Pakistan poised to meet climate change challenges

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Nisar A. Memon

Global climate change is a stark reality and impacts all the people of the world, in varying degrees. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) focuses on it and every year Conference of the Parties (COP) has been held to deliberate and agree on united response to these challenges. Pakistan is one of the 193 countries which participates in these deliberations.
This week, a unique convergence of national and international scientists, practitioners and planners took place in Islamabad organized by new leadership of GCISC in collaboration with various key institutions, specially the universities and research organizations. The name of the gathering ‘International Science-Policy Conference on Climate Change’ speaks for itself the objectives pursued in three full days by about 700 participants from 31 institutions.
In view of overwhelming response of the researchers sending 300 papers, the organizers did well to hold five parallel research workshops namely: climate science; climate & water; agriculture & food security; mitigation, policy & finance; impacts & adaptation. In addition; the roundtable sessions were held on Climate and Water, Climate and Energy, Climate and CPEC, and Climate and Security with imminent area experts to deliberate on current research and identify the gaps for future undertakings.
One believes, the papers and dialogue from all these sessions provide a valuable input to developing Science-Policy on Climate Change. The need for publicly available data base of climate change practitioners, researchers, the projects and research being carried by them to pool up resources, to avoid duplication was identified and recommended.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurating conference, said “Pakistan is fully cognizant of its commitment towards the challenges of environment and is effectively dealing with the phenomenon of greenhouse effect.” Federal Climate Change Minister Senator Mushahidullah Khan said, “Pakistan has taken a number of important steps towards climate-friendly development including ratification of Paris Agreement and passing of Climate Change Act and steps are being taken to establish provincial climate change centers as well.” The tone and tenure of the government representatives was reassuring that Pakistan is moving in the right direction.
The National Climate Change Policy 2016 gives legal effect to meet Pakistan’s obligations under international conventions relating to climate change. The policy document in any field is a living document and requires continuous update and incorporation in country’s planning documents. The chief guest at closing was Senator Sartaj Aziz, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission who committed that the conference recommendations will be incorporated in countries 12th Five Year Plan (2018-23).
The closing session was addressed by Ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel, a noted Pakistan diplomat with outstanding national and international career in sustainable development with special focus on climate change. His keynote address gave historic insight of global and Pakistan efforts. He reminded us that the 1973 Constitution included ‘environmental pollution and ecology’ and opined, “The Environmental Protection Act ( PEPA) of 1997 represents the most notable milestone in the evolution of Pakistan’s Environmental agenda.”
The world, under the UN aegis, has been focusing on environment in the last quarter of the century and in 1992 ‘Earth Summit’ at Rio brought forth the focus on the environmental degradation on the natural resources leading to nexus between water, agriculture, food and environment while the climate change bringing in a new dimension on the human security.
In September 2015, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted as the UN 2030 Development Agenda. The 17 SDGs included SDG number 6 ‘Clean water and Sanitation’ and number 13 was ‘’Climate Action’, however 8 of the other SDGs were water related. This shows the centrality of water for living beings in sustainable development.
Global Change Impact Study Centre was established in May 2002 and one was privileged to be invited to the Centre and briefed by Pakistan’s noted nuclear scientist Dr Ishfaq Ahmed, the GCISC founder and later to see the progress made under another noted scientist Dr. Arshad Muhammad Khan. The centre has now been infused a fresh blood of ideas and actions by its new Executive Director, Dr Tariq Banuri in holding this Conference and bringing young scientists to join in taking Pakistan forward in implementing country policies. The GCISC has an outspoken and clear headed Chairman Senator Mushahidullah Khan who with his vision of various dimensions of issues has led them from front with his faith in youth of Pakistan to implement the mission of GCISC, with budget allocation of Rs.791 for capacity building.
Pakistan has begun well to put in place the institutions needed in country’s journey to combat climate change challenges. The establishment of Climate Change Ministry in 2015, one of the first one in the world and the Climate Change Act 2017 passed by the Parliament. The Act provides for the establishment of a high level National Climate Council presided by the Prime Minister, a National Climate Authority and a Climate Change Fund towards implementation of our plans and programs.
The final report of the conference will be a knowledge sharing document with best practices on adaptation strategies, priorities and capacity building. In closing, Dr.Tariq Banuri announced the launch of Glacier Forum, Publishing of research papers in the form of series of Books, and formation of Professional Association of Climate Change Researchers. He echoed participants thinking when he thanked his team, specially Dr Zia Hashmi the Conference Organizer and partners like Dr. Bakhshal Lashari Director USP Center for Advanced Studies on Water Mehran University for the successful conference.
We must remember that while Pakistan contributes less than 1% to global greenhouse footprints but is among the top 10 countries vulnerable to climate change and global warming. The government has earmarked 8% of its budget to cope with climate change but we believe the world need to do more in allocating Climate Funds to Pakistan in its endeavours.
The climate change nexus with food and water, it is not an environment issue but development issue. The climate change is a multidimensional global threat and this multi-faceted threat should not be considered as a sectoral subject with focus of Climate Change Ministry only, but of other ministries and provinces, to convert climate change challenges to opportunities.
The eminent experts, at closing session said that they would like to see ‘Pakistan as hotspot for innovation in 2018’, ‘climate resurgent Pakistan’, ‘strong interaction between science and policy’, while capturing the amazing energy demonstrated by young people for sustainable development of Pakistan. This certainly is doable having seen the quality, commitment and unity of all stakeholders.
—The writer is a former Federal Minister and Senator of Pakistan.

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