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Broken Bridges: The climate change dilemma in Pakistan

For the past 20 years, Pakistan has consistently ranked among the top 10 most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index, with 10,000 fatalities due to climate-related disasters and financial losses amounting to about $4 billion from 173 extreme weather events.

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A consensus has emerged among scientists and policy-makers that climate change represents a major threat to the environment. At the same time, it is adversely impacting the well-being of humankind and the biosphere. Scenarios of the likely consequences of such an increase differ substantially among regions, but include sea-level rise, lack of fresh water, droughts, floods, forest fires, storms, severe heat and cold temperatures, irrigation problems, infectious diseases, and ecosystem degradation.

The real challenge of connecting climate change and development is not modeling the long-term effects and potential threats. Rather, formulating a holistic and sustainable policy which is crucial for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are a set of 17 “Global Goals” with 169 targets. The SDGs are especially significant in looking at climate change because well before the world became aware of the ‘climate change debate, environmental sustainability under SDG 13 had become an important part of this global poverty reduction framework. It featured the proportion of land area covered by forests; CO2 emission; consumption of ozone-depleting substances; the proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits; water resources, conservation of arable land, coastal regions and endangered species.

Read more: Pakistan urges UN to highlight climate change and offer solutions

Understanding the matter better

Climate plays a vital role in key sectors which support development, such as agriculture, health, livestock, forestry and the functioning of many ecosystems. Climate fluctuations, on the other hand, have an adverse effect retarding the pace of development. The SDGs related to poverty, health and environmental sustainability are interrelated and climate plays an important role in the fulfillment of these goals.

Pakistan is already under pressure from climate-related stresses and this increases the country’s vulnerability to further climate change and reduces its adaptive capacity. The obstacles to sustainable well-being, in light of climate change scenarios, are formidable, but the goals of development and climate change adaptation can be complementary, rather than antagonistic. The key to meeting both challenges is to increase the institutional and technical capacity of Pakistan to manage its resources and respond effectively to risks that climate change is bringing in its wake.

Environmental effects of climate change and modernization on Pakistan are remarkably similar infrastructure degradation, disruption of water supplies and soil fertility, and pressure on resource use. Environmental and poverty reduction concerns, especially under a climate change regime, need to be dealt with holistically and integrated into national development plans such as rural/urban development, forestry, fisheries, energy, health, infrastructure, agriculture and so on. Under Pakistan’s constitution, both the federal and provincial governments share responsibility for ‘environmental pollution and ecology management.

To effectively respond to the ubiquitous threats posed by climate change, the Government of Pakistan formulated its National Climate Change Policy in 2012, which was operationalized in 2013 and later Pakistan Climate Change Act 2017 (‘CCA’). Now there is an updated National Climate Change Policy of 2021.

At Glasgow, a number of countries have signed the Net Zero carbon emission target with the adaptation of the Paris agreement. The IPCC report on global warming of 1.5°C says more than 100 countries have proposed a Net Zero target and 31 countries and the EU (European Union) have officially signed either in the form of policy or law to achieve the Net Zero target as of June 2021. As we are moving toward the Net Zero transition, it will have an impact on the economy.

Read more: Climate Change: Past, Present and Future

A Net Zero carbon transition would entail significant and often frontloaded shifts in demand, capital allocation, cost, and jobs. 130 countries have agreed to work together to halt and reverse the degradation of land and the loss of forests by the year 2030. Globally, a pledge by the major automakers and 30 national governments agreed to phase out the internal combustion engine by 2040. Furthermore, at COP 26, approximately 100 countries signed a global pledge to eliminate methane gases by 30% by the end of 2030.

In Pakistan, the ongoing floods are devastating and have affected the economy and infrastructure. Now Pakistan faces environmental security and economic challenges. From 2010 to 2022, Pakistan faced many floods during these years. Climate change has exacerbated the flood situation, which is 5.6 times higher and had 371% higher rainfall as compared to previous years. Although there are similarities between the two events, according to climate experts, there are also some significant differences that authorities need to be aware of. Riverine floods brought on by exceptionally heavy rainfall in northern Pakistan in July were to blame for the disaster in 2010.

The Indus River floods from the north to the Arabian Sea gave regions downstream a significant amount of time to prepare for evacuation. A depression that formed in the Bay of Bengal in late August was the cause for the recent heavy downpour that flooded Sindh and Balochistan. It made landfall in Odisha on the eastern coast of India and traveled through India before reaching Pakistan, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The nation needs a compelling climate case in order to access climate finance, and that’s where climate change attribution studies come in.

The precise contribution of climate change to the disaster’s exacerbation must be understood in order to make a case for loss and damage at the upcoming COP [UN climate summit]. After the floods, the International Monetary Fund is moving quickly to put together a bailout package for Pakistan. A few wealthy nations have announced grants. India has offered assistance, but Pakistan has not yet decided whether to accept it. Pakistan must also organize its own affairs, draw lessons from the floods of 2010 and 2022, and begin urgently implementing countermeasures.

Read more: How climate change is impacting our societies

Pakistan needs a strategic framework for achieving national growth and poverty alleviation objectives while ensuring ecological sustainability with extensive and accelerated deployment of appropriate technologies for adaptation and mitigation.

Sustainable Growth Program Anchors will be effective through unique linkages – with civil society, provincial & local governments and public-private partnerships. Promote dependence on sustainable, renewable energy sources, and accelerated deployment of renewables through indigenous design, development and manufacture. Facilitate funding for effective mitigation and adaptation investment necessary for effective implementation.

Binding Constraints at the Federal level are:

  1. Review and revise, where appropriate, all government policies (sector by sector) to ensure that they take full account of climate change and its impacts.
  2. Provision of institutional framework to guide international and national climate financing modalities and support climate finance readiness.
  3. Need to review the Pakistan Climate Change Council, Pakistan Climate Change Authority, and Pakistan Climate Change Fund under Pakistan Climate Change Act 2017 (‘CCA’).
  4. Lack of youth participation in Pakistan Climate Change Council.

Binding Constraints at the Provincial level are:

  1. Post 18th Amendment and performance of provinces in implementing National Climate Change Policy (2012) and Pakistan Climate Change Act (2017).
  2. Status of ONE billion Tsunami Tree Project and expand the greenbelt coastal afforestation with mangrove planting along the shoreline in Sindh and Balochistan.
  3. Review energy and technology policies and incentives and revise these, where necessary, to promote efficient production, consumption, distribution and use of energy.
  4. Integrate climate change issues (adaptation and mitigation) into sectoral policies, and provincial development planning at all levels.
  5. Capacity building of the provincial governments, civil society and the private sector on carbon financing to access various global climate funds.

Read more: Mitigating the climate change conundrum

Four core areas in the framework were identified for intervention: adaptation, mitigation, institutional capacity, and implementation.

  1. Food Security, Inclusive growth and Ecological Sustainability.
  2. Mass Afforestation and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).
  3. Mitigation and De-carbonization.
  4. Transition to renewables.
  5. Capacity building and institutional strengthening.

The effectiveness of this strategic framework depends on the nature of the institution and environmental threat, the culture of the community, geographic location, and economic and social factors. As catalysts and facilitators for formal state institutions, the non-state actors can be the missing link for bridging human security and sustainable development gaps.

 

 

The writer is the chair, of economic security at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He can be reached at aneelsalman@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.