Pakistan’s climate plan

December 03, 2023

World leaders are currently attending the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (an event which will run till December 12).

This summit holds immense significance as nations grapple with the accelerating impacts of climate change. For Pakistan, a country ranked as the eighth most vulnerable to climate change impacts, the stakes are particularly high.

At COP27, held in Egypt in 2022, Pakistan was instrumental in advocating for the Loss and Damage Fund, aimed at assisting nations disproportionately affected by climate disasters. As Pakistan prepares for COP28, it is poised to announce key policy frameworks. Yet, this opportunity is laden with challenges. Following are some of forbidden fruits which Pakistan should avoid while building a discourse around climate resilience and climate injustice.

Steam rises from the cooling towers of the power station on November 28, 2023.— AFP

Overreliance on vulnerability status: Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change is stark. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, Pakistan has suffered economic losses of approximately $30 billion due to climate-induced floods last year. Around 30 million people were affected by it. However, merely highlighting this vulnerability without presenting concrete action plans and adaptation strategies can undermine Pakistan’s position. The emphasis should be on resilience and adaptive capacity building.

Underestimating methane emissions: While Pakistan contributes less than 1.0 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions, its methane emissions are a concern. As per the Climate Change Performance Index 2021, Pakistan ranks among the top 10 countries in terms of methane emissions, primarily from agriculture and waste sectors. This necessitates a strategic approach to mitigate methane emissions, rather than downplaying its impact.

Misconstruing climate financing: Viewing climate finance as a straightforward revenue stream is a fallacy. The Green Climate Fund, a pivotal mechanism for climate financing, operates in a highly competitive environment. As of 2021, the fund had mobilized billions of dollars, with projects often requiring robust and innovative proposals. Pakistan must approach climate financing with well-researched, sustainable and impactful project proposals.

Misinterpreting carbon markets: Under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, carbon markets are designed to finance climate resilience, not as profit centres. Pakistan should leverage these markets to support climate adaptation and mitigation projects, rather than purely as revenue generation avenues.

Coal dependency: Pakistan’s coal reserves, particularly in Thar, are often touted as national treasures. However, exploiting these reserves conflicts with climate leadership. The International Energy Agency notes a 3.0 per cent global increase in coal consumption in 2022 amidst polycrisis, highlighting the global struggle against coal dependency. Pakistan must reconcile its energy needs with environmental commitments.

Policy integration: The separation of climate policies from macroeconomic strategies can lead to inefficiencies. The US Inflation Reduction Act demonstrates the integration of climate action with economic policies, a model Pakistan could emulate. Effective climate policy requires intersection with economic, energy, and industrial policies.

Local climate justice: Pakistan must balance global climate advocacy with addressing internal disparities. For instance, the southern region of Pakistan, particularly Sindh and Balochistan, face more severe climate impacts compared to the north. Policies should address these internal disparities to ensure equitable climate justice.

Regional collaboration: South Asia as a whole faces shared climate challenges. The World Bank projects that climate change could diminish South Asia’s GDP by up to 8.8 per cent by 2100 if current trends continue. A regionally integrated approach is essential for effective climate action.

The proposed policy roadmap for Pakistan at COP28 outlines several key initiatives aimed at addressing climate change challenges and fostering sustainable development.

First, the roadmap should emphasize the importance of adaptive capacity building. It suggests developing comprehensive strategies to enhance resilience against climate impacts, focusing particularly on vulnerable sectors such as agriculture and water resources. These strategies will be crucial in preparing Pakistan to better withstand the adverse effects of climate change.

Another significant aspect of our roadmap should be the mitigation of methane emissions. Pakistan plans to implement policies specifically aimed at reducing methane emissions, especially in sectors like agriculture and waste management. The roadmap proposes setting measurable targets and timelines to ensure effective reduction of these emissions.

Third, strategic climate financing should also be a core element of the roadmap. Pakistan aims to craft innovative and sustainable proposals for climate financing. The focus will be on projects that not only offer long-term environmental benefits but also socio-economic advantages, ensuring a holistic approach to climate change.

Fourth, the roadmap should also highlight the need to leverage carbon markets. By utilizing carbon markets, Pakistan intends to fund both adaptation and mitigation projects, aligning these initiatives with the country’s broader environmental goals.

Fifth, transitioning from coal is another crucial aspect of the policy to build a discourse of climate resilience. The roadmap should prioritize the shift towards renewable energy sources, aiming to strike a balance between economic needs and environmental responsibilities, thereby reducing reliance on coal.

An integrated policy framework is proposed to ensure that climate change policies are embedded within broader economic, energy, and industrial strategies. This integration is aimed at creating synergies that promote sustainable development across various sectors.

Local climate justice is a key consideration in the roadmap for climate change. Policies should be developed to address the specific climate challenges of different regions within Pakistan, ensuring equitable distribution of resources and attention.

Lastly, the roadmap may propose regional climate cooperation. Pakistan aims to foster collaboration with other South Asian countries to share knowledge, resources, and strategies. This cooperation is intended to enhance regional climate resilience, recognizing that climate change is a challenge that transcends national borders.

COP28 presents Pakistan with both challenges and opportunities. By avoiding the pitfalls outlined above and adopting a strategic, action-oriented approach, Pakistan can not only address its climate vulnerabilities but also emerge as a leader in the global climate discourse.

The key lies in balancing national interests with global responsibilities and in recognizing that climate action is not just an environmental imperative but an economic and social one as well. The policies and strategies Pakistan adopts at COP28 will be instrumental in shaping its future and its role in the global fight against climate change.


The writer has a doctorate in energy economics and serves as a research fellow in the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). He tweets/postsKhalidwaleed and can be reached at khalidwaleedsdpi.org