Nuaman Ishfaq Mughal,
According to a German watch Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is among top ten countries of the world that are vulnerable to climate change. Three of Pakistan’s cities Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad are at high risk from impact of climate change, stated by U.K consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft. Pakistan stands at 137th position as per the greenhouse gases emission study conducted between 2011 and 2015. It only contributed 0.46 percent to global greenhouse gases emissions. Despite that Pakistan comes among countries, which are most affected by climate change. It has suffered a lot from the adverse effects of climate change like melting of glaciers, high temperatures, heat strokes, droughts, heavy rains, floods and fogs. Climate Change is also huge development challenge for Pakistan. It targeted poorest and the most vulnerable of the country including women and children. Pakistan Economic Survey reports that more than 3,000 people died and $16 billion worth infrastructure was destroyed during 2010-2012 floods. Similarly thousands of people lost their lives in Karachi heat strokes and Thar drought events in 2015.
Climate Change was never the priority of Pakistan government nor the people till recent events. Gallup polls of 2007-2008 found that only 34 percent of Pakistani population were aware of climate change and only 24 percent of the population considered climate change serious threat to the country. However this perception changed with increase in rate of disasters in country. Majority of Pakistanis considered climate change as top challenge for country in Gallup polls of 2015. With increase in awareness about climate change, Government of Pakistan started taking environment and climate change issue seriously. It formulated policies to address this challenge. Government launched National Climate Change policy in 2013. The policy provided mechanism of addressing climate change issues that Pakistan was facing or could face in future. The goal of the policy was to mainstream climate change in the economic and social sectors of country. Pakistan also signed Paris Climate Change Agreement and entered into list of 190 countries who ratified the agreement. In the most recent development, Parliament of the country has passed Climate Change bill. This bill will be great step towards tackling climate change problems of the country. Through this bill which is now Climate Change Act, three institutions will be established in the country. These institutions will be named as Climate Change Council, Climate Change Authority and Climate Change Fund. These institutions will ensure that comprehensive climate change adaptation and mitigation plans are met and Pakistan meets obligations under international conventions on climate change. The newly introduced Green Pakistan programme on lines of ‘Great Green Wall Programme’ of China is also a good omen for the country. This programme will focus on planting 100 million saplings in next five years. This step will conserve forestry and wildlife sectors of Pakistan, something critical for low forest cover countries like Pakistan. To achieve Sustainable Development in Pakistan, the need of the time is to support projects that respond to growing threats of climate change in country. Local communities should be involved and their capacity buildings should be done to address challenges resulting from climate change. Local communities have been found efficient in conserving natural resources like forests, water channels and land management. Non-Governmental Organizations and United Nations Agencies should also be encouraged and facilitated to run projects which aim at fighting climate change and promoting sustainable development in the country. These projects can be about effective land management, energy conservation and creating sustainable livelihoods careers. The role of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is laudable in this regard. The UNDP is technically assisting the Government of Pakistan to decrease risks of glacial lake floods in northern region of Pakistan. Through its project, Reducing Risks and Vulnerabilities from Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, It develops human and technical capacities of public and private institutions as well as the local communities. These institutions and community people address glacial outburst risks in Gilgit and Chitral districts. Flood risks from glacial lakes pose danger to lives and economies of people in these districts.
Pakistan is not fully prepared to meet the challenge of climate change. As far as human resources and institutional capacities are concerned, it lags behind neighboring countries. Presently the inadequate skilled human resource is a big constraint for the country. The country has fewer climate change experts, scientists, and technologists. There is a lack of credible institutions in Pakistan, both at public and private levels to deal with comprehensive climate change policy, adaptation, mitigation, and management issues. Similarly, there is less investment in climate change advocacy and awareness at governmental level. It is the time Government of Pakistan emphasize human development prospects to combat climate change. It should focus on climate change adaptation together with its forceful mitigation in country. As signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Pakistan qualifies for financial assistance from United Nations fund. In the UNFCCC Cancun conference, developed countries committed to creating a Green Climate Fund. To get an appropriate share from the fund, Pakistan should create an enabling environment to attract the funding. Integration of climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable policies will not only facilitate such funding but will also put Pakistan on path of sustainable development.
(The writer is young journalist and climate change activist. He can be reached at @NuamanIM on twitter)