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For Pakistan, climate change is primarily a water challenge: Sherry

By Our Correspondent
February 12, 2023

In her address at the Pakistan International Maritime Expo & Conference 2023 in Karachi on Saturday, Federal Minister for Climate Change & Environment Sherry Rehman warned that climate change is catastrophic for all the world’s ecosystems, including humans.

She said that it is the need of the hour that we respond to climate change proactively. She pointed out that Pakistan experienced the worst floods in 2022 that affected 33 million people. She also pointed out that wars further accelerate the climate crisis.

“Bombing and other methods of modern warfare directly harm wildlife and biodiversity. Pollution from war contaminates bodies of water, the soil, the air, and makes areas unsafe for people to inhabit. Therefore, states must pursue peace,” she said, adding that we need to invest in decarbonisation.

Sherry said oceans are the largest carbon sinks in the world, and turning to the blue economy model is key. She said oceans have absorbed 90 per cent of global warming in the past 50 years. Microplastics have made the situation worse and are choking the oceans, she added.

She said that the entire marine life is ingesting plastic, adding that it has been predicted that in 2050 there will be more plastic than marine life in the oceans. “It’s high time that we stop using plastic in all forms and shift to a plastic-free lifestyle.”

She pointed out that Pakistan’s economy will recover from the flood that destroyed 33 million lives. She said Pakistan had suffered from the wrath of climate change despite being the lowest carbon emitter, but what happened to us will certainly not stay with only us.

“We’re seeing climate change impacts crossing borders and wreaking havoc: whether it’s hurricane Fiona that hit Puerto Rico, children starving in Somalia from protracted drought, Nigeria battling floods like never before, or forest fires and heatwaves in all of Europe and USA.”

The minister said that for countries like Pakistan that are facing new records of vulnerability, a crisis of climate impacts along with a debt has created huge communities of fragility and impoverishment, where people are unable to reinvent broken lives on the ground they can no longer live or grow or build anything on.

“Global warming is triggering similar futures of climate distress driven either by famine, drought or flooding and rising sea levels, which stalk the developing world, the Horn of Africa, the LDCs [least developed countries] and the small island developing states, where the gap between needs and resources is too huge.”

Talking about Living Indus, Senator Sherry said it is an umbrella initiative and a call to action to lead and consolidate initiatives to restore the ecological health of the Indus within the boundaries of Pakistan, which is most vulnerable to climate change.

“Extensive consultations with the public sector, the private sector, experts and civil society led to a living menu of 25 preliminary interventions, which focus on nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based adaptation approaches to protect, conserve and restore natural, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems in the Indus Basin.”

She pointed out that Pakistan is consistently ranked among the 10 countries that are the most vulnerable to the effects of global climate change, mostly due to the impacts on the Indus system.

She said that having already seen an average temperature increase of one degree Celsius over the past three decades, and witnessing highly erratic and extreme weather events over the past decade, Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate challenge is expected to become severer in the future, both in absolute and globally comparative terms.

The minister said Pakistan is already entrenched in the ‘age of adaptation’, where it has to be dealing with and preparing for climate impacts even as it continues to contribute to global emissions mitigation. “Climate change for Pakistan is, therefore, primarily a water challenge.”

Concluding the address, she urged that change in lifestyle is the need of the hour. After her address, she distributed souvenirs among the speakers of the conference.