The Global Climate Risk Index 2017 published by German Watch revealed some astounding facts about the occurrence of climate change and its global impacts. The report analyses the extent to which countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related event losses in different parts of the world from 1996–2015.
Over the span of 19 years, Pakistan has lost $3.8 billion that is 0.6% of its GDP; and has been placed at the 7th (for the long-term) among the worst-hit countries in the climate risk index. Similarly, for short-term index of the year 2015, it ranked the 11th for losing 0.0974% of the GDP that is equivalent to $907.122 million. For a developing country, such as Pakistan, this is a massive amount that mars the development process and reverses the ongoing efforts to achieve sustainable development. According to the UNDP’s Climate Public Expenditures and Institutional Review (2015), for the next 40 years Pakistan requires $10.70 billion for adaptation while $8-17 billion for mitigation cost.
Surprisingly against needs for huge sums required for both adaptation to and mitigation of the climate change, just $7.7 million have been allocated for the climate change division in the 2017-18 budget. This allocation is supposed to cater to almost all ongoing projects relating to the environment to be undertaken by the ministry of climate change (MoCC). With this trend of the least prioritisation of climate change in resource allocation would not help us to adapt or mitigate in short or long terms. If we continue allocating even double the amount of 2017-18 allocations for climate change, we can only make available $600 million in the next 40 years, which is 9.35% of what is actually required for adaptation, leaving aside literally no penny for the mitigation costs. In a nutshell, losses of climate change besides burdening the economy further widen the gap between the financial demand/supply sides of the existing/required efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Such scenarios call for allocating adequate resources and utilising them efficiently for which it is imperative to identify causes/drivers and remedies of the hazardous impacts of the climate change. Increasing rate of greenhouse gases in atmosphere, rapid deforestation/degradation, and uncontrolled population, unchecked and uncontrolled use of irreversible natural resources, poor governance/law and improper implementation of strategies are the major sources/drivers of climate change. The experts are of the view that climate change can be tackled by reducing greenhouse gases and increasing carbon sinks (trees and forest cover). It is an established fact that total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be reduced by decreasing emissions from both deforestation and forest degradation.
The weapons against climate change found to be a bit scrappy as the World Bank (2015) indicates some disheartening facts about Pakistan’s forest cover. Over the span of 25 years (1990-2015) the forest area of Pakistan has registered a decrease of 59%. This alarming rate of deforestation needs to be looked at whether it is the improper forests management governance or lack of awareness of the forest communities and the people in general about the importance of forests and its contribution to reducing greenhouse gases through carbon cycle? This may have some other reasons such as vested economic interests of power elites.
Before jumping to any conclusion, it is important to look at what Pakistan has done so far with its limited resources. It should be lensed bearing in mind that climate change is an unwanted gift from developed countries as a result of the process of industrialisation that helped them to earn the status of developed nations. Even today Pakistan’s contribution is negligible in terms of greenhouse gases emission in the atmosphere. However, quoting this fact doesn’t mean that we should disown climate change as it is no longer in our hands.
Pakistan, despite meagre financial allocations for climate change, has undertaken a number of steps to mainstream climate change in its policies and planning to meet its global commitments. There is a need to develop policies and programmes on forests in line with REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries) commitments as part of the country’s national development priorities. The federal climate change ministry was set up in 2012 followed by approval of the National Climate Change Policy and National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy (2012) which provide a comprehensive framework for policy goals and actions for mainstreaming climate. As a follow-up to these policies, the Framework for Implementation of the Climate Change Policy (2014-2030) was launched in 2013. The National Forest Policy of Pakistan was approved by the Council of Common Interests under the chairmanship of the prime minister of Pakistan in 2016. The Green Pakistan Programme was launched in 2017 by the federal government of Pakistan with support from all the provinces. Similarly, Green Growth Initiative was launched in 2014 as a flag bearer of the clean and green revolution in Pakistan.
Most importantly MoCC is implementing REDD+ programme. Pakistan has secured funds from the World Bank under Forest Carbon Partnership Facility grant in 2015 that support countries in getting ready for REDD+ and to implement its policies and measures.
The programme is an effort to provide incentives for developing countries to contribute to climate change mitigation through activities in the forestry and land-use sectors. In simple words, it is a payment mechanism for incentivising developing countries to stop cutting down their forests and as a reward earn dollars. Given the technical and procedural complexity involved in the implementation of the REDD+ activities, Parties (UNFCCC signatories) agreed that REDD+ should be implemented in three phases: readiness, implementation and results-based actions. Pakistan is currently into its readiness phase under which it is developing its vision. Once Pakistan will meet the pre-requisite, it will enter into implementation and verification phase that will result into the payments in dollars. The compliance market for REDD+ earnings will be in place after 2020.
It can be inferred that slowly but steadily Pakistan is moving towards a systematic approach of forest conservation and indirectly towards countering climate change. At the national level, Pakistan needs to strengthen its weak areas to buffer itself from the potential economic and social losses. For the purpose, there is the need for a paradigm shift from reactive to preventive approach that may include risk mapping and assessment of climate-induced possible calamities, building dams, use of clean and green technologies, seismic and flood-resistant infrastructure that will help lower the damage costs.
Despite all the progress and government initiatives in the field of climate change, the question will remain in place until its effective implementation. Even for REDD+, it is a tool that is still to be tested. For the time being just like CPEC, REDD+ is a dream of a better future that is given to the people. Nevertheless, it is also true that in the time of hopelessness a little ray of light can play a substantial role. So, it is time to act now and get ready to enter the carbon market by conserving and planting more forests.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2017.
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