On Road to Paris: Fighting Climate Change

Fighting climate change

A two-day moot in Lahore, organized by Embassy of France in collaboration with various stakeholders, brought together a distinguished galaxy of diplomats, development practitioners, people associated with the NGOs and INGOs, civil society activists, intellectuals, ministers and government representatives. Around 600 people attended the event. Officially titled as ‘Pakistan to Paris: On the road to 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21)’. To be attended by around 40,000 delegates from around the world, the Paris moot has been tipped as the largest gathering of diplomats.

The participants of the Lahore moot gathered at a time when our world and our planet are confronted with the horrors of climate change. Gone are the days when dangers of climate change were the subject of intellectual debates and discussions. Today, all of our efforts for human development, poverty alleviation, food and energy security, stability and material progress face the threat of coming to naught, if we do not pay heed to the challenge of climate change.

The issue of climate change is global in nature. There is, thus, the utmost need of crafting a global response to deal with its effects. Our destinies and our future are closely inter-woven and it is by coming together and pooling our material and intellectual resources that we can mitigate the dangers of this global scourge.

It is in this context that this Conference on Climate Change marks a watershed in our efforts to fashion a global strategy; a strategy which is holistic and enjoys broad-based ownership.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015 or COP21 — to be hosted by France in November-December this year — promises to secure new international consensus with an aim to keep the global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The agenda of solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts, to be adopted at COP21, will deliver a powerful message of collective global action against threats of climate change.

The dangers of climate change are present and real and they have affected our world across all sectors of life. It has undermined human health and food security causing displacement of people thereby creating urban hotspots of hunger and violent conflicts. South Asia has experienced as many as 1017 natural disasters from 1971 to 2010; more than 2 billion people have been affected and over 800,000 deaths have occurred to date besides an economic loss of nearly $80 billion.  

Though Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emission is very small, the country has, however, been listed among those nations that face high vulnerabilities to the adverse impacts of climate change.

The super floods of 2010, which inflicted an economic loss of $9.6 billion besides huge loss of lives as documented by a joint study of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, were the consequence of extreme weather conditions. Likewise, we are having erratic weather pattern that manifested itself in the form of heavy monsoons and flooding over the last five years, again highlights our predicament.

Global warming and carbon soot deposits are likely to cause considerable recession of Hindukush-Karakoram Himalayan glaciers thereby threatening water inflows into the Indus River System. Intense and frequent flooding has led to increased siltation of major dams. We are experiencing rising temperatures resulting in enhanced heat and water-stressed conditions particularly in arid and semi-arid regions leading to reduced agricultural productivity.

The forest cover, which is already scanty, faces further reduction due to rapid changes in climatic conditions. At the same time, there is an increased stress between upper riparian and low riparian regions of the country over sharing of water resources.

To cut the long story short, the phenomenon of climate change has posed real challenges to our efforts for water security, increased agricultural productivity, energy security, human health and ecosystem.

Mindful of the challenge of climate change, the Government of Pakistan, in consultation with provincial governments and other stakeholders, has formulated a National Climate Change Policy. The Policy identifies climate-induced threats and spells out measures to address them from short- to medium- to long-term basis. It is complemented by Framework for Implementation of Climate Change Policy 2014-2030, which details steps and mitigation measures to address vulnerabilities of different sectors.

Fighting climate change 1

The goal of making Pakistan a climate-resilient country and mainstreaming climate change in public policy agenda cannot be achieved unless we work on four areas, namely:

  1. Capacity-building and strengthening of institutions
  2. Robust advocacy and creation of awareness on climate change
  3. Technology transfers
  4. Regional and international cooperation

In order to optimally and fully respond to the climate change challenge, we need to increase the capacity and upgrade the strength of institutions responsible for making mitigation and adaptation efforts. The availability of sufficient and trained workforce will be possible as a result of conscious investment in climate change education and establishment of tailor-made institutions.

At the same time, people’s increased awareness of threats of climate change is central to our efforts to minimize its effects. There is a constant need of communicating with the general public through community outreach programmes and public education. This calls for a public-private partnership to highlight and project the climate change perils.

By all means, climate change is one of the most difficult and complex threats. There is a need of finding innovative technological solutions to enable societies to succeed in mitigating and adapting to its challenges. Technology transfer from the developed to developing countries is key to evolving a shared response to this daunting challenges.

Given the very nature of the threat of climate change, it is important that both the developed and developing countries engage with each other and work together on a shared agenda. We need to usher in a new era of global cooperation on climate change. South Asia is highly prone to climate change and related disasters, which makes the case for regional cooperation even more urgent and compelling. Regional cooperation can prove to be the bedrock of global partnership on climate.

The first step towards fighting a challenge is to acknowledge its criticality and urgency. It is hoped that the global community is very much sensitized to the threats of climate change. What is required is that we demonstrate our collective will and determination to walk the talk. The Paris Conference will be a watershed in this regard.

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