The Pros and Cons of Pakistan’s climate agenda

Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Sherry Rehman apprised the National Assembly on Wednesday that Pakistan has been ranked as the 8th most vulnerable country to the devastating actions of climate change by the Global Climate Risk Index-2021. According to the Minister, the country is highly prone to climate change including water stress, desertification, glacier melting, and extreme weather events coupled with the spread of infectious diseases, while Pakistan has a nominal contribution to the Global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The Minister was of the view that previously massive corruption and irregularities had been reported in Billion Tree Tsunami and Ten Billion Tree Tsunami projects in the past which are being investigated by the NAB. According to her, the National Forest Policy was approved in 2017 by the government for the promotion of tree plantations in the country, which provides the basis for the Federal Government to extend support to all provinces and territories towards achieving their respective targets related to forestry and meet international obligations.

Pakistan a source deficient developing nation is facing serious issues relating to the ongoing challenge of climate change while the country has been identified as the 8th most vulnerable state to the disastrous effects of acute weather conditions in the world. There are multiple problems that persistently hurt the country such as flash floods, forest fires, smogs, water shortage, tiny forests, increasing environmental and industrial pollution, soil erosion and desertification, prolonged heatwaves as well as melting of glaciers in Northern areas over the past years but the governments did not respond to these problems effectively at an early stage which shaped these issues a gigantic challenge for the country.

Over the decades, our nation has been observing tree plantation, world water, and the world environment days symbolically and no sincere efforts had been made to protect the environment, cultivating soil, forests, and human health from the catastrophic effects of nature. The National Assembly of Pakistan adopted the first Environmental Protection Act in 1997, the National Forest Policy was passed in 2015, and the first National Water Policy (NWP) had been approved in April 2018. All these documents set goals formulated guidelines and articulated frameworks and assigned responsibilities to various departments to achieve the objectives.

The government has taken various steps to implement policy initiatives including the activation of the Federal Forestry Board, and Environmental Protection Agency, and the designation of protected areas to preserve natural inhabitants while various small dams are being constructed for water storage, irrigation, and production of clean energy. Although, the past few governments had made significant endeavors to resolve the issue however the outcome could not meet the expectations of the masses due to slackness, mismanagement, and corruption of bureaucracy, along with a lack of resolve of political leadership.

In fact, there is an urgent need for a nationwide campaign to educate and mobilize the public about the worst impact of plastic pollution, vehicle and industrial smoke as well as the benefits of preservation of water, energy, and environment, cleanliness, urban and rural forestry, domestic farming in the ecosystem and national economy. The government should also activate LEAs, and relevant agencies along with the introduction of an online reporting mechanism to combat pollution, and deforestation and ensure the implementation of policies at all levels in true letter and spirit.