Pakistan’s high vulnerability to adverse impacts of climate change, in particular of extreme climatic events, means that the country is in dire need of innovative mitigation and adaptation technologies to effectively manage recurring natural disasters triggering climate change as well as rapidly increasing levels of GHG emissions so as to lessen the damage to life, property, natural ecosystems and economy of the country.
The Global Climate Risk Index 2017, encouragingly, states that Pakistan is no longer among the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. While this provides some relief, the country still appears at the 11th place, losing $907 million or 0.0974 percent of the GDP. The report also brings forward worrying stats about natural disasters in the country. For instance, Pakistan’s vulnerability is increasing in the long run. This year, Pakistan is ranked 7th in the Long-Term Climate Risk Index (1996-2015); the country’s position last year was at 8th.
The Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a miserable picture of projected climate change impacts for Pakistan across various sectors such as water, agriculture, energy, human health and ecosystem. Among other things, it projects, high vulnerability to climate-induced hazards and population explosion will translate the current human and economic losses into a national security disaster, if the issue is not addressed early. Having suffered immensely from human and economic losses caused by the hazards of climate change, Pakistan needs to urgently take action on both adaptation and mitigation.
Mitigation can be done by raising the capability of carbon sinks, for example, through reforestation. Mitigation policies can considerably cut the risks related to human-induced global warming. Climate change is the main threat facing the peoples all around the globe. Climate is very important for our life systems, but we are busy in polluting the environment and in transforming it into a deadly matter to breathe in.
Climate Change Adaptation
Therefore, considering the significance of climate change, the Government of Pakistan has already ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement and has approved the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The National Assembly has passed the Pakistan Climate Change Bill 2016, a significant development in this regard. Being a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement, Pakistan has pledged to mitigate the effects of climate change at domestic as well as global level. Besides these steps, the Pakistan Climate Change Council would also be established to work for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Treaty. Apart from such measures, eco-friendly initiative, Green Pakistan Programme, has also been launched as Pakistan ranks among low forest-cover countries; with only five percent of land area under forests and tree cover.
However, Pakistan needs international assistance and cooperation to deal with the climate change. Although the annual average cost of climate change adaptation fund allocated by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to Pakistan would be $6-14 billion, the mitigation cost runs at around 17 billion which is quite small as compared with the magnitude of disasters faced by Pakistan but interestingly, according to UNDP’s Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review 2015, the climate change budget was under-utilised in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan should properly utilize the climate budget and should draw advantage from international climate funds and programmes such as the Green Climate Fund, created by United Nations Convention on Climate Change in 2010 for setting up climate resilient projects and reducing emission of greenhouse gases in developing countries.
Climate Change Mitigation
Taking eco-friendly initiatives is also very necessary. In this regard, introducing projects like the billion tree tsunami in the entire country will help a lot. Campaigns like ‘Save the Forests’ should also be launched. Planting trees on both sides of the roads and thoroughfares will add thousands of more plants to the existing ones. As a result, more carbon dioxide will be consumed and higher production of oxygen will take place. Facilities like the metro bus service and mass transit trains in major cities of the country will promote use of public transport. That way the use of private vehicles will be reduced which is good for both financial and environmental reasons.
Forests are responsible for maintaining biodiversity, healthy ecosystems which can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters such as floods, serving as watersheds, nudging economic growth and, above all, acting as agents of climate control. Climate control and atmosphere purification are keys to human existence. Trees and soil help in regulating atmospheric temperatures through a process called ‘evapotranspiration’. This leads to stabilization of the climate. Additionally, they enrich the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and producing oxygen that is released into the atmosphere.
The government should take long-term measures to mitigate the effects of climate change such as water management, improved energy consumption and conservation, better use of renewable resources, controlling deforestation, building of dams and reservoirs, discouraging use of fossils, forecasting and managing extreme weather events, early warning and emergency plans for disaster prone areas, etc. Along with these initiatives, Pakistan needs to work at domestic and community level to create awareness among the masses. It is the time that the government and people of Pakistan took climate change seriously as it may be a daunting threat in the years ahead.
Thar Power Plant, Arifwala Power Station, Jhang (RLNG-based) Power Project, Balloki Power Plant, CHASNUPP (I, II, III), KANUPP (I, II, III) are some examples from the list of power projects which are eco-unfriendly. Pakistan has the potential to generate 90,000MW of electricity from wind energy and sunlight and more than 60,000MW from hydel sources. Being exposed to climate-change-related calamities, we should have turned our focus to such environment-friendly resources of energy to meet our growing demand. But, unfortunately, that isn’t happening.
Environmental concerns need to be the keystone of all development considerations at all levels. Concern for environment – its protection, renewal and enrichment has been reckoned as obligation toward betterment of all the citizens at large. Issues relating to environment are being flagged for a host of factors including high population growth rate, lack of public awareness and education, mismanagement of water and other natural resources as well as unplanned urban and industrial expansion. Economic growth is also hampered by environmental degradation and depletion of natural resource base.