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Pakistan lobbies to be defined as “particularly vulnerable”

The current phase of the Kyoto Protocol treaty on climate change expires in 2012 and representatives from countries worldwide are meeting in Tianjin, northern China to discuss possible steps forwards from 2012. Talks are slow, hampered by a lack of trust between developed and developing countries and concern over the transparency of pledges to cut emissions and the level of cuts offered by rich nations.

The recent floods in Mexico and Pakistan show how devastating the impact of severe weather can be, especially as the climate becomes more unpredictable with rising temperatures. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, has warned that even if progress is made with climate negotiations, the current cuts proposed by governments on greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to avoid a 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures. With such a rise, the survival of vulnerable countries is in doubt.

As the talks continue, Pakistan is asking to be recognised as one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change. It wants a wider definition of countries labelled “particularly vulnerable”, which currently includes only the least developed nations where islands are threatened by rising sea levels or African countries are affected by floods and droughts.  

Pakistan is still struggling to overcome its recent floods and worries the country will not be in line for special climate change funding. The Copenhagen Accord has committed wealthy nations to providing 30 billion dollars from 2010-2012 to help poor countries defined as “particularly vulnerable” to adapt. Pakistan is hoping to be included in this definition and will put its case at the next UN climate conference to be held in Mexico at the end of November. Pakistan believes all developing countries “with coastal areas, tropical and mountainous glaciers and fragile ecosystems, as well as countries facing monsoon variability and frequent intense summer heat waves” should be eligible to be considered in the “particularly vulnerable” category.

Negotiators will face a hard task in widening the definition, particularly when it is still unclear how many countries will be affected by global climate change. But Pakistan will certainly not be short of examples to show the UN of how its people have suffered from the worst floods on record.

Aid agencies are still concerned for the needs of 14 million people in Pakistan and are increasingly worried about the rising incidence of water-borne diseases, such as malaria. As flooding remains across Sindh province and other provinces still have large areas of standing water, Plan International believes the almost 200,000 reported cases of malaria could grow to 2 million over the coming months. Without further action, the charity fears that the number of fatalities caused by the floods will only grow.