The economy of Pakistan has long been suffering from a debt crisis, bad economic policies and restricted growth. For the past many years, the novel challenge of climate change has added to this list by adversely affecting economic prospects and destroying the socio-economic fabric of the country. The World Bank, in their latest report, estimates that Pakistan’s annual economic output could witness a cut of 18-20% by 2050 due to climate change-associated risks. The country finds itself caught in a fragility trap.
Warnings were issued way back in 2015, when researchers claimed that vulnerable areas, especially along the coast, will eventually succumb to rising sea-levels and changing weather patterns, but no one heeded the call. This year, we saw one-third of the country submerged in water. This year’s unprecedented monsoon rains coupled with flash floods are indeed a grim reminder that climate-induced disasters can significantly set back development goals. On the one hand, steady changes are slowly withering away Pakistan’s resources and causing a gradual shift, and on the other, the country has to reel with the sudden shock of natural disasters that have increased in intensity and frequency. This double-edged sword has stabbed the very heart of the country. A UN report suggests that annual economic losses due to climate change amount to $26 billion in the worst-case scenario and environmental instability could depreciate GDP by up to 9.1%. Then, a single flood event inflicted a humongous toll of $30 billion, destroying agriculture, infrastructure, communities and livestock.
The resulting humanitarian crisis is a wake-up call that urgent action is required. A fundamental shift is required in development path and policies, whereby a people- and climate-centric approach should be included. The general aim should be to protect the economy from such shocks while also working towards sustainability and resilience.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2022.
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