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Thursday, July 18, 2024

SDGs and Climate Justice: The Case of Pakistan

Pakistan has achieved high on SDG Goal 13 this year as well as Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). Some members of the government, civil society, and those who care about the environment are ecstatic with this accomplishment.

Pakistan is one of the countries whose contributions to the global climate disruption are minimal but is getting affected a lot due to it. Pakistan’s neighbors China and India together contribute more than one-third to global carbon emissions. Air does not follow the border lines and affects the neighboring states. Consequently, Pakistan finds itself a victim of climate change despite having only a little part in it.

Pakistan is trying to cope with climate challenges, though it is already too late and climate change means an existential threat to the country. Even if Pakistan boasts early achievements in the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action), it is still very vulnerable to climate change. Within the country, it is affecting deprived communities with additional vigor. Therefore, it is important to bring forward the concept of Climate Justice: it is necessary to fairly distribute the costs and benefits of addressing climate change. Climate Justice recognizes the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income communities and communities of color around the world.

Read more: SDGs: Is Pakistan doing better than its neighbors?

Understanding the matter better

Injustice in terms of climate means that the most affected communities have contributed the least to GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions such as people in peripheries. Fairness in this regard requires that the global community must provide the necessary resources for all countries, especially the most vulnerable ones like Pakistan. Another important concept is that of intersectionality: climate change exacerbates existing social, economic & health inequalities. The development inequality across Pakistan should also be considered in combating climate change.

In order to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, this entails accepting The Global Climate Targets but also keeping in consideration distinct obligations based on historical carbon footprint and corresponding capabilities of developing states. According to a recent study from Stanford University, the economic disparity between the richest and poorest countries, measured in terms of per capita income, is currently around 25% higher than it would have been in the absence of human-caused climate change.

The first step in reducing emissions must be taken by those who are historically most responsible for them and have the most power and capacity to undertake it. States that have historically benefited from emissions and continue to do so in the form of continued economic growth and increased wealth, primarily the industrialized nations, have an ethical and moral obligation to support the countries that are suffering from their effects. The focus should primarily be on vulnerable populations in developing nations.

To prevent further environmental harm, people in Pakistan must have access to possibilities for adapting to the effects of climate change and embracing low-carbon growth. Despite doing more than our limited resources, Pakistan still needs further help from Global sources to tackle the unfair burden of climate change-related disasters, such as the recent flash floods across Pakistan that have resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives.

Read more: Pakistan’s poverty alleviation, achievement of SDGs govt’s priorities: FM

In June 2022, Jeffrey Sachs and a group of professionals from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung released the Sustainable Development Report 2022 (SDR 2022). It gives an overview of global attempts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report also considers how COVID-19 has interfered with the SDG progress. The poorest individuals are most impacted, including women, children, seniors, people with disabilities, and migrants and refugees.

Pakistan has achieved high on SDG Goal 13 this year as well as Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). Some members of the government, civil society, and those who care about the environment are ecstatic with this accomplishment. It is crucial to realise that this does not eliminate Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change. Both slow-onset and extreme weather events continue to cause damage. Furthermore, despite the positive outcome, Pakistan has not done enough to combat climate change.

The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are interconnected and cannot be seen in isolation. Only high achievements in three goals won’t guarantee sustainability for future generations. Out of 163 countries, Pakistan is, sadly, ranked 125th in the Sustainable Development Report 2022. Other goals are also linked with climate change. For example, SDG 13’s target justifies the inclusion of climate change-related knowledge in primary, secondary, and tertiary curricula. This indicates that if SDG 4 (Quality Education) is not prioritized, it will affect our early climate action achievements.

Areas with weak health infrastructure in Pakistan will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond to Climate Change related disasters. This warrants action toward SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being for all). According to WHO, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year across the Globe from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. Pakistan will definitely have a high share in these deaths as we have a weaker health infrastructure, especially in remote areas.

Read more: How will the new government tackle SDGs? – Dr. Kalsoom Sumra

The way forward

Since millions of Pakistanis have already been negatively impacted by climate change and will continue to be, the government of Pakistan has a duty to implement adaptation and mitigation measures to lessen the negative impact of climate change on the enjoyment of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the right to property, information, and equal protection under the law, as guaranteed by the constitution.

The human rights provisions of the constitution successfully help combat the harmful consequences of climate change on the environment and people. The improvement of environmental laws, democratic institutions, development of accountability mechanisms, increased citizen involvement in decision-making, environmental sustainability, and the promotion of living rights are all related to these constitutional provisions.

In addition to carrying out domestic actions to combat climate change, Pakistan must intensify its global advocacy for climate action, particularly by making a strong case at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, session in Egypt later this year. Pakistan needs Climate Justice, which cannot be achieved domestically because it is a global issue that needs to be addressed on a global scale.


Muhammad Abdul Basit is a political scientist and independent journalist. His work has appeared in The Diplomat, The National Interest, CGTN, The News International, Daily Times and Modern Diplomacy.

Sher Shah Khan Bangash is a Development Scholar and writes on Sustainable Development and issues related to the achievement of SDGs.

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