As soon as the new government assumed charge, the Ministry of Climate Change was demoted to the status of a division as part of a governmental drive to reduce the size of the federal cabinet.
Then, the division’s development budget was slashed to half that of the previous fiscal year. Now, to complete a hat-trick of changes, it has a new boss --- a move likely to hinder the division’s few remaining projects as the new secretary will take time to acclimatise.
Raja Hassan Abbas, a grade-22 officer, has assumed charge as the new Climate Change secretary. Abbas, previously an Establishment Division additional secretary, has replaced Muhammad Ali Gardezi, who in turn became Aviation secretary and has also been appointed as an ex-officio member of the new board of directors for Pakistan International Airlines.
The transfer notifications were part of a reshuffle of top bureaucrats ordered by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government on June 27.
Abbas comes with little experience of working with climate change-related affairs, according to ministry insiders.
Pervaiz Amir, a former member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Climate Change, said the entire South Asia region is highly vulnerable to climate change, with India and Bangladesh having already prioritised efforts to reduce climate change impact.
Pakistan has been on the receiving end of climate change-induced natural disasters. The 2010 floods claimed around 3,000 lives and affected nearly 20 million people. Flash floods since then have compounded the infrastructural damage.
Amir said the climate change department has become a “parking space” for federal secretaries who are sidelined by the government.
However, environmentalists and climate change experts who spoke to The Express Tribune believe that the fight against climate change in Pakistan could still be kept alive.
They recommended the establishment of a national government-backed climate change fund that could be used to rally financial support from international donors. Strong-willed action from the division, in terms of project proposals and initiatives, is needed to make this a possibility, they added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2013.