‘Climate change an imminent pandemic but no one took it seriously’

April 09, 2020

Islamabad : Climate change is a pandemic in the making as there is rise in temperature, scarcity of water and un-breathable air in the world, but most governments are not taking it seriously, said...

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Islamabad : Climate change is a pandemic in the making as there is rise in temperature, scarcity of water and un-breathable air in the world, but most governments are not taking it seriously, said Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri.

During an international online webinar ‘State of Climate Governance Post-COVID-19’ organised by the SDPI here, Dr Suleri said novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was a black swan event (low probability very high impact).

“We were warned that a novel virus may threaten mankind, but no one took it seriously and now the planet is suffering,” he said.

The SDPI executive director said by learning a lesson from COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic impact, the world must take climate change as a real and serious threat and get prepared for it.

He said post coronavirus, the world should continue spending on building resilience against climate change, otherwise the future will be very bleak. “One stitch in time always saves nine,” he added.

Dr Saleemul Haq, director at the International Centre for Climate Change & Development, Bangladesh, said goal of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius had become less and less achievable with every single day, as the world was not doing enough for it.

“COVID-19 is just a smaller and faster version of how the impacts of climate change will be. We talk about reducing the steepness of the curve for the virus, the same applies for climate change in a bigger way,” he said.

Stressing the need to act before the situation, the director said acting after the impact would be useless. “The global leaders have an important role to play in decision-making regarding their openness to listening to climate science,” he said, adding that the relative impact of the leaders who take early action is based on science and making difficult decisions such as taken by Taiwan, Germany, and Singapore.

Dr Fahad Saeed, regional climate scientist at Climate Analytics Science, Germany, said currently, the world was releasing 42 gigatonne emissions per year that should reduce to half by 2030 otherwise the world would reach the end of carbon budget within 10-15 years.

He stressed the need to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

Aisha Khan, executive director of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC), said it was unfortunate that the COVID-19 pandemic happened and was stretching on.

“Climate change needs multilateral decision-making. We need to bring people together to discuss the real issue. Climate Change may be a slow-burner but the impacts will be harsher than the pandemic.”

She said when push comes to shove, every country would try to use the resources they have for themselves and become more inward looking, so at the end of the day, it would be a moral question.

“It also relates to the type of governance we need, and citizens have a great role to play,” she added.

Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change at the ActionAid, said the UNFCCC was in town because we are demanding social justice.

He said just 100 companies were responsible for 70% of emissions and they were responsible for taking us to this stage of emissions.

“I think only a policy change will change the situation. We need grass roots level movements of indigenous people, women and minorities to come and challenge the power structures,” he said.

Joydeep Gupta, director at The Third Pole, said huge risks and opportunities are here amid these testing times.

He said COVID-19 will go away at the end and after that huge economic stimulus will be there for industry and businesses.

“If we go through the same slow process and keep doing that, it will not help us unless our economic model changes to green growth,” he said.

Mazhar Hayat, deputy secretary at the Ministry of Climate Change, said we have 20% emission reduction target.

He said the government had given climate a priority agenda and we are working on revised inventory of emissions.

“We want to go ahead with sector specific reduction targets. The process has shifted since COVID-19 hit the country,” he said.

Dr Imran Khalid, a research fellow at the SDPI, said in the context of the recent move to develop a SAARC initiative around COVID-19 response, it was a great opportunity to take Climate Change agenda forward through this platform.

Talking about the policy imperatives, he said, it should be highlighted that where do we stand regarding our commitments in the run up to 2020 UN Climate Change Conference.

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