‘Clean Green Pakistan’ Drive, Swelling Pollution & Global Warming

In March this year, the United Nations’ launched Environmental Rights Initiative with an objective that the initiative would bring environmental protection nearer to the people. A the launching ceremony in Geneva, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Erik Solheim said that those who struggle to protect planet should be celebrated as heroes, but the sad fact is that many were paying a heavy price with their safety and sometimes their lives.

The initiative is an opportunity to give environmental rights the same legal standing as human rights at the global level. Among other things, the initiative will help governments strengthen institutional capacities to develop and implement policy and legal frameworks protecting environmental rights, and assist businesses to better understand their environmental rights obligations and provide guidance on how to advance beyond a compliance culture.

Factually, since the 1970s, environmental rights have grown more rapidly than any other human right and are enshrined in over 100 constitutions, in January the international non-governmental organization (NGO) Global Witness documented that almost four environmental defenders are being killed weekly with the true total likely far higher. Many more are harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands.

Moreover, around 40-50 per cent of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2017 came from indigenous and local communities. Violations of environmental rights have a profound impact on a wide variety of human rights, including the rights to life, self-determination, food, water, health, sanitation, housing, cultural, civil and political rights. It is crucial that those most affected are able to meaningfully participate in decisions relating to land and the environment.

Similarly, currently, there are approximately 3 billion people who lack access to clean-cooking solutions and are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution. Additionally, slightly less than 1 billion people are functioning without electricity and 50% of them are found in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Fortunately, progress has been made in the past decade regarding the use of renewable electricity from water, solar and wind power and the ratio of energy used per unit of GDP is also declining.

However, the challenge is far from being solved and there needs to be more access to clean fuel and technology and more progress needs to be made regarding integrating renewable energy into end-use applications in buildings, transport and industry. Public and private investments in energy also need to be increased and there needs to be more focus on regulatory frameworks and innovative business models to transform the world’s energy systems.

To make an important contribution towards achieving collective goal: to keep global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement, leaders from all sectors of society gathered Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco to demonstrate how they were ‘taking ambition to the next level’ with a wave of fresh and brave climate action announcements that, if implemented would generate over 65 million new, low-carbon jobs by 2030.

We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change. said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. But the Global Climate Action Summit has brought together actors demonstrating the

They are betting on green because they understand this is the path to prosperity and peace on a healthy planet. This momentum culminated in a landmark Call to Action, which was presented to the UN’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, in a symbolic gesture to illustrate that it is future generations who will be most affected by the decisions of the current generation to build a better, more resilient world.

Accepting the Summit’s Call to Action on behalf of the United Nations, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said this Summit and its Call to Action will encourage governments worldwide to step up their actions, demonstrating the vital role that states and regions, cities, companies, investors, and civil society are playing to tackle climate change.

The event took place against a background of accelerating impacts of climate change, including Super Typhoon Mangkhut expected to make landfall and Hurricane Florence, which continues to devastate communities on the east coast of the United States. UN Environment highlighted the vital role of non-Party stakeholders in propelling the global fight against climate change forward, in an excerpt of their Emissions Gap Report launched at the Summit.

Last year, perhaps it was for the first time that spring tree plantation campaign got underway in the entire country, Gilgit- Baltistan and Azad Kashmir on one day under the catchy nomenclature of ‘Green Pakistan’ initiative conveying shared desire of federal and provincial governments to address the challenge of environment degeneration caused mainly by denuding forest cover. Federal and provincial governments expressed their resolve to work jointly to make Pakistan clean, green and beautiful.

The Green Pakistan programme was approved in March last year on the pattern of Great Green Wall Programme of China, under which 100m saplings are to be planted throughout the country over the next five years. Protection and management of wildlife and reclaiming and developing forest areas are among the main aspects of the programme. However, it took government one year to formally launch the project, which is indicative of the priority being given to this crucial issue despite the fact that we have a full-fledged ministry of Climate Change to take care of such programmes and issues.

Anyhow, the programme has been launched February 09 every year has been announced as National Green Day, one hopes concerted efforts would be made not only to realise this modest target of tree plantation but also surpass it with a big margin in view of serious implications of environmental issues. We have no time to waste or indulge in just sloganeering as already deforestation in Pakistan is highest in Asia while only lip-service is being paid to tree plantation campaigns since long.

Protection of forests, increase in forest cover and conservation of wildlife would remain an elusive dream until and unless necessary awareness is raised among citizens and they assume ownership of the drives fully realising the consequences of denuding forest cover. We are losing more and more trees to unplanned industrialisation, housing schemes, roads and highways, runways, water reservoirs and more importantly due to felling of trees for firewood and construction material. We can make up the loss if we sensitise local communities and involve schools, colleges, universities, government and private offices and corporate sector in tree plantation drives. Survival of saplings with proper care and protection is also a key to success of such efforts.

To further cement the programme Prime Minister Imran Khan is going to launch a countrywide cleanliness campaign next month. The “Clean and Green Pakistan” drive will be initiated from all major cities across the country as part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s policy for a clean and green country. The decision to start a countrywide cleanliness campaign was taken last month during a meeting chaired by the prime minister on the functions of the Ministry of Climate Change.

Premier’s adviser on climate change Malik Amin Aslam Khan earlier said that the government will launch an aggressive campaign to educate people and motivate them to participate in the “Clean and Green Pakistan” campaign. Last month, PM Imran launched “Plant for Pakistan” drive which was part of PTI government’s billion tree Tsunami 2018 drive.

Climate change is one of the main issues that PM Imran’s government aims to tackle through initiatives like tree plantation. The country-wide tree plantation drive came after the PTI-led provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa executed a large-scale tree-planting project during its previous tenure. According to experts, Pakistan is facing enormous environmental challenges. A survey ahead of the 2018 poll found that respondents prioritised three key environmental issues: rising temperatures, water shortages, and air pollution.

Published in Melange Intl. Magazine October 2018.

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