HEC chief calls out govt’s ‘weak’ climate change policy

Published: February 23, 2019
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Says it lacks key priorities with rationale and targets. PHOTO: REUTERS

Says it lacks key priorities with rationale and targets. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The federal government’s climate change policy and its implementation strategy were slammed by the head of the apex higher education body for being weak, inconsistent, incoherent, and reactive. Instead, he called for devising an integrated approach to deal with climate change.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri was delivering a lecture on ‘Climate Change and its Implications for National Security’ at the Centre  for International Strategic Studies (CISS) in Islamabad on Friday.

An expert on sustainable development and climate change, Dr Banuri regretted that the current national policy on climate change looks like a “long list of un-prioritised measures and agencies” and without any “rationale and targets”.

Hence, he said that it was not surprising that the set targets were not met.

“Pakistan Climate Change Act recognises the (policy) failure and tries to overcome the weak structures,” he conceded, but cautioned that it was futile to expect a “weak and inconsequential institution” to contribute to the creation of a “stronger one”.

In the past, he said, the tacit objective of all action on climate change was to secure foreign aid.

“That was the only purpose of making this policy,” Dr Banuri said, adding, “There was no interest in doing anything about climate change.”

To make things worse, Dr Banuri said that those who made and implemented the policy even failed in their solitary task of attracting funds.

However, he pointed out that measures such as the mass tree plantation drives, mass transit systems, improving public health and creation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Meteorological Department have helped with attending to the impact of climate change.

But with these steps originally taken for reasons other than tackling climate change, they became “unconscious policy implementation”.

He cited the Global Climate Risk Index 2018 by German Watch, the Bonn-based research institute that studies Climate Change, Dr Banuri said that it had rated Pakistan amongst the top 10 countries most affected by climate change.

He warned that the projected temperature rise for Pakistan in the current century was a degree higher than the global average of about 1.4 °C– 4.6 °C. The northern parts of the country, he warned, would be the most affected by climate change than the southern parts owing to the presence of glaciers and impact on them.

Symptoms of climate change, he recalled, was that over the past two decades, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather changes in Pakistan which have caused floods, droughts, heat waves, and cyclones due to increased monsoon variability and sea level rise.

Moreover, he emphasized that climate change directly affects national goals such as economic development, eradication of poverty, security and sovereignty, water scarcity, food insecurity, floods, droughts, mass migrations etc.

Of these, water insecurity could become a major cause for conflict in local, regional, and international disputes in the near future. 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2019.

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