Pakistan climate change act — challenges


Hasnain Ibrahim Kazmi June 30, 2024
The writer is the Advocate Supreme Court. He can be reached at hasnain@kazmiz.com.pk

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The Government of Pakistan ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on June 1, 1984, the Kyoto Protocol on January 10, 2005, and the Paris Agreement on November 10, 2016. With these ratifications, Pakistan committed to implementing these international conventions and agreements comprehensively. This task requires extensive adaptation and mitigation measures across all sectors of the economy. It is a multifaceted, inter-provincial and inter-ministerial challenge that has to be addressed at the national level.

Pakistan participated in the Kyoto Protocol that is associated with the UNFCCC, which requires its member countries to set binding targets to reduce emissions. The protocol enables states to achieve these targets through national initiatives and provides mechanisms like International Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism, and Joint Implementation.

The spirit of the principle of climate change is expressed in the preamble of UNFCCC. The UNFCCC is based on the intention that climate change is a global issue that demands a collective global response. Since greenhouse gas emissions originate from and affect all nations, it is critical for all countries to take action against this challenge.

The main objective of the UNFCCC is stated in Article 2, which is to stabilise greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous human-caused interferences to the climate system. Article 3 of UNFCCC further outlines the principles steering this objective. Article 3(1) of UNFCCC categorically highlights the responsibility of parties to protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations, based on equity and according to their abilities. Article 3(3) of UNFCCC emphasises the need for precautionary methods to anticipate, prevent, or minimise the causes and adverse effects of climate change.

The states reaffirmed their commitment to tackle climate change in the 18th Conference of the Parties in Doha, Qatar, in December 2012, and laid the foundation for augmented ambition and action. The states established a timetable to adopt a Universal Climate Agreement by 2015. The objective was to reach a pact on a binding and universal agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, preventing global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Revolution levels. The COP21 meeting in Paris, held in December 2015, culminated in 196 countries, including Pakistan, signing a new Climate Change Agreement on December 12, 2015. This is known as the Paris Agreement.

In the light of these legally binding international commitments, Pakistan Climate Change Authority was established under the Pakistan Climate Change Act of 2017. The primary objective of this Act is to fulfil Pakistan’s obligations under international climate conventions and to address the effects of climate change within the country. The Act outlines that the Authority will operate under the guidance of a high-powered Pakistan Climate Change Council, chaired by the Prime Minister.

Despite the Act’s provisions, the Authority was not constituted even after seven years. The august Supreme Court took cognizance of a public interest Constitution Petition (No.42/2022) which prompted the initiation of the formation process of the Authority. An advertisement for the appointment of members of the Authority was published in newspapers and the process of appointments seems to be underway.

The Climate Act of 2017, in its current form, does not provide a comprehensive framework for implementing Pakistan’s climate obligations under the international treaties, conventions and agreements. Specifically, it lacks:

• A definition of climate-related offences;

• Penal consequences for violations; and

• A prosecution mechanism and designation of competent courts to handle offences.

There is a distinction between environmental and climate issues. In Pakistan, the environment and climate change issues are being treated as one subject without recognising the differences between the two fields. The Government of Pakistan too conflated environmental and climate issues as one and the same thing. To effectively tackle climate change, it is crucial to understand and address these distinct subjects separately.

The Pakistan Climate Change Act of 2017 mandates the Pakistan Climate Change Authority to establish institutional and policy mechanisms for implementing federal and provincial adaptation and mitigation policies, plans, programmes and projects. These include renewable energy and clean technology initiatives, energy efficiency and conservation measures, awareness-raising and capacity-building programs. However, the Act lacks provisions for dealing with those who violate its terms, either deliberately or unintentionally, and it does not include enforcement procedures.

In contrast, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act of 1997 includes provisions for offences, penalties, environmental tribunals, environmental magistrates and appeals from the orders of tribunals and magistrates.

Both the Pakistan Climate Change Act of 2017 and the Environmental Protection Act of 1997 are federal laws addressing different issues. The Climate Change Act of 2017, however, is ineffective without mechanisms to enforce its policies and guidelines, making it a “tiger without teeth”. Without addressing these enforcement mechanisms, the Climate Act of 2017 will face significant challenges in achieving its goals. Further, the significant gap as identified may not be abridged through the subordinate or delegated legislation as the basic provisions of implementation, enforcement and prosecution are missing from the main body of the Act of 2017.

The Federal Government may consider making necessary amendments to the Act of 2017 in order to address the potential challenges that could arise during its implementation in the times to come.

COMMENTS (1)

Capt Ghani Akbar | 2 weeks ago | Reply A comprehensive and well explained article on environmental and climate changes. This is the time for the world especially for the developed contribute maximum to make the earth safe. The author of the article has researched and explained thoroughly. Enough for eye opening.
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