FEATURES Pakistan Missing out on Climate Change
Is Pakistan moving towards isolationism in the world community on climate issues?
Pakistan remains particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Despite that, there has been no concerted effort to date to counter the effects of this phenomenon. Simply put, the issue of climate change does not factor into the country’s overall economic planning. If anything, the development budget has been slashed by more than 60 per cent with the government only allocating Rs58.8 million to combat climate change in the Public Sector Development Programme for 2013-14 as compared to 168.1 million allocated to the subject in 2012- 13. This could have serious repercussions for Pakistan as far as agriculture, water and forestation is concerned. It could also mean Pakistan losing representation at international forums. International donors and organizations working on climate change are unlikely to support Pakistan in dealing with the threats posed by the same.
For instance, to cope with the dynamics of climate change, several developed countries have established a Green Climate Fund (GCF) which
established in 2010. Under the Fund, rich countries agreed to mobilize $ 100 billion every year starting 2020 from both public and private sources in the rich countries to help developing nations adapt to a changing global climate and reduce their own carbon emissions by boosting forest growth, energy- efficient urban transportation and shifting to renewable energies such as solar or wind and help them adapt to erratic weather patterns and their deleterious impacts.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has no share in this because it has not been able to effectively deal with the challenges posed by the changing environment. While countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Mali have submitted multiple environmental projects and received funds, Pakistan has just submitted one project to date for which it has yet to receive funds.
The GCF works within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that distributes money from the developed to developing countries to help the latter mitigate the threats posed by climate change. Over 198 countries — rich and poor — are signatories to the UNFCCC, which is an international environmental treaty that was opened for signature at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and came into force in 1994. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the lack of capacity in provincial environmental departments has caused inadvertent delays in the submission of proposals.
According to Climate Change Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, the provinces do not have the capacity or the expertise to outline proposals that meet the GCF criteria. “This is a cause for concern,” says Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, a leading author of the National Climate Change Policy and an expert on climate change. “Very soon, Pakistan may face isolation in the international community if it doesn’t take effective measures to cope with the changing weather patterns.”
He adds that development in itself can no longer be viewed separately. ““We need to link all our development activities like dams, roads, canals and bridges with climate change; otherwise all the development may go waste,” he observes. Pakistan needs to work towards developing sellable projects and enhance capacity to get its share from the Green Climate Fund. Otherwise, we may suffer from regional and global complications.
According to the 2006 Pakistan Strategic Country Environmental Assessment Report, the annual cost of environmental degradation in Pakistan has been estimated at Rs365 billion ($ 4.2 billion). Inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene account for Rs112 billion ($ 1.3 billion), agriculture soil degradation for Rs70 billion ($ 807 million) and range land degradation and deforestation Rs6 billion ($ 69 million). Environmental experts believe the annual cost of environmental degradation has now reached around Rs450 billion ($ 5.2 billion) in financial losses.
Meanwhile, the annual rate of deforestation ranges from 4- 6 percent while carbon dioxide emissions are increasing annually at the rate of 8- 10 percent. Moreover, an estimated 250 million gallons of untreated water out of Karachi is dumped into the Arabian Sea every day, causing great harm to both humans and the ecosystem. Recent data indicates that over one million acres of fertile, arable land in the Indus delta has become saline and unusable, largely due to the retention of freshwater flows by large dams across the Indus River.
The situation is becoming increasingly dire but Pakistan has yet to take concrete measures to cope with the challenge. While India and Bangladesh have been spending on evolving weather patterns and are receiving millions of dollars from developed countries as part of climate change aid, Pakistan is missing out on its share. India is spending over 2.6 percent of its GDP to cope with such challenges. It is also one of the biggest recipients of climate change aid but Pakistan’s allocation for climate change is stuck at 0.02 per cent of the total Rs295.5 billion of development funds. As a result, Pakistan is viewed as a ‘ non- serious’ country at international forums which could eventually lead to the country being isolated at an international level.
Pakistan also runs the risk of losing foreign investment in different sectors if it doesn’t show the will to deal with challenges of climate change. Already transnational and multinational companies prefer to invest in India, Bangladesh and other developing countries since the latter are investing heavily in their environment. The onus on dealing with environmental challenges does not only lie with provincial governments – it also needs the attention of the federal government. The responsibility of drawing international funding and investment in various sectors lies with the federal government and if Pakistan hopes to get its share of the Green Climate Fund, policy makers must rethink their approach towards the changing climate in the country and its repercussions.
Pakistan also runs the risk of losing foreign investment in different sectors if it doesn’t show the will to deal with challenges of climate change.