along with regional countries India and Bangladesh have been pursuing the loss and damage concept.

But he said it was a new idea and Pakistan needs to do more assessments to see which areas and projects in the country need climate adaptation.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s delegation at COP19, led by Irfan Tariq, a Climate Change Division official, has been focusing on getting a foot in the door for technology transfer mechanisms for the country.

State Minister for Railways, Abdul Hakim Baloch, is expected to represent the country in the ministerial segment of the conference.

But it is difficult to say how effectively the ruling party legislator from Karachi, who might not be well-versed in climate change issues, will be able to represent Pakistan’s interests at COP19.

The 2014 Index, the 9th annual report released by Germanwatch, analysed the extent to which countries have been affected by weather-related catastrophes using data from “Munich Re NatCatSERVICE,” a worldwide natural catastrophe loss database.

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