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Monday, July 15, 2024

Pakistan in the Age of Climate Adaptation

Pakistan emits less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gases and is one of those countries standing at ground zero of the climate crisis. The recent super floods of 2022 displaced 33 million people in Pakistan with a cumulative economic loss of $30 billion.

The climate juggernaut cannot be stopped as witnessed by its ferocious and incessant hazards hitting various parts of the world. It is real. It is happening. Undoubtedly, it has become an existential threat as our own survival and security are at stake. Countries of the Global South particularly face immense challenges to cope with the effects of climate change given their weak capacity and limited resources.

Pakistan emits less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gases and is one of those countries standing at ground zero of the climate crisis. The recent super floods of 2022 displaced 33 million people in Pakistan with a cumulative economic loss of $30 billion. Now the question arises, can Pakistan really adapt to the challenges posed by climate change? If yes, then how should it adapt?

As per Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), adaptation refers to the “process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects in order to moderate or avoid harm and exploit beneficial opportunities.” For adaptation, the role of local communities becomes paramount as adaptation always begins at the local level. Interestingly, homo sapiens are known to be the most adaptable species ever to evolve on Earth. Hence climate adaptation requires personal as well as political will. However, the government must take a step forward to equip the locals with adequate training and awareness for better adaptation.

Understanding the matter better

For Pakistan, the main climatic problem is essentially water, be it the lack of water (droughts) or the excess of water (floods). Hence, our adaptation is primarily linked with water management. Ever since Sherry Rehman took over the reins as minister, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination (MoCC&EC) has been at the forefront to bring obscure climate discourse to the fore in the age of adaptation. Against this backdrop, Pakistan launched Living Indus Initiative in September 2022. It is undoubtedly the biggest climate adaptation project in Pakistan. It aims to restore and repair the natural resources and ecosystems of the Indus Basin to ensure that they are resilient to climate change.

The initiative outlines 25 high-impact interventions for policymakers, practitioners, and civil society to lead and support the ecological restoration of the Indus Basin. It is pertinent to mention that these interventions cut across multiple sectors like agriculture, forestation, urban resilience, waste management, pollution and the blue economy with 16 of them creating flood resilience in the vulnerable parts of the country. Sherry Rehman, Minister for Climate Change, Pakistan said while launching the project that “the marine species are under threat whereas the most at risk are the humans living across the mighty river. The Indus River exploded due to massive floods in 2010 and in recent torrential rains. We will have to find ways to revive natural routes of the Indus River.”

In addition, the rigorous climate diplomacy initiated by the team of MoCC&EC led Pakistan to secure the biggest-ever climate adaptation investment worth $77.8 million in an ecosystem-based approach to flood and water resources management. The project is known as Recharge Pakistan: Building Pakistan’s Resilience to Climate Change through Ecosystem-Based Adaptation for Integrated Flood Risk Management. The 7-year project brings together funding from Green Climate Fund ($ 66 million) and other private donors including USAID, Coca-Cola Foundation and WWF Pakistan ($12 million). It aims to restore forests, develop recharge basins, rehabilitate water flow channels and make local businesses in agriculture more resilient.

In pursuit of putting a robust framework to deal with climate hazards by enhancing the nation’s resilience, MoCC&EC recently launched the country’s first-ever seven-year National Adaptation Plan (NAP) in July 2023. It takes a whole-of-country approach. The document outlines for the federal ministries what they need to do and how they have to change their development planning, and every focal ministry must act to climate-proof its actions and strategies.

The NAP process will be addressing issues in various sectors such as water, agriculture, forestry, coastal areas, biodiversity, and other vulnerable ecosystems to ensure water, food, and energy security for the country as well as to minimize the impacts of natural disasters on the economy, human life, health and property. Utilizing climate-smart agriculture practices, sustainable land management techniques, nature-based solutions and disaster risk governance are some of the priority areas recognized by NAP.

It is worth mentioning that Paris Agreement established the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) in 2015 with the aim of driving collective action on climate adaptation. At COP 26, countries agreed to launch a two-year work program to translate the GGA into concrete actions. At COP 27, countries decided on the establishment of a framework for achieving the GGA. The framework will be discussed during workshops in the lead-up to COP 28 and should be considered and adopted at COP 28. Hence, a lot of it depends on the upcoming COP 28 to be held in Dubai.

It goes without saying that adaptation action should be inclusive and participatory taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems. It should be guided by the best available science, traditional knowledge and knowledge of indigenous people with a view to integrate adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions. No doubt, there is now a realization among the policymakers on the need to come up with tangible plans, but what will matter the most is their effective implementation.

Although external climate financing is of critical importance in achieving the aforementioned adaptation goals, community-led adaptation does not require billions, rather it only requires personal will. Let’s make ourselves climate resilient by adapting at the community level first.



Mominyar Khalid Butt is a Ph.D. Candidate in Geography and Planning in Macquarie University Australia. He has written extensively on climate change and environmental management. He tweets @MominforClimate.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.