Islamabad: Pakistan is in the front row in bearing the burden of the global climate catastrophe. This was said by Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman in a media briefing after a meeting with PM Shehbaz Sharif.
She said that there is a need to set the priorities to deal with climate change.
She said Pakistan has faced down the warmest months on record since 1961 with 3 to 6°C warmer than normal. She stressed, “Looking at the unprecedented and lengthy heatwave the country is facing right now and the GLOF event that happened in Shisper recently, these are all the long-term effects of Climate Change. Unfortunately, we lack a coherent policy.”
For this reason, a Climate Change Task Force has been announced. “This Task Force has been constituted at the right time by the Prime minister because of this policy disconnect in Pakistan with our own departments and provinces.” Pakistan Climate Council still exists but “There have been no meetings of the climate council to date and contribution of the provinces towards curtailing the negative effects of climate change has been undermined.”
The taskforce was set up with all the relevant federal and provincial stakeholders whose first meeting will be held today and chaired by the Federal Minister of Climate Change. Amongst key stakeholders, the Secretaries for PMD, NDMA, Health and Information Ministries of all four provinces amongst others will be members of the Task Force. “We will take up the challenging task of coordinating between all stakeholders to deliver a well-coordinated nation-wide climate response and action”, she said.
Emphasizing the work of the MOCC in responding to climate hazard events, she raised the importance of early warning systems and coordination that the ministry conducts with PMD and NDMA. “While it is not the job of the climate change ministry to provide rescue and relief, we alongside local governments, PDMA and other relevant authorities have been issuing frequent early warnings which prevented loss of lives. The warning was being disseminated since March, helping the local administration to ensure zero loss of lives as a result of the event.”
Climate change is resulting in serious losses of our livelihoods and economy. It is the defining challenge of the 21st century in terms of health impacts and quality of life, and sadly it only enters the public conversation when there’s a crisis. We are now in the tenth most-affected country from climate change and the third most vulnerable to water stress. This situation will only get worse if the big global emitters don’t act. Pakistan too must act to save its resources as much as possible or we will transition from a water-stressed country to a water-scarce one by 2025. Currently, we are faced with extreme water stress and destruction of crops.”
While talking about water deficits and the Indus River depletion and pollution, she stressed, “Indus River is responsible for 90% of country’s food basket, however, there needs to be a change in agricultural practices from flood to drip irrigation. In addition to this there needs to be a shift to crops which require lesser amounts of water. PIDE’s studies indicate 80 per cent of our water supply goes to rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton. I am told that this is the invisible drain on our economy along with population growth. There are estimates of a 6-8% of our GDP being due to climate change.”
Farming and irrigation practices need to be aligned and transformed to enable us mitigate the impact of climate change. This can only be achieved through raising public awareness. “Lack of public awareness needs to be dealt with by better communication. We need to set up a nation-wide Climate Communication strategy for different levels of lifestyle changes, conservation messaging, and urgency of action to deal with the multiple crises facing Pakistan. No country can lower its carbon footprint without active public buy-in. The entire world is going through adverse climatic conditions. Yet, Pakistan is afflicted by Climate Colonialism as we are at the receiving end of global GHG emissions despite our emissions being less than one percent of global emissions. We are in the front row in bearing the burden of the global climate catastrophe caused by emissions that we did not make.”
Stating the obvious on provincial contribution to curtailing of climate impact, Sindh has shown immense action by achieving 63.05% of its target, being the highest contributor to TBTTP. However, its contribution has been neglected. “We will try to ensure transparency in The Ten Billion project to protect it from the fate of the Billion Tree project, a KP government initiative which was infested with Rs.462 Million corruption charges.”
She concluded by saying, “We need a coordinated set of core priorities for long term climate adaptation, not just mitigation. There’s not light switch which can be flipped to reverse climate damage that has been caused. There needs to be a national response as between 1999 to 2018, the country witnessed 152 extreme weather events. Whilst carbon capture is important there are a multitude of other behavioural and lifestyle changes that we need to incorporate in our daily lives. Ministry of Climate Change is chalking out an updated set of priorities to move towards adaptation to the increasing climate change challenges. As the post-COP26 action in climate finance dissemination still remains to be seen, we can address climate impact by raising finances via green performance and blue bonds.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022