The Pakistani and Indian governments need to collaborate on policy and research on environmental issues as the two countries have shared ecosystems, said a UN expert on climate change in a talk at the Lahore University of Management Sciences on Tuesday.
“We have to see beyond the collaboration of think tanks and policy makers and move to trans-boundary initiatives. They are critical because we have shared ecosystems,” said Dr Rajendra K Pachauri, an Indian scientist who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice President Al Gore in 2007 for their work in raising awareness of climate change.
The talk at LUMS was in the format of a conversation between panellists Dr Pachauri and Leadership in Environment and Development (LEAD) CEO Ali Tauqeer Sheikh and moderator Dr Adil Najam, the vice chancellor of LUMS.
The panellists also talked about the failure of the recent Rio20plus environmental conference and a need for partners to create understanding of climate change among communities at the grassroots.
Asked if collaboration on climate change research would bring the two countries together or push them further apart, Dr Pachauri said that countries in South Asia had sought to collaborate on the issue before.
“Prior to the conference in Rio in 1992, the Pakistani and the Sri Lankan governments proposed to New Delhi that an interactive session be held to discuss common core issues as of the three countries India, at the time, was the only one researching climate change,” he said. If it had happened then, it can happen again, he added.
He said that the two countries needed to look at the shared benefits of collaboration. By controlling emission of green house gases, both countries would benefit from reduced pollution, more jobs and less waste of resources, he said.
Asked what suggestions he would make to the prime ministers of India and Pakistan regarding climate change, Dr Pachauri said that the first would be to closely examine the impact of climate change in the coming years on the supply of food and energy. The second would be to look into the benefits of renewable energy, and the third to invest and establish infrastructures in India and Pakistan based on shared ecosystems. “It will only lead to a win-win situation,” he said.
Asked if politicians in India were receptive to environmental studies linking disasters to the changing climate, Dr Pachauri said that the chief ministers of states like Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh were sensitive to the impact of climate change because they had large farming communities who were directly affected by changing crop patterns.
He said in January 2008, the Bengal chief minister had accepted his suggestion for a detailed assessment of climate change disasters in the state.
Failures of Rio
Both Dr Pachauri and Sheikh attended the Rio20plus summit earlier this month. Dr Pachaury said the summit was a failure because neither the United States nor Europe had shown an appetite for action.
He said the 50-page document that emerged from the summit avoided all controversial issues and made no commitments.
He said that the United National Environment Programme had not received the support it was seeking at Rio. He said that if countries like India, China and Brazil followed the same development path as the West, “then we are doomed”.
Dr Pachauri said that there was a need for partners who could decipher the work of NGOs and research institutions and raise awareness of it in local communities.
Members of the audience also raised the question of the Punjab government carrying out development projects without assessment of their potential impact on the environment, despite a law requiring it to do so. The panellists suggested the formation of pressure groups to press the government to act in accordance with the law.
Dr Najam concluded the hour-long session by asking why people should care about climate change when there were other pressing issues such as power outages.
Dr Pachauri said that doing nothing about climate change would only make the energy shortage more acute. Investing in renewable energy is the solution to the power crisis, he said.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.
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