Asia’s ongoing battle with unprecedented weather extremes manifest climate injustice.
Super Typhoon Noru, the third in this season to hit the Philippines, forced nearly 80 thousand people to take refuge in emergency shelters. Many of them are amongst the 7.3 million people affected by Typhoon Rai that battered the country in December 2021.
After eight failed monsoons, a deadly flood in Pakistan has killed more than 11 hundred people and displaced 33 million people from their homes.
Earlier, from March to May 2022, India and Pakistan saw one of the hottest Springs in recorded history impacting millions. This was followed by the most severe heatwave on record in China from July to August 2022.
Many more people across the developing world are living through similar stories. Most often, people from marginalized and lower income background experience the worst effects of the climate crisis. But those people who are harmed, did almost nothing to cause this crisis.
All this is happening at about 1.2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature above pre-industrial levels. Unless the major carbon-emitting countries, corporations and individuals step up to drastically reduce their carbon pollution in this decade and pay for the poor to prepare for coming disasters, stories of human suffering fueled by extreme rain or scorching heat – and the resulting floods, cyclones, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, – will be our everyday realities.
The IPCC – the authoritative scientific body on climate – in their latest report reconfirmed this coming future. It warns that many of the climate impacts are already becoming irreversible and there will be greater and greater limits to what people can do to tackle the effects.
Tackling the climate crisis has never been more urgent.
As climate impacts escalate so does the cost for the communities to adapt. While it has been difficult for many developing countries to accurately state the finance required to build climate resilient and green societies, a forthcoming Oxfam report estimates that the countries in South and Southeast Asia, for which data is available, will require an average of around $1300 billion per year until 2030 to deal with climate impacts and decarbonize their economies.
However, between 2013 – 2020, only about $113 billion in climate finance has been committed to these countries, equating to an average of just over $14 billion per year. Adding salt to the wounds of the vulnerable countries, more than half of this amount is in the form of loans, which must be paid back to some degree. Only one third of the total available funding is for adaptation - which is instrumental for tackling climate impacts.
Because the providers of finance fail to embrace locally led climate finance, local communities on the frontline of climate change do not currently have sufficient say in how the climate finance affecting them is governed. Attempts to assess the mobilized finance which has the potential to be locally led, reveals that only about 0.5% of the total finance to South and Southeast Asian countries can be termed so. This is very disappointing.
The international financial support to build climate resilient and green societies is negligible, and it is clear developing countries in Asia are not able to adapt to current and future climate stressors alone. In the absence of adequate financial support, the developing countries are reverting to taking on debt to deal with climate impacts, and risk falling into debt distress as a result.
Having forced to invest, on their own, in reconstruction and rebuilding after climate disasters hit, developing countries are forced to cut spending in vital public services including in health, education and social protection. As a result, more people are being pushed back to poverty. Already, fifty percent of Asian population lives below the $5.50 poverty line.
Even in the midst of this suffering, the developed countries – who are historically responsible for the climate crisis – are simply running away from their obligation. Back in 2009, they committed to provide $100 billion per year to developing countries by 2020 through 2025, which was reaffirmed in the Paris agreement in 2015. Compared to the scale of needs, this pledge is tiny. But the Glasgow climate conference last year made it clear that developed countries have failed to deliver on it and are shifting the goal posts.
But there is no time to lose hope. It is now time to come together to ease the pain of those suffering the most through solidarity and collaboration. That ball rolls next month in Egypt at COP27.
Governments and the providers of climate finance must urgently ensure that vulnerable communities receive scaled up and grant based financing that reaches the local level to prepare for climate risks. They should clearly outline the pathways to meet their commitments including doubling of adaptation finance by 2025. The finance provided must respond to the real needs of most vulnerable regions and countries in developing Asia.
Moreover, the upcoming discussions around a new climate finance goal post-2025 should be based on the real needs of the communities experiencing the climate crisis.
First published in SCMP: