ISLAMABAD: The world’s geographical history shows that climate change is not a new phenomenon as scientists have tracked historical changes in the drivers of climate change such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and continental drift.
Currently, due to anthropogenic activities, the pace of climate change is high compared to changes in the past. It is essential, therefore, to find ways to mitigate drastic impacts of the ongoing climate change wave through adaptation and prevention without compromising development targets.
Climate change is becoming a challenge for many countries as the frequencies of weather anomalies and climatic extremes have increased during the last two decades.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is ranked number 7 in the list of most vulnerable countries, suffering economic losses of $3.823 billion in the last two decades due to climate change and climate extremes.
At the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Federal Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid said: “We emit less than 1% of total annual global greenhouse gases, yet we are ranked amongst top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. Millions of people are affected and colossal damage is caused on a recurring basis.”
Climate change is a global phenomenon; none of the countries alone can deal with the issue. So, there is a need to work collectively and for this purpose various international forums such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) have been set up.
At the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) under UNFCCC, the developed countries agreed to pay at least $100 billion every year to the developing countries as a climate adaptation fund till 2020.
Pakistan is already facing many socio-economic problems such as energy shortage, poverty, malnutrition, lack of health care facilities and safe drinking water. Climate change is further contributing to these by affecting livelihoods of individuals and economy as a whole.
In responding to the above situation, Pakistan is facing challenges in building community resilience and adaptation to climate change.
Fund allocation for climate change adaptation seems very low as in the 2015-16 budget the domestic allocation was only Rs39 million and in the 2017-18 budget Rs815 million has been earmarked for the Environment Division, mostly for the climate change schemes.
Pakistan needs to get access to international financial resources to meet the adaptation and mitigation costs. It was agreed in COP 22 (part of the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference) that developing countries need to establish a proper regulatory mechanism to cope with the challenges they face in accessing climate change adaptation funds and to bridge the gap between the donor and recipient countries.
Pakistan has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC in which energy and transport, industry and waste and agriculture and forestry have been identified as potential sectors that need to acquire funding from the Green Climate Fund.
To meet development targets, Pakistan is likely to emit four times more GHGs by 2030, which would require $40 billion to mitigate the effects.
Climate change bill
For this purpose, Pakistan has recently passed the Climate Change Bill 2017 to show its commitment to combating the adverse effects of climate change by passing specific laws.
Along with the policy formulation, this bill paves the way for setting up a climate change authority which is responsible for development of the mitigation and adaptation framework for various sectors of the economy.
The climate change bill also established a climate change fund which is managed by the authority. Its core objective is to meet expenditures of the authority and fund itself and also to provide financial assistance to the adaptation and mitigation projects as well as research.
Pakistan is an energy-deficient county and instead of seeking international funds for fossil fuel energy generation (under CPEC), it needs to move for renewable energy generation.
We should look for funds to build capacity of the workforce, improve the technological resource base and strengthen institutions for renewable energy sources.
“It’s our need to consume coal to meet our development targets to fulfill needs of the growing population. We can cut out GHG emission if we are provided with sufficient resources, technology, capacity and finances to move for green energy and renewables,” said Mountain and Glacier Protection Organisation (MGPO) CEO Aisha Khan.
Pakistan requires a strong national commitment and leadership and innovative business models to gain financial and technical assistance from both domestic and international players.
It is important to note that Pakistan has not been on track in terms of implementing its Climate Change Policy 2012 and provincial climate change divisions have not performed effectively after devolution of power in 2010.
Amid this situation, Pakistan has developed its INDCs and passed the climate change bill after ratification of the Paris Climate Change Agreement to show its interest and commitment.
According to UNDP’s Climate Public Expenditures and Institutional Review 2015 for next 40 years, Pakistan would require $10.70 billion per annum as the cost of adaptation to climate change and mitigation cost would range from $8 billion to $17 billion.
It requires a strong national will along with solid legislation like the climate change bill to efficiently mitigate the effects of and adapt to extreme climate changes.
The writer works as a researcher in the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2017.