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EDITORIAL: As global warming has begun to increase its risks and hazards in Pakistan with this year being the warmest in six decades, glaciers melting rapidly triggering a glacial lake outburst flood in Hunza, and drought in some areas of Sindh and Balochistan, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday presided over a meeting where he announced the setting up of a task force on climate change.

Briefing journalists afterwards, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman dealt at length with the issue from where we are to what needs to be done. Referring to the distressful fact that Pakistan is the tenth most affected country by climate change and third most vulnerable to water stress, she said the situation will get worse if the big emitters of greenhouse gases do not act. Pakistan can ill-afford to wait while the major culprits dither on limiting human-induced warming to 1.5 C below the pre-industrial levels.

She rightly averred, though, that Pakistan too must act to save its resources as much as possible or else we will transition from a water-stressed to a water-scarce country by as early as 2025. The country has already experienced as many as 152 extreme weather events between 199-2018, and is still counting. In its latest report, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), counts Pakistan among 23 countries facing drought emergencies over the past two years.

Laying out her plan for countering the effects of warming, minister Rehman emphasised the need for taking adaption measures such as change in agricultural practices from flood to drip irrigation, shifting to crops which require less amounts of water, raising of public awareness, and a nationwide climate communication strategy for different levels of lifestyle changes. All this is important, and should help by way of mitigation steps.

Moving on, she said, there is no light switch which can be flipped to reverse the damage wrought by climate change. Indeed, so. Interestingly, however, while the conversation has remained centred on mitigation and adaptation strategies, the UNCCD report seems to suggest restoration is also possible, augmented with protection measures for areas important for water regulation, conservation of soil, biodiversity carbon stocks, and ecosystems. That, of course, requires loads of money, a non-starter for countries such as this, bearing the brunt of what the developed nations have dumped on all. The problem was acknowledged in the Paris Agreement, with pledges of jointly mobilising $100 billion annually to address pressing needs of the most vulnerable nations.

The commitment to climate finance was again renewed at the UN Climate Summit COP 26. Although not all the commitments have been kept, climate finance has been flowing in the right direction.

So far, Pakistan has not benefited from any of it while some other countries, including Bangladesh, have. The minister mentioned raising finances through blue bonds and green performance, which is what Bangladesh has been doing and attracting funds for its sustainable mitigation and adaptation strategy. Performance is the key to unlocking the door to climate finance. It may also help Pakistan reverse some of the damage that has already occurred.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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