Climate change poses an existential threat to Pakistan and the Middle Eastern countries. Its disastrous repercussions pose a serious threat to both regions’ economic stability and security.

Pakistan is a prime example of a nation experiencing climate injustice.

In 2023, unprecedented monsoon rains caused catastrophic floods, submerging a third of the country, displacing millions, and incurring an estimated $30 billion in economic losses. This disaster directly influenced the establishment of the “Loss and Damage” funding mechanism at COP 27, a crucial step towards climate justice for vulnerable nations.

Meanwhile, the Middle East is warming at twice the global average. This rapid warming translates into stark challenges across the region. Declining precipitation and desertification threaten agricultural productivity, impacting food security and potentially fueling regional instability.

Impacts of climate change: Pakistan categorised as ‘highly vulnerable’

Water scarcity is a growing concern, with rivers like the Tigris and Euphrates facing historically low water levels. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are particularly vulnerable, facing worsening aridity with scorching heat waves impacting public health and straining energy grids. Rising sea levels further threaten coastal infrastructure and disrupt vital desalination plants.

However, this vulnerability presents an opportunity for a powerful alliance built on climate diplomacy, leveraging existing pockets of cooperation and institutions like the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) in Pakistan.

Established in 2023, the SIFC aims to streamline investment procedures and attract foreign capital, particularly for infrastructure projects. This council can play a crucial role in facilitating Gulf investment in Pakistan’s climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

For instance, the SIFC’s ‘single window’ approach can expedite approvals for joint desalination plants or renewable energy projects between Pakistan and Gulf companies. Additionally, in late 2023, the SIFC directed the Ministry of Water Resources to develop a five-year plan for water resource development, specifically for agriculture. This plan, if aligned with similar initiatives in Gulf countries, could attract Gulf investment in drought-resistant technologies and irrigation infrastructure in Pakistan.

Climate change impacting weather conditions

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are already tackling environmental challenges together through a wide-ranging Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2021. This agreement outlines nine key areas for collaboration, including combating pollution, protecting nature, and managing forestry and land.

Pakistan’s experience with large-scale tree plantation projects could be valuable for Saudi Arabia’s Green Initiative, which aims to plant ten billion trees across the Middle East. Both countries are also looking to develop cleaner energy sources, manage waste effectively, and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Sharing environmental data, conducting thorough impact assessments for development projects, and promoting sustainable tourism are additional areas where Pakistan and Saudi Arabia can cooperate.

This partnership extends beyond the MoU. In 2022, Pakistan’s then Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, emphasised the growing “green partnership” between the two countries. Pakistan is eager to share its expertise in national park creation andforestation, with the hope of further strengthening relations.

Similarly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has also launched initiatives like the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and the Masdar Initiative, showcasing their commitment to clean energy and sustainable development, and these offer opportunities for synergy between the UAE and Pakistan. The latter’s experience in disaster management and the UAE’s expertise in desalination technology can be combined.

Existing collaborations like Pakistan-UAE water resource management can also be a springboard for knowledge exchange. Collaborative research and development (R&D) on climate-resilient agriculture, renewable energy, and infrastructure can lead to innovations that benefit both regions economically. Abundant sunshine and wind resources offer opportunities for joint solar and wind power projects, not only reducing dependence on fossil fuels but also creating a clean energy export market and fostering regional economic integration.

Alarming threat of global warming and lagging climate finance

From an international political economy perspective, the fight against climate change presents a complex challenge. Economists like Joseph Stiglitz, argue for international cooperation and burden-sharing.

Developed nations, who have historically contributed more to greenhouse gas emissions, have a responsibility to assist developing countries in transitioning to clean energy sources and adapting to climate impacts.

International financial institutions like the World Bank play a crucial role in mobilizing resources for climate action in developing countries. However, economists like Dani Rodrik emphasize the need for careful policy design to avoid creating new economic burdens or hindering development.

Effective solutions likely involve a combination of carbon pricing mechanisms, technological advancements, and financial instruments that incentivize sustainable practices across borders.

Political and economic disparities within these regions, along with reliance on fossil fuel exports, pose challenges to effective implementation.

However, framing climate action as an economic opportunity through green jobs and a clean energy market can garner wider support. Existing regional organizations like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the GCC can be strengthened to create dedicated forums for climate action.

UAE reels for a third day after record-breaking storm

South-South cooperation will allow both Pakistan and the GCC countries to share experiences and best practices with other developing countries facing similar challenges, promoting knowledge transfer and potentially leading to joint ventures for tackling climate change. Technology transfer from developed nations can be incentivized through financial aid and knowledge-sharing programs, fostering a more equitable global economic order.

Furthermore, people-to-people engagement through student exchange programs, joint research projects, and cultural events can cultivate a sense of shared responsibility for the planet and build a global movement for climate action.

Similarly, educational campaigns and media initiatives can build public understanding of the urgency of climate change and the economic benefits of collaborative solutions.

By joining forces in climate diplomacy, expanding existing cooperation, and utilizing the SIFC’s capabilities, Pakistan and the GCC can not only secure their futures but also set a powerful example for promoting international cooperation and a more sustainable global economic order.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Arhama Siddiqa

The author is a LUMS and University of Warwick Alumnus and currently a Ph.D. Candidate at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

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KU Apr 18, 2024 08:18pm
Please pray tell, for the feeble minds, if SIFC is going to supervise economy, FDI, climate change plans, among other functions of government, what is the use of ministries and public departments?
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KU Apr 18, 2024 08:25pm
Pakistan agriculture is experiencing weather changes/heat for 8 years now, but no local data has been collected or displayed by any department. Our reports or views are copies from UN and World Bank.
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