Pakistan might face tough questions at COP24, including those on emissions and coal-based power plants
Political leadership from different countries, scientists, environmentalists and civil society organisations will meet in Katowice, Poland next month from December 2 to December 14 to discuss the issue of climate change, find ways to handle it and consider formation of support mechanisms to achieve desired results.
The event called Conference of Parties (COP)24 will provide an opportunity to the participants to review the progress on commitments made by different countries and hurdles, if any, they were facing in this context. In fact, this conference will track the developments since the holding of COP21 in Paris. Termed a landmark event, COP21 brought all the stakeholders together and made them aware of the serious risks the world faced due to climate change.
This was the time when the participating countries made commitments to take mitigation measures within a defined timeframe and proposed financial support to the countries with limited resources to combat climate change. Though there were countries that did not participate in COP21 or refrained from making ambitious commitments, there is no disagreement on the fact that it turned out to be a historical gathering with so much of the world’s focus on environmental degradation and climate change.
Pakistan will also be participating in this event and is expected to face tough questions from the global community. No doubt the sitting government boasts of its achievements like plantation of millions of trees and setting up of environment-friendly micro hydel projects in KP. But, on the other hand, it faces criticism for going ahead with coal-powered plants envisaged under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative, failing to check atmospheric pollution, not being able to introduce environment-friendly vehicle fuel etc.
Like many other countries, Pakistan has also submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) document. This document is required from the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and details the actions, targets and deadlines set by them for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
But a major issue here is that Pakistan had demanded $40 billion from the global community for abatement efforts and $7 to $14 per year under adaptation costs but could not get anything. As the country’s expectations of receiving global financial support were high, it designed most of its strategies accordingly and now after the failure to attract this money, it is in a fix. The question at the moment is that does the country have a B plan after its failure to get a major share from the Climate Change Fund (CCF).
While preparations for COP24 are underway, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is also under criticism for not engaging independent experts, environmentalists and civil society organisations in pre-event debate and developing a common narrative. The prospective independent participants have expressed concerns that they have no idea of the position the government will take at COP24 and this may lead to creation of confusion in front of the international community.
However, there have been some efforts at the non-government level to hold pre-COP24 dialogues among different stakeholders. For example, the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC), comprising 44 member organisations, has recently organised a multi-stakeholder forum. Under this initiative, the coalition brought together civil society organisations, government officials, private sector representatives, foreign diplomats and media personnel under one roof. A dialogue organised by the coalition was also attended by the envoys of Poland, France, Morocco and the European Union.
Aisha Khan, Executive Director, CSCCC, believes such dialogues are essential to get the input of all stakeholders on how to frame Pakistan’s agenda and strengthen its negotiation position at COP. She hopes for an active engagement between the government and the non-government sector in their efforts for climate change adaptation.
She says the impacts of climate change are becoming more palpable with every passing day and assuming dangerous proportions that will bring a radical shift in the climate regime. Our adaptive capacity is weak and our policies are not being translated on ground effectively, she adds. "We need to bridge the gap between policy and implementation very quickly because the window of opportunity is closing on us."
She stresses, "Some bold and drastic decisions need to be taken to plot the future trajectory of Pakistan if we want the country to have the socio-economic and environmental resilience to cope with the many faces of climate change."
Two recent reports -- one by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the other by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) -- have raised alarm and stressed the need for a faster action to save the globe from adverse effects of climate change.
The IPPC report states that the 2 degree Celcius increase in temperature which was anticipated to be within safe ranges is no longer a valid option and that we have to maintain increase in temperature below or within 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. To achieve this target, we will have to bring about a 45 per cent reduction in emissions from 2010 levels by 2030. The WWF’s Living Planet report points out that 60 per cent of our species have declined or been lost in the last 40 years and climate change is one of the ingredients of this problem.
The CSCCC has also helped in co-creating the climate commitments for the National Action Plan (NAP) of the Open Government Project (OGP) of which Pakistan is a member and it is likely that this plan will be passed very soon. It has also engaged with the provincial governments because the subject of climate change, after the 18th Amendment, puts a lot of responsibilities on the provinces.
Malik Amin Aslam, Advisor on Climate Change, says the PTI government is well aware of the challenges and will be working with the Planning Ministry and the World Bank on the integration of a Climate-Risk Factor into all PC-I projects of the government. This, he says, will be a very strong inclusion towards adaptation and climate resilient development in Pakistan.
Aslam adds the government is also studying the vulnerability assessments of various regions to make them better prepared to deal with this problem so they have to understand the problem before they can come up with the solution. On the mitigation side, he shares, the two areas they are working on are forestry and renewable energy. "But we need the global bodies and the climate change framework to provide us quick and easy finance, the capacity and the technologies to go with it."