Pakistan’s Climate Change Challenges: Mitigation Drive

The world is witnessing unprecedented traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Amongst all climate change has become one the biggest challenge with mayhem repercussions. As a matter of fact the severity of climate change has evolved from an environmental issue to a grave security concern, which is currently being debated as security as well as a development challenge around the globe. Alarmingly, climate change is declared as a global and challenge for the world in 21st century as it has global impact irrespective of the regional or geographic demarcations. Evidently, every single region of the world is confronting the threats posed by the climate change. Nevertheless, this major challenge has not appeared overnight it has been 30 years since scientists first alerted the world to the dangers of climate change.  Indeed, changes in nature have serious implications for people and global economic system. The potential economic damage, caused by the impacts of global warming could be hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Pakistan with no exception, ranked as one of the top ten countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years. It ranks 7th most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change. The variability in climate and weather pattern has increased the frequency of disasters which undermines development in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan’s economy remains highly vulnerable to likely future threats posed by climate change. Its vulnerability can be assessed from its huge population of 180 million of which nearly 54 Million are food deficient. The youth is increasingly being affected by calorie insufficiency in their daily diet. Pakistan has faced around 150 freak weather incidents as a result of climate change in the past 20 years: flash floods, smog in winter, forest fires in summer, melting glaciers, freaky heat waves, landsides, displaced population, etc. During floods in 2010-11, almost 10% of Pakistan’s population was displaced in 2 provinces, one in the North and another in the South. The costs of extreme weather as a consequence of climate change were listed at $ 384 million and in the past 20 years, there has been a cost of almost $ 2 billion to the national economy because of the ravages of climate change.

Moreover, floods and droughts threaten agriculture; scarcity of water carries the potential to gravely affect human security. At the same time, extremely low human development index, poverty and societal fissures adversely affect societal capacity. Climate change is particularly a real national security threat, however; there exists no proper research and policy framework on the subject. Environment and climate change are inextricably linked to sustainable development. Pakistan requires greater progress in environmental protection. Water scarcity is increasing, land productivity is decreasing, and climate change is worsening these treats. The risk of natural disasters, also exacerbated by climate change as well as economic shocks, adds to existing vulnerabilities.  Irrespective constraints, it is pertinent to mention the fact that Pakistan has been listed as the seventh most vulnerable country although the country’s contribution to climate change is least in comparison to the developed nations. However, the country is seriously committed to tackling the vagaries of climate change, both at the official as well as non-official level.

To highlight Pakistan’s initiatives, one must take into consideration that Pakistan has become the first country to accomplish Goal 13 of SDGs. Over the past several years, Pakistan has undertaken several policy and planning initiatives with respect to climate change, and is preparing a formal climate change strategy.   For instance, in the year 2019, Pakistan launched an initiative, called as Clean Green Pakistan Index (CGPI), as part of government’s efforts to mitigate the pollution issues and effects of climate change in Pakistan. In addition to it, Billion Tree Tsunami project in Pakistan has been hailed by the international community. This project was completed, in 2017, by the current ruling party PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which is north-western province of Pakistan. After making federal government in Pakistan, PTI has launched Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project which aims to plant 10 billion trees within five years. Prime Minister Imran Khan while commenting on this project stated that it is gigantic step to reduce the effects of climate change and conserve the environment. Moreover, the government of Pakistan introduced Renewable Energy Policy in 2019. According to this new policy, 30% of total power generation will be generated by renewable resources by 2030 in Pakistan. This will help the government to meet the growing demands of energy without contributing to Greenhouse gases. In addition, the government is promoting Solar Power Irrigation Systems. For example, the government of Punjab has announced that it would provide 80% subsidy for installation of solar panels. This development in irrigation system will not only resolve the issue of water shortage but also help in conservation of water.

Furthermore, the government of Pakistan successfully launched Pakistan’s Ecosystem Restoration Fund (ESRF) on 12th December 2019 in Madrid. The ESRF will act as an independent mechanism which will help Pakistan to develop as climate compatible. Promotion of ecotourism, electric vehicles, afforestation, biodiversity conservation and marine conservation are included in ESRF initiatives.

In addition, first-ever policy on electric vehicles was introduced by Pakistan on 6th November 2019. This policy is also part of Pakistan’s efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change. According to Electric Vehicle (EV) Policy, 30% of total vehicles such as rickshaws and cars would be converted into EVs in the first phase. The government of Pakistan is also aiming to establish special units for manufacturing of EVs in Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Pakistan also recently launched the ‘Living River Initiative’ for Ecological Restoration of Indus River Basin for climate resilient future.

Apart from that, institutional support to climate change adaptation and mitigation, the project aims to provide assistance to the Government of Pakistan and its partners in the field of environment sustainability and increased resilience to climate change and natural disasters at the national, provincial and local level. Pakistan also working on project called comprehensive reduction and elimination of persistent organic pollutants. This project proposes a series of activities to strengthen the existing legal and regulatory framework for management and to ensure government departments and other stakeholders have the technical, enforcement and monitoring capacity required. Recently Pakistan also established ‘Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme’ to restore the immense biological, social-cultural and hydrological values of the Himalayan ecosystems. Pakistan also working on institutional strengthening Project for the implementation of Montreal Protocol – Phase X  to continue strengthening the functioning of the Ozone Cell (National Ozone Unit) within the Ministry of Climate Change as focal point in Pakistan for all matters relating to the phase out of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) under the Montreal Protocol. Scaling-up of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) risk reduction in Northern Pakistan is another designed project that targets to empower communities to identify and manage risks associated with GLOFs and related impacts of climate change, strengthen public services to lower the risk of disasters related to GLOF, and improve community preparedness and disaster response.

Pakistan also working on ‘Disaster Risk Reduction Programme’ by reducing disaster risk and increasing the resilience of people and systems are mandatory from a national development perspective.  Pakistan has been working in these areas in accordance with its respective mandate and core competencies like enhancing government capacity to reduce disaster risk at the national, provincial and district levels, and to support to community resilience building for at-risk communities.

One of the notable initiatives is sustainable forest management to secure multiple benefits in Pakistan’s high conservation areas. Sustainable forest management is a means of protecting forests whilst offering direct benefits to people and the environment. Pakistani leadership also committed for a transition to the clean energy and adopting renewable energy sources for majority of its energy production until 2030. Fiji, Malawi, Nauru and Nepal indicated that they are aiming for the 2050 goal.

In addition, the “Protected Areas Initiative”, launched during the COVID-19 era, to enhance national coverage of protected areas from 12% to 15% of land area while preserving Pakistan’s unique and valuable biodiversity and has already increased our number of National Parks from 30 to 45 in just one year. Furthermore, the world’s first “zero emissions” metro line project designed to turn cattle dung into methane to power buses, has already been approved for the city of Karachi. Recently, we also shifted our transport fuel quality from Euro-2 to the much cleaner Euro-V standard in one big leap.

To conclude, to mitigate the challenges emerging from climate change, the current government of Pakistan has taken steps in the right direction but it still needs to work more rigorously. The start of construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam is appreciable, but Akhori, Munda and Kalabagh dams are also important to manage the floods and droughts. In addition, Solar Power Irrigation Systems should be promoted across the country and media should highlight the threats emerging due to climate change. The challenge of climate change needs response from national to local level. Pakistan needs to enhance cooperation with international organizations which are focused on the issues of climate change and should also take pre-emptive measures to minimize the damage. Pakistan is also actively pursuing innovative global financing for its ambitious climate agenda, through structuring “Debt for Nature” swaps or “Nature Bonds” based on the credible ongoing activities outlined above and the renegotiation of Pakistan’s burgeoning debt with countries supportive of a green revival of the global economy.

To conclude, climate change is certainly the most threatening issue of contemporary times. There is no reductionist approach to combat or contain this alarming danger but the global cooperative and coordinated global climate action would assist to ensure the human and planet security.

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About Mushahid Hussain Naqvi 22 Articles
The author is the Digital Editor at The Asian Telegraph and sub-Editor at Melange International Magazine and Research Associate at COPAIR with academic expertise in International Relations.