Hello, anyone managing climate change?

The Ministry of Climate Change at the federal level is downplayed to act only as a regulator

Jahangir Kakar November 16, 2020
The writer is a civil servant based in Quetta

Being threatened with the challenges of climate change, Pakistan is close to crossing the red line. This makes it even more interesting to question if there is anyone looking after climate change at the provincial or federal level in Pakistan but the disclosure to this question is so alarming, given that there is no one doing the said job.

The Ministry of Climate Change at the federal level is downplayed to act only as a regulator and one that has the technical capacity to just manoeuver unto checking the quality of ambient airs.

Similarly at all the provincial levels, there are environmental protection agencies that look after the conformity of environmental regulations in various sectors contributing to certain types of pollutions. These provincial agencies act as regulators which can cater to only a limited version or a speck of what forms the big idea of climate change. No one could ensure that any climate oriented data is being collected at any provincial level, not even one. The aforementioned agencies only ensure the quality of air by recording the various gaseous emissions in the ambient airs. The numerous centres for the Pakistan Meteorological Department throughout the country pick up conventional weather data by various means but are hardly translated into making a meaningful statement on where we stand on climate change.

As for policies, laws, rules and regulations, they are multiplying each day and have become difficult to remember as to the exact number of laws on one single sector. The National Climate Change Policy 2012 remains a document of the past which is being pushed to nullity. Though a devolved subject, yet the NCCP grants the legitimacy to the Ministry of Climate Change to wreathe all the provinces together in one garland of legal integration to manage the national issue of climate change. The Climate Change Act 2017 was another move towards climate consolidation that promised to establish the Pakistan Climate Change Authority, Climate Change Council and Climate Change Fund all of which were last time seen in 2017 when the said act was passed. The Vision 2030 remains a virgin vision thus far.

The integration of NCCP with other national and provincial policies is lacking badly. The international and/or multilateral agreements which Pakistan is signatory of are far from being implemented with tragedy given that there is no awareness and institutional capacity at the provincial levels to decode those agreements let alone implement them. The ministry has to steer the whole frame of climate change by taking together the provinces.

The Ministry of Climate Change must realise that it is the organisation at the federal level that is entirely responsible for catering to issues regarding climate change. The integration of such a central body with the provinces would be the next challenge given to our trend of over politicisation of everything.

The policy and legal regime needs to be revisited as the multiple laws, regulations and policies need to be brought under one banner being encapsulated in the meaningful manner without the show of over aesthetics. The regulatory regime is important but what must take precedence over it would be the technical regime, manning and managing of the whole climate affair. One thing that must be ensured is that the organisational set up is to be one steered and manned by professionals and must be kept as far away as possible from the typical hardcore public sector channels, ranks and files and the fattening bureaucracy.

On the provincial levels, in conjunctions with all line departments and agencies, the Ministry of Climate Change could raise such independent and specialised climate change provincial bureaus composed of such technical and scientific people as required to get the job done. These climate change bureaus need to be established and equipped with the facilities and manned with the human resource capable of undertaking such scientific studies and making such informed decisions as required to counter the horrors of climate change. This will ensure the sectoral integration without which climate change management is impossible.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2020.

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