With Pakistan appearing to take the threat of climate change seriously, its efforts towards climate change mitigation could make a substantial difference for future generations. However, this will require sustained commitment to the implementation of climate change policies in their true letter and spirit. Whether through international investment or regional cooperation, Pakistan must draw upon global resources and cooperation to further its progress against environmental pressures at home.
“The increases in temperature (owing to climate change) would lead to drastic changes in the (Asian) region’s weather system, agriculture and fisheries sectors, land and marine biodiversity, domestic and regional security, trade, urban development, migration, and health. Such a scenario may even pose an existential threat to some countries in the region and crush any hope of achieving sustainable and inclusive development,” says the report, titled ‘A Region At Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific’, released on Friday at the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) headquarters in Manila, jointly produced by the ADB and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
According to the report, development gains will be at risk of being reversed by the climate change induced effects unless regional states do not take urgent action, such as a clean industrial revolution. In sum, the report makes for grim reading, and should predictions eventuate, a 6° Celsius temperature rise is projected over the Asian landmass by the end of the century, with an increase as high as 8°C forecast in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and northwest China.
Furthermore, according to the report, Pakistan could see a 20% to 50% decline in rainfall, whereas annual precipitation is expected to increase by up to 50% over most land areas in Asia. As a result, food production will suffer, generating food shortages that will increase the number of malnourished children in South Asia by 7 million. In Pakistan, around 159 million children under the age of five are stunted with height much less than normal for that age, and nearly 240 million children are presently at risk of developmental impairment.
Such a downward trend would lead to disruptions to farming communities, mass migration to the cities, energy insecurity and many more. According to the World Health Organisation, Pakistan is also vulnerable to the damaging heat effects of climate change, which is already causing 3.3 million deaths each year globally—led by China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Therefore, timely response is the need of the hour to respond effectively to the challenges posed by climate change.
Though Pakistan has scores of laws for environmental preservation, weak implementation is resulting in environmental degradation. For example, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA), which was passed back in 1997, is responsible for mandating Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for projects that are yet to begin, which can have negative implications for the domestic environment. However, it is reported that the latest metro bus project connecting the federal capital with the new Islamabad International Airport is going to be inaugurated on 14th August of next month and it has commenced.
Nevertheless, a pragmatic and practicable way forward can turn loopholes into opportunities. For example, the recently-passed Pakistan Climate Change Act 2016 is a critical step in the right direction. The law creates three new institutions to address the growing dangers of climate change: the Pakistan Climate Change Council, the Pakistan Climate Change Authority, and the Pakistan Climate Change Fund. The Climate Change Council, chaired by the prime minister, will serve as the broad policy-making and regulatory body for Pakistan’s future climate change policies. The Climate Change Council will receive recommendations from the Climate Change Authority, which will formulate policies, mitigation plans, legislation, and implementation standards needed for sustainable development in Pakistan. What Pakistan needs is a quick start for effective implementation of these laws.
By Adeel Mukhtar Mirza