The head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr Rajendra Pachauri, called for greater cooperation between Pakistan and India when it comes to managing our joint water resources (the Indus River System), on his last visit to Pakistan. An Indian himself, he pointed out that our “culture and history has shown us that we can harmonise our actions in consonance with nature”. He also called for greater cooperation in the fight against climate change.
Last week, an India-Pakistan dialogue on energy and climate change was held to discuss this very topic, hosted by the Heinrich Boll Foundation and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad. Experts from India and Pakistan came together to explore ways in which they could jointly hold their governments accountable to what needs to be done about climate change. According to sustainable development expert, Dr Tariq Banuri, who currently teaches at the University of Utah, “the science has become more certain and climate change is more certain now… the massive floods of 2010 were not part of our history; there are changes in weather patterns. Yet, climate policy is paralysed — people just don’t want to act.” There is a leadership vacuum at the global level, where climate change talks have stalled over the principle of equity.
Rich countries don’t want to take responsibility for their historical carbon emissions and want to shift the burden to emerging economies like China and India, who are resisting this. “The future outlook is bleak … but we as a region need to come together and advance issues at the global level,” pointed out Dr Banuri. “We need to protect our people against loss and damage and we also need to share information, undertake joint research and establish joint programmes at the national level; we need to build capacity and come up with renewable energy options for the world of the future.” Loss and damage has been pushed forward in international negotiations by developing countries reeling from climate-related disasters, like hurricanes, floods and droughts. They are telling rich countries: we just cannot cope with climate-related disasters anymore and you will have to help us deal with extreme weather events and sea level rise. According to the IPCC, extreme weather events are to become the “new normal”.
It is an uphill struggle, however. “Developed countries want new agreements in which responsibility will not figure,” pointed out retired Indian ambassador, Chandrashekar Dasgupta, who now works for The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi. Pakistan and India share common interests when it comes to climate change because they both recognise the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’, which is at the heart of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The developed world is now trying to abandon this principle. “Shifting the burden onto our shoulders will affect poverty alleviation, which will be a major setback for us,” explained the former ambassador. “Let us continue to cooperate closely in international negotiations.”
Harjeet Singh of ActionAid India agreed, adding: “We can only be effective if we do the planning and preparation ahead … We need to do more in aligning our positions.” In his view, we should not just rely on governments, but civil society should also start sharing experiences and looking at areas of cooperation.
Will the looming threat of climate change bring India and Pakistan closer? Retired Pakistani ambassador and climate change expert, Shafqat Kakakhel seems to think so. “Cooperation is not a luxury but an absolute necessity. It needs to be scaled up, institutionalised and enhanced.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2013.
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