Displaced people in flood waters after heavy monsoon rains in the city of Usta Mohammad in Jaffarabad district of Balochistan province September 18, 2022. 33 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan, which began with the arrival of the monsoons in late June.
Fida Hussein | AFP | Getty Images
After the flood disaster in Pakistan, calls for climate reparations for poorer countries badly affected by climate change have become louder. But while they may be ethical, they’re not the best solution to a complex problem, said one climatologist.
“[Climate reparations are] ethically justifiable,” said Friederike Otto, a climate researcher at the University of Oxford, “but a fairer world is much better placed to deal with the complex crises we are dealing with. When all parts of society are involved in decisions, everyone is better off in the end.”
The floods in Pakistan have claimed the lives of nearly 1,700 people so far. They have also resulted in at least $30 billion in economic losses, according to government estimates.
33 million people are affected by the floods, which began in late June with the arrival of the monsoon and were partly caused by melting glaciers. More than a third of the country is under water.
No easy solution
Climate reparations refer to the financial compensation paid by the world’s largest emitters to developing countries that are bearing the brunt of climate change.
Although climate redress seems like a relatively easy solution, implementing it is not, Otto said.
It must be ensured that the funds go directly to those who have suffered losses, she said. At the same time, successful climate repairs require an official classification of weather and climate events and natural hazards, she added.
“There is an IPCC working group on emissions metrics. We could do the same to identify metrics to measure climate impact. The harder aspect of successful remediation would be to make sure victims benefit,” Otto said, referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, adding that it depends on good governance.
Her comments come amid mounting pressure on wealthier countries to repair the damage the climate crisis has done to developing countries.
Knut Ostby, the Pakistan-based representative of the United Nations Development Program, said rich countries should increase climate finance for countries like Pakistan that are hit by climate-related disasters.
“Promises have been made about climate adaptation funding for countries affected by climate impacts like Pakistan,” Ostby told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” in mid-September.
“I think that funding needs to be increased,” he added.
The UN representative called on rich countries to consider debt cancellation and debt swaps as one of the tools to mitigate the financial cost to affected countries. “Countries with debts to countries affected by climate change can forgive those debts in exchange for the countries investing in climate change adaptation measures,” he said.
Andrew King, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, is another proponent of climate reparations. It is “unfair” that nations that have done little to address the problems of climate change are bearing the brunt of its impacts, he said.
Such countries have less “adaptive capacity” to climate change and less resilience to current extremes, so support is needed to reduce the stress they face, he told CNBC.
“There will be more Pakistanis”
And climate catastrophes are likely to become more frequent around the world.
“Many tropical nations like India face an increased risk of coastal flooding,” King said. “These nations are at risk from dangerous humid heat, which can be harmful to health,” he added, acknowledging that heat waves around the world have increased in intensity and frequency. In addition, extreme rains are increasing and droughts have worsened, he said.
India’s average high temperature in March was the highest average high in 122 years.
“There will be more Pakistanis,” Ostby said. “There are already more Pakistanis.”
A better way forward?
But Otto said “the most important preparation” is for vulnerable countries to invest in social security, health care and education.
While developed countries are partly responsible for climate change, local authorities in vulnerable countries also have a responsibility to provide adequate planning and education on the appropriate responses to early warnings of climate events, she said.