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Pakistan must adapt to climate change

Pakistan is among the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change, according to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index. The environmental changes have deleteriously impacted both human lives and material resources, with grave consequences for the nation’s economy. An understanding of these impacts is essential to devising an effective mitigation and adaptation strategy.

To work towards mitigating climate change impacts, the best which could be achieved so far was a ‘Pakistan Climate Conference 2023’ that brought together global and local climate change experts, business leaders, policymakers and social change activists under one roof.

The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) also picked up the environmental challenges effecting the lives and economy of the nation and is effectively and systematically contributing to bring around an awakening of the subject.

For this purpose, ‘The 2nd Pakistan Climate Conference’ was organized by the OICCI last Wednesday. The Caretaker Finance Minister, Shamshad Akhtar, while addressing the conference is reported to have stated the following: “That to address climate-related challenges, Pakistan would require an investment of approximately $340 billion, which is 10 percent of cumulative GDP. One of the biggest challenges we have internationally is the issue of trade-off between climate finance and developmental finance and getting money for Pakistan’s climate crisis undercuts other development finance. However, for the first time the Ministry of Finance is partnering with the Ministry of Climate and will attend the COP28 together in November and look towards innovative climate finance mechanisms.”

“The cost of climate change to Pakistan is substantial and is continuously increasing as the country faces severe economic challenges. Pakistan’s energy transition requires substantial investments in energy assets infrastructure by 2040,” said the Minister of Energy, Muhammad Ali, on the occasion. “There is no longer a distinction between ‘finance’ and ‘climate finance’. All financial institutions need to have climate considerations embedded in their decision making processes,” said Philip Skinner, MD, Guarant Co.

Apart from statements underlining the issues, nothing tangible towards devising an effective mitigation and adaptation strategy to overcome the climate crisis has been put in place. So far the standard pattern has been: ‘Crisis comes, people and economy suffer, the impact of climate change is hyped, global support is solicited and once the crisis subsides, the issue of climate change is sidelined – only to be repeated sooner rather than later.’

Last year’s floods, that inundated one-third of the country are a stark reminder that Pakistan is paying a hefty price, not only with lives but destroyed schools, homes and bridges. In the past also, in terms of human costs, catastrophic events like floods, droughts, and heat waves have resulted in significant casualties. According to Climate Change Profile of Pakistan 2018, climate change-induced calamities resulted in over 528,793 casualties, with material losses amounting to $3.8 billion annually. Agricultural productivity, the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, has taken a considerable hit due to altered weather patterns. Rising temperatures, uneven precipitation, and increased frequency of floods have impacted crops, livestock, and fisheries, greatly hampering national food security as well.

Much has to be done at national and international levels to achieve tangible results. Pakistan, being responsible for less than 1.0 percent of the world’s warming gases and suffering one of the most, has a strong case to present to the global forums to achieve rightful and equitable redressal of its issues.

There are intervention routes available at both national and international levels. The key in this regard is framing effective environmental policies, fostering renewable energy, promoting climate-smart agriculture, and leveraging global benefits and aid.

Addressing environmental changes requires significant investment. It involves shifting the energy framework to renewables, fortifying agricultural practices with technology, investing in disaster-resilient infrastructure, and developing climate-aware policies – a shift that could cost approximately $40 billion over the next 15 years, according to estimates by Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change.

Historically, Pakistan has availed some financial benefits and credits globally such as the Green Climate Fund and Carbon Credit System under the Kyoto Protocol. The country has made some strides in clean development mechanisms, availing car credits with cleaner fuel usage and climate-friendly transportation projects.

However, the outcomes have often been sub-par due to lack of necessary infrastructure, policy framework, and technical expertise. To truly capitalize on global monetary provisions, Pakistan must build a strategic framework for environmental management. This includes enhancing domestic capacity to comprehend, negotiate, and implement international environmental conventions, carbon trading, and debates on payment of ecosystem services among other things.

Through effectively capitalising on international environmental aids and benefits – such as the forthcoming Global Environment Facility (GEF-7) – Pakistan has the opportunity to integrate climate-smart interventions in its socio-economic fabric.

Pakistan can ensure a resilient and prosperous economy for tomorrow, one that not only withstands environmental shocks but also benefits from the emergent green economy internationally. There is ample global support available to make this happen. Pakistan only needs to put its act together.

Farhat Ali, "Pakistan must adapt to climate change," Business recorder. 2023-11-04.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Economics , Climate change , Environmental changes , Human lives , Business leaders , Investors chamber , Climate conference , Environmental shocks , Global environment , Carbon , Shamshad Akhtar , Philip Skinner , MD , Guarant Co , Pakistan , GEF. OICCI

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