Pakistan might be in a position to boast its very first National Climate Change Policy but the road to effective implementation is long and arduous.
The policy, which was officially launched by the Ministry of Climate Change in Islamabad on Tuesday, provides a framework for coping with the threats of climate change through adaptation and mitigation measures. The policy was approved by the Cabinet in September 2012.
The policy focuses on development sectors such as water resources, agriculture and livestock, forestry, human health, disaster preparedness, transport and energy.
“The goal is to ensure that climate change is mainstreamed in the economically and socially vulnerable sectors of the economy and to steer Pakistan towards climate resilient development,” Javaid Ali Khan, director-general of climate change and environment at the ministry said during his presentation at the launch.
Some of the measures include flood forecasting warning systems, local rainwater harvesting, developing new varieties of resilient crops, health impact assessment of changing weather patterns, promotion of renewable energy sources and efficient mass transport systems.
Now that the policy has been launched, the relevant ministries and departments as well as provincial and local governments will come up with their own strategies and plans to get to work.
And implementation is the biggest challenge the policy faces.
Mujtaba Hussain, deputy secretary of the ministry, briefed the audience on how they plan to move ahead.
Policy implementation committees will be formed at the federal and provincial levels. There were a variety of financing options available for projects under the climate change policy such as the international Green Climate Fund which aims to raise $100 billion for environmental projects worldwide by 2020. A National Climate Change Fund will also be formed.
According to the National Economy and Environment Development Study 2011, climate change adaptation measures from now to 2050 will cost around $6 billion to $14 billion and mitigation efforts during the same period will cost $7 billion to $18 billion.
“This is the price tag of climate change in Pakistan,” he said.
Climate change is a huge challenge that the government cannot handle on its own. It requires collaboration and cooperation between the private and public sectors, Hussain asserted.
But it seems the provincial environment departments are not best-equipped to tackle climate change.
“Capacity issues are the first handicap,” Hussain told The Express Tribune, after the ceremony. “Climate change is a relatively new phenomenon and there is very little knowledge in the provincial environment departments on how to deal with it.”
He said the action plan is being prepared. The ministry will work with the provinces to help them gear up. The whole process would take eight to 10 months, Hussain said.
Marc-André Franche, country director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stressed the government cannot afford to be slack at this point.
“Pakistan’s record on implementation is hardly enviable,” Franche said. “But the climate change clock is ticking too fast and the time (to act) is here and now.”
He said there are significant resources and implementation challenges for policy and implementation will require serious political will at the highest level of government, perhaps in the form of a parliamentary sub-committee.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Climate Change Rana Saeed Farooq Khan, who arrived two hours late for the launch, assured that the ministry had taken the provinces and other stakeholders on board before finalising the policy and the ministry will help them implement it as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2013.