The population in rural Afghanistan is completely dependent on precipitation, both for agriculture and for drinking water, writes Andreas Stefansson. Pictured are Marzia and Faizullah fetching water for their family. Photo: Bashir Ahmad Fayaz


Climate change is life-threatening for Afghanistan

The Madrid climate summit, COP25, swept one of the most important issues under the rug. What economic responsibility do the countries that have caused global warming have for countries like Afghanistan - where climate change is already a matter of life or death? Sweden must push harder for a fair global division of responsibilities, writes the Swedish Afghanistan Committee.

Although Afghanistan has barely contributed at all to global warming, the country will be hit harder than many others. It is already happening today. Villages and fields are washed away by heavy rain, hundreds of thousands become internally displaced due to drought.

The Swedish Afghanistan Committee has been working since 1982 for an Afghanistan free from poverty, violence and discrimination. In rural areas, we see how the most vulnerable population is also hardest hit by climate change. Irregular weather causes damage even in richer countries, but in an agriculture-dependent country with weak infrastructure the consequences are so much worse. In Afghanistan, it can be a matter of life or death. The 40-year-long conflict is also escalating as people are displaced from their homes and the struggle for natural resources intensifies.

Afghanistan emits 0,3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, the United States as much as 16,1 tonnes. If you look at the percentage of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions, China alone accounts for almost 27 percent, Afghanistan accounts for only 0,6 per thousand.

At the same time, Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries. Due to the conflict, there is no functioning state, the infrastructure is neglected, the country is heavily deforested (only 2 percent of the area consists of forest) and the level of education and literacy is low. Resources for preventing and managing climate-related disasters are lacking. The Afghans have only begun to understand the dramatic consequences that global warming will have for them - even though their contribution to the greenhouse effect is minimal.

It should be obvious that the countries that have caused climate change through decades of high emissions are taking great responsibility for the economic consequences of global warming. This applies both to compensation for the losses and damages that affect less developed countries and to the financing of the measures required for them to be able to reduce their emissions and adapt to a new reality.

In Afghanistan, 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for their survival. Relatively small changes in precipitation and temperature can have catastrophic consequences. The adjustment and adaptation required of the whole of agriculture, of the water and energy supply must be owned by the local population. It is the only way to create sustainable rural solutions in less developed countries - and it is also their right to self-determination.

Climate justice must mean that developed countries make binding economic commitments to deal with the consequences of global warming in countries that have barely contributed to it. It is also required that the measures are implemented together with the local population.

New research shows that global warming is already contributing to widening gaps between rich and poor countries. Climate change will - in addition to all other negative effects - contribute to an escalating global injustice and it would be catastrophic to continue to postpone that challenge to the future. But that is what the participating countries did at the climate summit in Madrid.

It is good that the Swedish government and the EU are taking the lead in reducing their own emissions and getting other countries to go in the same direction. But now, in the work ahead of the climate summit in Glasgow 2020, Sweden and the EU must also push for a solution to the issue of climate justice.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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