Statement | Failing rich countries are to blame for the Pakistan disaster

The floods in Pakistan are an unprecedented disaster affecting at least 35 million people. Twice the Dutch population. Hundreds of thousands of houses are under water. Hundreds of bridges have collapsed and 90 percent of crops have been destroyed in Sindh province, which produces half of Pakistan’s food. Recovery will, as far as possible, take a long time and cost a lot of money.

The floods come after extremely high temperatures that ended prematurely, melting glaciers and ‘monsoon rains’ on steroids”, in the words of UN chief Guterres. Pakistan’s climate minister Sherry Rehman is adamant: This is due to climate change, and it is caused by the rich countries. According to her, rich countries must therefore pay for the damage. Like NRC also concluded: the Pakistanis have a point. Climate change has at least exacerbated and possibly caused the disaster. However, Pakistan itself is only responsible for about 0.3 percent of global emissions to date.

Pakistan’s extreme vulnerability is due, among other things, to the country’s geography: The country has thousands of glaciers in the north, whose meltwater ends up in a gigantic delta area in the south.

200 million inhabitants

Added to this is a sharp increase in population (Pakistan has more than 200 million inhabitants) and a migration to the city, which means that many people live in dangerous places, in bad houses.

However, the vulnerability is also partly due to one’s own poor relationship with nature. Only 4 percent of the country is still forested. At independence in 1947, this was still around 30 percent. Deforestation leads to soil erosion and increased risk of flooding.

The West, meanwhile, wonders what to do. With its lax climate policy, it has maneuvered itself into a particularly difficult position. Our own emissions are indeed falling, but far too slowly to prevent climate change. Partly to cover up their own weak climate policy, the rich countries promised in 2009 to support the developing countries with 100 billion dollars in climate finance per year. This is also a failure: Much to the chagrin of the developing countries, the amount stopped in 2020 at DKK 83.3 billion. The US is doing worse than many European countries, including the Netherlands. Furthermore, the largest part consists of loans, and only a quarter of the money went to adapting to climate change in recent years. Rich countries know they are falling short. During the climate negotiations last year, under pressure from developing countries, they promised to double their support for adaptation.

Also read: One third of Pakistan is under water

The West could now show what it is worth. First with emergency aid, then with large-scale adaptation aid to better protect Pakistan from future floods.

Such investments would also benefit the UN climate negotiations. Pakistan currently leads the main negotiating bloc of developing countries, the G7 plus China, so everything is under a magnifying glass.

In addition, you may be able to stabilize the critical situation in Pakistan. Ten years ago, nuclear power was still a ‘failed state’ and still struggles with poverty, corruption, illiteracy and food scarcity. Pakistan is fighting the Pakistani Taliban and a cold war with India. High energy and food prices make everything even more urgent.

Refugee flows

Aid from rich countries could potentially prevent further instability. This also helps prevent refugee flows and Pakistan from meeting its energy needs with its own coal reserves, which the country is rich in.

The reality, however, is that the West is reacting with anticipation to the disaster in Pakistan. The UN called on countries to mobilize $160 million in emergency aid for Pakistan. So far, aid has primarily come from countries in the region, such as China, Qatar and Uzbekistan. The US has pledged 30 million dollars, the UK 15 million pounds.

Many Western countries have their hands full with other crises, but the wait-and-see attitude can also be explained in the following way: Large investments from the rich countries open up more demands from countries that are victims of the climate crisis. For years, the developing countries have tried to obtain financing for climate change loss and damagebut the rich countries block this because they fear forced compensation through an open cheque.


Developing countries consistently put financing at the top of the agenda at international meetings. It was the case last week during Africa Climate Week in Gabon, this week during the Africa Adaptation Summit in Rotterdam and it will be the case at the UN climate conference in Egypt in November. If Pakistan is funded, more vulnerable developing countries will require aid. Partly quite true, and what the least rich countries can do is to mobilize the annual 100 billion.

The West is biting itself in the tail with its climate policy to stick to it. The problems will only get worse the longer we wait with ambitious climate policy. The Netherlands and other countries must now finally make a real effort to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Otherwise, sooner or later there will be a huge bill, financial or otherwise.

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