Dawn Editorial 5 December 2019

Climate action

IN an alarming, though not wholly unexpected, revelation, Pakistan has jumped three places to take fifth position on The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 in the list of nations most affected by climate change.
Last year’s report had ranked Pakistan as the eighth most vulnerable country.
The 10 countries/territories most affected by climate change include Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal and Dominica. The report reiterates that of the places most affected by climate change in the past 20 years, seven are developing nations — in the low- or middle-income category.
Sadly, poor countries like ours are paying the ultimate price for the unbridled greed of the big polluters.
The release of the climate index report coincides with the two-week-long 25th UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Madrid where representatives of nearly 200 countries, including Pakistan, are meeting to discuss and strategise the impacts and solutions for slowing down the pace of global warming.
The climate risk index has called on participants of the Madrid summit to address the dearth of “additional climate finance” to help poor countries that must tackle the damage wrought by recurring extreme weather events. It asserts that developing countries are hit harder by climate change because their vulnerability is increased by a poor capacity to cope.
These remarks are especially true for Pakistan where the climate crisis, along with the rest of the world, has perhaps reached a point of ‘no-return’ in the words of UN chief António Guterres.
Explaining Pakistan’s increased vulnerability to climate change, David Eckstein, one of the authors of the report, said that the country’s geographical location made it more “prone to extreme weather events, in particular, heavy rainfalls”.
Between 1998 and 2018, some 10,000 people died due to extreme weather events including floods and heatwaves; the economic loss, meanwhile, was to the tune of nearly $4bn. In fact, where economic figures are concerned, Pakistan ranked third among the most affected countries of the world over this period. This shows that climatic hazards, besides having a devastating impact on the ecosystem, also affect the overall development of nations, including public health, agriculture and the economy.
Pakistan, says the report, needs technical and financial support from the international community through platforms such as the Green Climate Fund to meet ambitious national goals set under the Paris Climate Accord.
However, it would be a mistake to expect foreign donors to come to our rescue unless we ourselves appear to be taking the crisis seriously and are ready to self-correct.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has highlighted the dangers of climate change both at home and internationally. But that in itself is not enough.
The country needs drastic steps to, among other things, improve its air quality and harness renewable energy sources if it is to tackle the damage inflicted by changing weather patterns.


Child marriages

A RECENT report by Unicef reveals that the number of child marriages in South Asia has halved from where it stood 25 years ago. Undoubtedly, the on-ground efforts of activists and NGO workers, as well as of lawmakers —in particular, women politicians — have borne some fruit and created much-needed change in society. Despite such gains, however, the practice continues in many part of this country, as children’s lives and futures continue to be in danger. Just recently, heartbreaking images of two girls were being circulated on social media after it was claimed that they were exchanged to settle a personal dispute in Sindh. There have also been instances of underage Hindu girls forced to become brides after converting or being made to convert, which is in complete violation of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. To its credit, Sindh is the only province to have successfully increased the age of marriage to 18, while the other provinces continue to delay the matter on some excuse or the other. Punjab introduced amendments to the existing colonial-era law, but is yet to increase the age of marriage for girls from 16 to 18. Confusion over who is classified as a child in the eyes of the law remains due to many contradictory laws and continued resistance from religious groups and conservative politicians, which does not make legislating on the issue any easier. This is despite the fact that Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which clearly states that anyone under the age of 18 is classified as a child.

Child marriage is a deeply harmful practice that disproportionately affects girls and has been likened to a culturally acceptable form of slavery that perpetuates or even legalises child rape under the guise of marriage. Not only are young girls unable to pursue their fundamental right of completing their education, they are also subjected to difficult household work and responsibilities before they have even developed their full mental and physical capacities. Moreover, underage girls go on to face health complications during and after childbirth. Seen as a financial ‘burden’ on their families, they are married off early to escape oppressive poverty, or they are used to settle disputes as if they were the property of adults to be bartered and sold, and not vulnerable individuals with rights of their own that need to be fiercely protected.


Sino-Russian ties

IN a world of changing alliance patterns, it is obvious that China and Russia must come closer, the signing of Monday’s gas deal between the two giants being just a small indication of the shape of things to come. While President Vladimir Putin called the 3,000-kilometre-long gas pipeline project “historic”, President Xi Jinping said that Sino-Russian relations were entering “a new era”. The gas deal is an indication of the booming trade — which is estimated to reach $200bn by 2024 — between the two countries, and is in sharp contrast to China’s declining economic ties with the US, the two having slapped tariffs worth billions of dollars on imports on each other. This is in addition to apprehensions on the larger geopolitical canvas. Washington is hostile to China’s One Belt One Road project, and Beijing feels concerned over Washington’s moves to create an anti-China alliance in the Pacific. More important, America seems determined to slow down if not block China’s emergence as a world power. As for Russia, the end of the Cold War has not led to an idyllic peace with the West.
The 70th anniversary of Nato’s founding finds the US-led alliance in a mess, with President Donald Trump calling France’s Nato strategy “brain dead”. French President Emmanuel Macron has his own grievances against Nato member Turkey and accuses Ankara of working with extremists in Syria by waging war on the Kurds, who he says are the West’s allies against the militant Islamic State group. Turkey, which has purchased missiles from Russia, also opposes Nato moves to strengthen the Baltic states’ security. The fissures within Nato are no solace for Russia, which is aware of Western anger over its Crimean misadventure. On Tuesday, Gen Mark Milley, American military chief, said China and Russia, and not Muslim militants, posed a threat to America. With Cold War loyalties cracking, and the focus of the world’s economic and geopolitical power shifting towards the East, both Moscow and Beijing feel it is in their interest to come closer.


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