Drivers of climate change in Pakistan
There is a consensus in Pakistan on the need to act on climate diplomacy. But the search continues as how to best tackle the issue of climate change and play it as an effective tool to make the right pitch for increased climate change adaption and mitigation funding opportunities. There is an urgent need for everyone to understand that climate change threatens us all and the 2005 earthquake and floods in 2010 and 2011 gave a stark reminder that the only solution to building a climate resilient environment is through a more proactive engagement with all stakeholders. While the multi-lateral institutions such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank continue to play their part, it is important that the most important stakeholder – the Government of Pakistan should take charge and lead the efforts – along with other potential partners such as NGOs, private sector, aid workers, diplomats, municipal authorities, and military.
Government – Capacity building
In a fragile country like Pakistan, there are multiple risks emanating from climate change. For instance, the complete governance breakdown – which happened last in the situation of floods and earthquake is a case in point. For multiple regions, the first responders were the local NGOs and the military institutions instead of the civil disaster risk management institutions. The Government needs to play its part by not just creating a state-owned enterprise (SOE) on disaster risk management but by disseminating the understanding of the impact of climate change in everyday life. In today’s times, when partisan politics often takes the center stage, it remains a challenge for any government to build a meaningful dialogue on the need to prepare a comprehensive national climate change narrative. Only by presenting climate-sensitive solutions, the overall degree of instability can be ameliorated, and associated risks can be better managed.
The second step is to translate that narrative in legislative actions and policies. The Government of Pakistan has already taken some important steps in that direction – particularly setting up of the Ministry of Climate Change, formulation of Climate Change Policy and an implementation framework through an Act. However, more needs to be done now. Specially, a more proactive approach is necessary which will ensure sectoral policy making, particularly climate considerations being adapted in core areas of energy, water policy, disaster risk management and agriculture.
As a last step, the Government needs to lead climate agenda into actionable opportunities which will have people see with their own eyes the potential impact of environmental regeneration. The Government can launch a series of pilot projects to show people that rivers, forests, and grazing lands could all be revived – building the faith needed to achieve engagement for a lasting impact. In this regard, the billion tree tsunami at KPK government stands out – as it shadows the Provincial Government’s commitment not only to make policies but to bring environment on the forefront of the national dialogue.
Private Sector – Bring that data!
The private sector can play a huge role – especially with the emerging technologies that are on the offing. Big data is one such technology that can be used to measure, disseminate and then take actionable steps to make sense of climate change and tools to counter environmentally-destructive practices. With increasingly fast processing capacities, we can get big data to talk to each other and provide us with a bigger picture – deciphering just how changes to the natural environment can impact communities, regions, and nations. Once we know the data, we can connect the evidence and policy between defense, diplomatic and development communities and ensure targeted interventions are undertaken to optimize community benefits.
Globally, such transition has already started to occur. For instance, Resource Watch is bringing together over 300 quality data sets – around 50 of which are being updated in near real-time – and in partnership with NASA, Google, the UN, and the World Bank, among others. The platform will be going to map how biophysical change such as climate change, soil degradation, and water scarcity can impact the socioeconomics such as food security and health along with the ways in which it can exacerbate political marginalization, exclusion, and regional migration. Government and corporates can play their part in funding and channelizing such initiatives and private sector can build upon environmental data sets to benefit the wider national environmental practices.
Multilateral partners such as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the UNDP continue to support the Government in different developmental interventions. However, the most important thing that can be done for climate diplomacy is to ensure a good knowledge-base for actors to draw on. The research and insight are important and in order to do this, adequate resources need to be provided to properly map the risks that climate change poses and ensure that the findings of those researches reach those in a position to use the information. Once a threat is hypothesized, one can create a response. From the response, one can develop an action plan. This can then be directed at the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Climate Change on what they each have to do, individually and collectively – forming a mechanism for cooperation.
Military as agent of change
Last, the Pakistani military has always been on the front line of the disaster management and they can play a crucial important role as first responders to environmental disasters in Pakistan, managing large relief and rehabilitation efforts. Training the military on environmental management and in recognizing early warning signs can further improve their ability to react and pre-empt disasters and ensure that disaster risk management practices are optimized to benefit the people who need them the most.