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In Pakistan, the impact of climate change is no longer a distant threat but a reality that we have been forced to engage with head on. The devastating floods of 2022 left one-third of the country submerged and impacted nearly 33 million of our fellow countrymen.

Despite being one of the lowest contributors (0.9%) of greenhouse gas emissions globally, Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impact of climate change.

The rich tapestry of landscapes, from the towering peaks of the Himalayas to the fertile plains of the Indus Valley are under threat, as rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events take their toll.

The downstream economic impact on human lives and livelihoods especially agriculture, is of colossal nature.

While our commitment towards the vision of a sustainable, low carbon, and climate-resilient Pakistan is evident as signatories to the Paris Agreement, the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions continues to face road-blocks due to awareness, resource and capacity constraints.

Our reliance on short-term superficial measures in the absence of flexible yet crystallised adaptive approaches towards developing climate resilient infrastructure continues to disrupt our economic growth trajectory, and our ranking on the Sustainable Development Goals Index, which has slipped to 128th among 166 countries in 2023.

The question we must ask ourselves is ‘How do we fix this?’ The answer may be an unlikely beacon of hope for Pakistan as all is not lost even in these difficult times. Building climate resiliency and economic growth are symbiotic as is the interdependence of civil society, private sector entities and government agencies in achieving these outcomes. Public-Private partnership is critical in this sphere.

The limited availability of clearly laid out strategy and governance roadmap, expertise and specialized knowledge for climate resilience, paves the pathway for private sector investment, capacity to innovate and develop cutting-edge technologies.

Climate change mitigation goals such as energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are already a part of the sustainability frameworks of many private sector companies who can help develop innovation eco-systems when working together with public sector and can catalyze public discourse about climate change.

Similarly, public sector often has extensive networks and relationships with various stakeholders and can effectively facilitate large scale engagement and participation in climate resilience initiatives, which is crucial for their success and sustainability.

International cooperation is also indispensable. Climate change knows no borders, and concerted efforts on a global scale are essential. Pakistan must actively engage with the international community, seeking both technical assistance and financial support for climate adaptation projects and public sector can play a huge role in facilitating that.

Creating awareness and building consensus is only the first step in the journey towards climate resilience for Pakistan as any expected transformation will not be an easy task. At the 2022 UN Climate Conference it was estimated that Pakistan needed nearly USD 248 billion by 2030 to sustainably transform their energy needs, developing climate resilient infrastructure and restoring human damage to biodiversity.

With an annual GDP of USD 350 billion, how does Pakistan bridge the financing shortfall while ensuring that potential investment opportunities are to become investment realities? Private sector financing can help bridge these gaps where banks like Standard Chartered have sustainable financing on offer with established risk mitigation frameworks and linked concessionary pricing for both green and transition financing needs. The cost of not embracing this change will be steep and the price to pay will be our loss of competitiveness on the global stage and of valuable foreign exchange for Pakistan.

The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OICCI) organized the 2nd Pakistan Climate Conference to bring all the stakeholders together and capitalize on the opportunities to address pressing climate issues in Pakistan.

The conference brought in eminent speakers who set a tone for adaptation building on the learnings from PCC 2022 and COP 27 to trigger policy recommendations and frameworks in line with UN SDGs. We used this occasion to reframe climate change as an opportunity – a chance to rethink what we desire, not for ourselves but for our future generations to come.

(The writer is the Vice President of OICCI)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Rehan Shaikh

The writer is the Vice President of OICCI

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