ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman has said Pakistan is in the front row of those countries who are bearing the burden of global climate catastrophe.
"For this reason, a Climate Change Task Force has been announced and it has been constituted at the right time by the prime minister because of the policy disconnect in Pakistan with our own departments and provinces," she said while addressing a press conference here on Monday. She said the Pakistan Climate Council still existed, but there had been no meetings of the council to-date and the provinces' contribution to curtailing the negative effects of the climate change had been undermined.
The taskforce was set up, including all relevant federal and provincial stakeholders. Its first meeting will be held today, chaired by Sherry Rehman. PMD, NDMA, health secretaries and information ministries of all the four provinces amongst others will be members of the task force. “We will take up the challenging task of coordinating between all stakeholders to deliver a well-coordinated nation-wide climate response and action,” Sherry said, adding that the Ministry of Climate Change was chalking out an updated set of priorities to move towards adaptation to the increasing climate change challenges. “As the post-COP26 action in climate finance dissemination still remains to be seen, we can address climate impact by raising finances via green performance and blue bonds.”
She said Pakistan faced the warmest months on record since 1961 with 3 to 6°C warmer than normal. “Looking at the unprecedented and lengthy heatwave the country is facing right now and the GLOF event that happened in Shisper recently, these are all the long-term effects of climate change. Unfortunately, we lack a coherent policy,” she stressed.
Emphasizing the work of the MOCC in responding to climate hazard events, she stressed the importance of early warning systems and coordination that the ministry conducted with the PMD and NDMA. “While it is not the job of the climate change ministry to provide rescue and relief, we alongside local governments, the PDMA and other relevant authorities have been issuing frequent early warnings that prevented loss of lives,” she said and added that the warning was being disseminated since March, helping the local administration to ensure zero loss of lives as a result of the event.
The minister said the climate change was resulting in serious losses of livelihoods and economy and it was the defining challenge of the 21st Century in terms of health impacts and quality of life, and sadly it only entered the public conversation when there’s a crisis. “We are now among the 10th most-affected countries facing climate change and the third most vulnerable to water stress,” she said.
She said this situation would only get worse if the big global emitters did not act. “Pakistan too must act to save its resources as much as possible or we will transition from a water-stressed country to a water-scarce one by 2025. Currently, we are faced with extreme water stress and destruction of crops,” she said. Talking about water deficits and the Indus River depletion and pollution, she said the Indus River was responsible for 90pc of the country’s food basket, however, there needed to be a change in agricultural practices from flood to drip irrigation. In addition to this, she said there needed to be a shift to crops which required lesser amounts of water.
“PIDE studies indicate that 80pc of our water supply goes to rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton. I am told that this is the invisible drain on our economy along with population growth.” She said farming and irrigation practices needed to be aligned and transformed to enable the country to mitigate the impact of climate change and this could only be achieved through raising public awareness. “Lack of public awareness needs to be dealt with by better communication. We need to set up a nation-wide climate communication strategy for different levels of lifestyle changes, conservation messaging and urgency of action to deal with the multiple crises facing Pakistan.”
The minister said no country could lower its carbon footprint without active public buy-in while the entire world was going through adverse climatic conditions. “Yet, Pakistan is afflicted by climate colonialism as we are at the receiving end of global GHG emissions despite our emissions being less than one per cent of global emissions. We are in the front row to bear the burden of the global climate catastrophe caused by emissions that we did not make.”
Stating the obvious on provincial contribution to curtailing the climate impact, she said Sindh showed immense action by achieving 63.05pc of its target, being the highest contributor to TBTTP. “However, its contribution has been neglected and we will try to ensure transparency in the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project, a KP government initiative infested with Rs462 million corruption charges,” she said and added: “We need a coordinated set of core priorities for long-term climate adaptation, not just mitigation. There’s not a light switch which can be flipped to reverse climate damage that has been caused.”
She said there needed to be a national response as between 1999 and 2018, the country witnessed 152 extreme weather events. “Whilst carbon capture is important, there are a multitude of other behavioural and lifestyle changes that we need to incorporate in our daily lives,” she said.