Pakistan stands fairly low on the carbon footprint scale relative to its peers in the region. However, as the monsoon arrives, threat of flash flooding heightens in the country; the country is among those that are severely prone to climatic changes be it the floods or draught; heatwaves or earth quakes – 7th to be exact in global climate fallout.
The adverse impact of climate change is massive; and after a long time, there is some seriousness at policy level to address the impending issue. The latest comes from the review and reflection of policies and initiatives in New York. Pakistan is part of the 2019 Voluntary National Review of the High Level Political Forum (VNR- HLPF) on Sustainable Development, which is United Nations central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals currently in progress.
One of the Sustainable Development Goals being reviewed in depth is Goal 13, which is taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact. According to the report, Voluntary National Review – Pakistan 2019 prepared by the Planning Commission and submitted to the HLPF, the country’s target is take steps to safeguard the environment through large-scale tree planting campaigns as well as extending the forest cover by one percentage point – from 5.1 to 6.1 per cent.
Key efforts that the government highlights in the reports are implementation of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+); amendment of the Forest Act 1927; revision of National Climate Change Policy; establishment of disaster management authorities at the national, provincial and district levels; revival of the Federal Forestry Board; up-gradation of Billion Tree Tsunami Project of KPK to the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme across the country; initiation of Clean and Green Pakistan campaign; Recharge Pakistan project for better management and utilisation of flood waters to restore and re-charge the groundwater apart from investing in renewable energy projects.
Though the country faces little threat from its carbon emissions right away, a little goes a long way. With coal increasing its share in power generation quite quickly now- be it imported or indigenous Thar coal – carbon footprint is bound to take up a notch; already the main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the country is the energy sector (51 percent) followed by the agriculture sector (39 percent). Unless climate mitigation and adaptive strategies are implemented in true spirit, this will only burden the country further.
The review highlights that the country plans to reduce its current greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030. Other planned initiatives include mitigation strategies focus on reducing emissions in the energy and agriculture sectors, minimizing agricultural waste and residuals, introducing vehicular emission standards and adopting Euro 4 standards; incentivising manufacturing sector to produce low-carbon-footprint commodities, reviewing tax policies and exploring the possibility of introducing a ‘polluter tax’ to generate funds; and opting for green financing to encourage investments in green or sustainable projects.
Here, it should be reminded that climate-related initiatives directed at long-term eradication and adaptation of issues also take long gestation and development period before they start giving the desired results. Unless we commit today, it could get too messy to handle the climate menace.