On the verge of crisis

Not receiving an invite to the US Climate Change Summit, a mere oversight or deliberate exclusion?

From scorching heat and smog to urban flooding and other seasonal changes, Pakistan has been suffering the detrimental impact of climate change and global warming for years. The country is among the top ten affected by climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Despite being the eighth-most vulnerable country impacted by climate change, Pakistan has been left out of the upcoming US Climate Change Summit, even though some other Asian countries have been invited. This has left many wondering whether the US move is an oversight or an exercise in deliberate exclusion.

Apparently, Prime Minister Imran Khan is equally clueless about the real reason for not receiving an invite. He tweeted, “I am puzzled at the cacophony over Pak not being invited to a climate change conference!”

But the government and the civil society should not be disheartened by the US snub, says Sara Hayat, a lawyer working on climate change in Pakistan. When asked if Pakistan even mattered in the climate change discourse globally, she said Pakistan was one of the most vulnerable to climate change and one of the countries producing less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Pakistan’s share in the global CO2 emissions in the data reported up to 2019 was below one percent (0.68). The setting up of coal projects to meet its energy demand worries climate activists. Referring to the global CO2 emission in a telephonic conversation, Ahmad Rafay Alam of Climate ActionPk said that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 had surged past 420 parts per million for the first time in recorded history, as per measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory, which has been was documenting the atmospheric CO2 concentration since the 1950s. This is an alarming situation for the world where individual efforts alone may not be sufficient to combat climate change. To face climate change, collective action from individuals, activists, NGOs, and the government is required.

The focus right now should be on implementing the right policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Pakistan must address the real-life impacts of climate change on its population, especially the marginalised communities.

According to the environmental lawyer, capitalism, patriarchy, consumerism, and the fossil fuel economy are the main culprits in climate change. “Capitalism allows the unaccountable extraction and exploitation of resources that causes climate change.”

According to Alam, 65 to 70 companies globally account for two-thirds of all historical greenhouse gas emissions. In his view, a world run by more women would look different. Consumerism drives the capitalist system, and that requires us to change our habits, he said. He said the top ten percent of the world’s wealthiest people consume about 50 percent of the world resources. All of which, he says, is based on the fossil fuel economy. In a country like Pakistan, where gas and coal are the primary sources of energy, it may be challenging to reverse the effects.

Pakistan has struggled for years with changes occurring due to global warming. Longer summers and intense heat waves pose a significant threat to the regional biodiversity. According to the NASA, 2010-2019 was the hottest decade ever recorded. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) introduced by the UN also calls for urgent Climate Action, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Responsible Consumption and Production to fully implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Pakistan’s National Initiative for Sustainable Development Goals says that it is “determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. The National Climate Change Policy is an extensive policy document.

Hayat says the focus right now should be on implementing the right policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Pakistan must address the real-life impacts of climate change on its population, especially the marginalised communities. And while policies like the Federal Climate Change Act National Climate Change are being revised, generating awareness campaigns is vital.

As Pakistan tries to move towards sustainability, it may survive through the worst climate change impact. Both Hayat and Alam say, it needs a better and quicker adaption.

The writer is an independent media and foreign policy analyst. She tweets @MsAishaK

On the verge of crisis