Climate Change and Pakistan By Malik Muhammad Ashraf

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Climate change triggered by the increased emissions of green-house gases is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing humanity in the twenty first century. Admittedly, the failure of the international community to check the continued rise in temperature caused by the emission of green-house gases, can lead to catastrophic consequences. Therefore, as repeatedly reiterated by the UN Secretary General, it is absolutely essential to make peace with the nature, meaning thereby that there was no escape from keeping the rising temperatures below 1.5 centigrade as emphasized by the scientists and environmental experts. A report released by UN on Monday August 8, 2021 called ‘Code Red for Humanity’ says that the earth is getting so hot that temperatures in about a decade would probably blow past a level of warming that the world leaders have sought to prevent.

The climate change phenomenon has already started having devastating impacts globally and Pakistan is among the top 10 countries which have been bearing the brunt of this climatic onslaught during the last twenty years. While the world is still indecisive – and some countries including the major pollutants are even showing reluctance to cut down on the green house emissions preferring industrial growth over it– the developing countries including Pakistan perforce have to devise their own strategies to minimize the impact of the climate change till such time a collective will and commitment of the global community crystallizes into concrete actions to deal with the challenge.

Pakistan, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has given top priority to putting in place steps and measures that can be helpful in lessening the debilitating impact of the climate change. The central theme of the effort is to make Pakistan clean and green. It has launched a number of initiatives including the landmark 10-Billion Tree Tsunami which has won international acclaim, including from the World Economic Forum.

Pakistan can also rightly boast about myriad of other initiatives including green economic stimulus, Eco-system Protection, Wild life management, Protected Areas initiative and Pakistan Clean Air Programme. Prime Minister Imran Khan also inaugurated the world’s biggest Miyawaki urban forest near Lahore on August 9 as part of monsoon drive under the 10-billion Tree Tsunami Project. All the foregoing steps in the words of Prime Minister are driven solely by his commitment to future generations of a clean and green Pakistan to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Pakistan, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has given top priority to putting in place steps and measures that can be helpful in lessening the debilitating impact of the climate change.

It is pertinent to note that Pakistan besides the measures mentioned above has also launched the initiative to produce 60 per cent of all energy in the country through renewable resources by the year 2030. It has already scrapped two coal power projects which were supposed to generate 2600 MW of electricity and replaced them with hydro-power units.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been a vociferous advocate of collective action by the world community on climate change. In recognition of his discourses at the Convention of Biodiversity, in the UN General Assembly and the nature based solutions devised by his government, UNEP approached Pakistan for hosting the UN Environment Day 2021. Prime Minister Imran khan addressing the moot apprised the world community regarding future plans of this government to deal with climate change, including Recharge Pakistan designed to divert flood water to wetland to recharge water table and Mangroves forestation which absorb carbon besides green-house gases. Explaining the threat faced by Pakistan due to climate change, he also urged the need for the world to pay attention to reducing carbon emissions which cause glacier melting posing threats to countries such as Pakistan and Central Asia where rivers were fed by the glaciers. He also called on the world community to assist the poor countries including Pakistan which were bearing the brunt of this phenomenon.

Pakistan also co-chaired the multibillion-dollar Green Climate Fund, established to support climate actions in developing countries, last year. Pakistan as Vice President of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has also been playing a pro-active role in shaping the global discourse on fighting global warming.

Perhaps a cursory glance at efforts at the international level to deal with the climate challenge would be quite relevant here. The first ever international agreement on restricting emissions of green-house gases known as Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11th December 1997. The protocol operationalized the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by committing industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. Those targets were stipulated to be met in two phases. But regrettably the required cooperation from the participating countries did not come forth. New Zealand, and Russia did participate in Kyoto’s first-round but did not take on new targets in the second commitment period. Canada withdrew from the Protocol in 2012 and the USA did not ratify it at all.

The second international agreement known as Paris Agreement, was signed on December 12, 2015 during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of the parties. The Paris Agreement marked a historic turning point for global climate action, as the world leaders were able to evolve a consensus on its framework and goals. But regrettably President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement like he did in case of other international commitments by US.

However, it is satisfying to note that President Biden has announced to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Not only that, in view of the urgency involved he also convened Leader’s Summit on Climate on 22-23 April, 2021 attended by 41 countries including Pakistan. The Summit underscored the urgency and the economic benefits of stronger climate action. Its deliberations are considered to be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.

In view of the foregoing realities, Pakistan can rightly take pride in the fact that it has not only set the ball rolling in the right direction in regards to saving the country from the vagaries of the climate change but has also made a sterling contribution to this global cause. The initiatives taken by Pakistan are surely worth emulating by the world community, particularly the developing countries.