“We are in an extraordinary situation in human history. Survival is hanging by a thread.” Noam Chomsky
In a thought-provoking talk on December 7, 2020, Noam Chomsky, a Laureate Professor at the University of Arizona and Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said this. The lecture titled ‘Bullet Dodged or Merely Delayed: Reflections on the Future of Democracy, Nuclear Proliferation and the Looming Environmental Catastrophe in a Post-Trumpian World,’ was conducted virtually by the Habib University Karachi, Pakistan.
in the lecture, Chomsky addressed humanity’s grave threats: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, and the degradation of global democracy. “The world is suffering greatly from the pandemic,” he remarked, “but it is the least of the four crises; we will escape from the pandemic but at a terrible and unjustified cost.”
Nonetheless, he also stressed that all these threats “have solutions, and we know the solutions”.
Climate Change is one of the existential threats to the world which not only adds challenges but multiplies the existing challenges as well. Climate Change causes droughts, heatwaves, typhoons, hurricanes and floods, extreme weather, glacial melting, sea-level rise, food and water scarcity, mass migration, infrastructure, and economic loss. These socioeconomic challenges, in turn, become threats to international peace and security by fueling competition for resources, political unrest, and violence.
Yet this threat of climate change also has solutions. Recently, the world leaders and climate experts gathered at Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to find out the solutions for the Climate Change threat, and to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Pakistan, in this regard, has a lot to offer. In Pakistan, a number of projects have been developed to provide solutions for Climate Change. And, the world is praising Pakistan for this.
But before shedding light on Pakistan’s climate actions, let us first dive into the facts.
Climate Change facts
The production of coal, oil, and gas releases billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Human activity is producing record-high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, with no indications of slowing down.
The last four years have been the hottest in recorded history. We are at least one degree Celsius beyond preindustrial levels, according to a September 2019 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) assessment, and near to what scientists warn would be “an unacceptable risk.” The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement advocates for keeping future warming “well below” two degrees Celsius and pursuing measures to keep it even lower, at 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, if global emissions do not drop, temperatures could rise above three degrees Celsius by 2100, causing lasting damage to our ecosystems.
Climate Change Impacts on Pakistan
- German Watch Climate Change Risk Index 2021 places Pakistan as the 8th most vulnerable country to climate change.
- Glaciers, ice, and snow hold 70 percent of the earth’s water resources. Water is essential for life, agriculture, and development. These resources have been melting since the 1960s. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that glaciers are declining simultaneously. Pakistan’s glaciers are spread over an area of 16933 Km, it has 108 peaks over 6000 meters and several others about 5000 and 4000 meters.
- The melting of glaciers results in rising sea levels that in turn cause floods.
- Melting glaciers also have created glacial lakes in northern Pakistan.
- Glacial melting has affected agriculture, drinking water supply, hydroelectric power generation, and natural habitats and ecosystems in Pakistan.
- Since 2000 Pakistan has lost 9989 lives, bore $3.8 billion economic loss, and faced 152 extreme weather events due to climate change.
- Pakistan continues to face water scarcity due to being a low riparian country.
Pakistan’s Climate Change actions
Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme
The flagship project Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Program’s main goal is to revive Pakistan’s forest and wildlife resources, improve the overall conservation of existing Protected Areas, and promote eco-tourism, community participation, and job creation through conservation.
Pakistan has planted over a billion trees out of ten billion across the country. Pakistan also has met the United Nations SDG 13 (climate goal) well before the deadline.
Not only this but Pakistan became the first country in the world to meet the International Bonn Challenge. Under the challenge, the target is to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. Whereas Pakistan has restored over 600,000 hectares of land into forests.
Clean Green Pakistan Movement (CGPM)
The government of Pakistan launched the Clean Green Pakistan Movement (CGPM). Plantation, solid waste management, liquid waste management/hygiene, total sanitation, and safe drinking water are all part of this nationwide initiative, which focuses on behavioral change and institutional strengthening.
The CGPM places a special emphasis on residents’ empowerment, not only in terms of gaining access to essential amenities but also in terms of holding themselves equally accountable and responsible for a Clean Green Pakistan. The federal government will conduct periodic reviews to recognize achievements through various means, such as awarding awards and certificates to the top cities, universities, and institutions to foster healthy competition among cities and institutions.
The CGPI is the cornerstone of CGPM. The Clean Green Pakistan Index (CGPI) ranks cities, tehsils, and communities based on their cleanliness and greenery.
Additionally, the Clean Green Champion Program (CGCP) is intended to enlist individuals’ voluntary engagement in keeping cities clean, enhancing civic amenities, and instilling in them a sense of ownership over their ecosystems and towns. Any Pakistani citizen who aspires to be a Clean Green Champion will volunteer to participate in activities related to the Clean Green Pakistan Movement’s essential five pillars.
Protected Areas Initiative
The initiative’s principal goal is to make it easier to promote and develop vital animal habitats in Pakistan’s major national parks for conservation and ecotourism purposes. PAI aims to improve the management of 23 protected sites throughout the country. The National Park Service and environmentally friendly infrastructure will improve the quality of these protected areas.
Before 2018, the total Protected Area made up about 12% of the country’s total land area; it has since risen to 13% in the last two years and will rise to 15% by 2023.
Ecosystem Restoration Fund
The ambitious Ecosystem Restoration Fund (ESRF) would properly manage the country’s water resources and address this vulnerability while leading it toward a more sustainable course. The ESRF is a nature-based adaptation effort that focuses on six themes including afforestation, Recharge Pakistan – Integrated water management, Conserving Biodiversity & Mitigating Land Degradation, Conserving Marine Life & Promoting Blue Economy, Promoting Eco-Tourism and Electric Vehicles.
Glacial Lake Outburst Flood risk reduction in Northern Pakistan
Through early warning systems, improved infrastructure, and community-based disaster risk management, GLOF assists vulnerable communities in preparing for and mitigating GLOF threats. GLOF-II will expand GLOF-I from its initial two districts (one in KP and one in GB) to ten districts, benefiting 29 million people, or 15% of Pakistan’s population.
National Electric Vehicles Policy
In November 2019, Pakistan approved an ambitious National Electric Vehicles Policy (NEVP), with targets and incentives aimed at capturing 30 percent of passenger vehicle and heavy-duty truck sales by 2030, and 90 percent by 2040. It sets even higher targets for two- and three-wheelers, as well as buses: 50% new sales by 2030, and 90% by 2040.
Energy Policy of Pakistan
Pakistan’s energy policy is based on three objectives that include universal access to energy, doubling the share of renewable energy, and doubling the energy efficiency rate. Efforts are also made to expand the share of renewables of Pakistan’s energy supply mix up to 20 percent by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030. The incumbent Government canceled two planned coal-fired power projects which were to produce 2600 megawatts of energy and replaced them with hydropower projects.
Pakistan has a huge potential for renewable investment in the South Asian region. Pakistan has the potential of producing 40,000 MW of solar and wind power along with the potential of 45,000 MW in hydropower.
“Humanity faces a real existential challenge (Climate Change). It can become the dinosaur which refused to change and perished OR it can alter its pathway towards a sustainable and low carbon future”, said Special Assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam. The need of the hour is therefore to Act- as we have the solutions- before it’s too late.
*The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and The Diplomatic Insight.
*Views and data used by the author is of her own and does not necessarily represent the views of the Institutions.