While some of the most vulnerable countries in the world have not only submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) documents to the UNFCCC secretariat before COP 21 in Paris, and major players have ratified the agreement, Pakistan still lags behind.
As a part of the negotiations for the New Climate Agreement that was adopted at the 21st Conference of Parties(COP) in Paris in December, 2015, countries party to the UNFCCC submitted their plans for reducing their carbon emissions in a post 2020 scenario with the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees or less. With COP22 less than a month away, it is heartening to note that some of the biggest emitters have ratified the Paris Agreement, including China and the United States, meaning it is closer to coming into force. The 22nd COP will aim to define the ‘Rules of Play’ of how the agreement will pan out in the future years. Whilst many vulnerable countries, particularly in South Asia, are readying themselves to access the associated climate financing and reap the potential benefits, Pakistan lags very much behind.
Last year, the Ministry of Climate Change developed an INDC document that committed reducing its emissions by up to 5% on its own and up to 18 % if supported by developing countries. However, this was scrapped at the last minute, and a weak 2 page document that pledged support for the UNFCCC process, but little else, saying that an INDC would be submitted once there was sufficient data available for the baseline scenario.
COP 22 is less than a month away, and yet, Pakistan’s INDC is still under development. Granted that mitigation is not a priority for the Pakistani government, however, failing to show its sustained commitment to the climate change cause will have many consequences for the country. Pakistan, as one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, has much to lose if warming rises above 1.5 degrees, and for the following reasons, it is necessary to take the steps to commit globally to the climate change cause.
- Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world
The 2010 floods in Pakistan were noted by the UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon to be the worst disaster he had even seen. The flood killed more than 2000 people and affected 18 million. There was also an estimated 11 million people made homeless by the disaster. At least 1.2 million livestock died, as well as more than 10 billuin USD in damages to infrastructure, irrigation systems, bridges, houses and roads. This was just the start- since 2010, Pakistan has almost every year been hit by floods. These are usually triggered by unusually high precipitation. There have also been incidents of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) in the north of Pakistan, which may be linked to the rate of glacial melt, that is accelerating due to climate change. Storm surges and cyclones are also on the rise, as are other extreme weather events. The recent heatwave in Karachi last year, which killed almost 2000 people from dehydration and heatstroke, is another example.
- Pakistan is at risk from slow onset disasters.
It is not only extreme events Pakistan has to worry about. Slow onset disasters, such as drought and sea level rise have had devastating impacts on Pakistan. The Thar region of Pakistan has faced drought since 2014. In September, 2016, the WHO reported that livelihoods, nutrition and health conditions had been impacted to the extent that ‐ 5 deaths were reported at 234 in 2013, 326 in 2014, and 398 in 2015, rising from 173 in 2011 and 188 in 2012.
The sea level at Pakistan’s coast is rising at a dangerous pace. Last year, experts warned that at the current rate of sea level rise, Karachi may sink by 2060.
- Water, Water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink
Pakistan has more glaciers than almost anywhere on earth. These glaciers in the north of Pakistan supply Pakistan’s rivers that account for about 75% of the stored water supply in the country of 180 million strong. However, these glaciers are melting rapidly and may soon be depleted. Experts suggest that water supply will initially increase due to glacial melt, but will soon lead to even more water scarcity once they are completely depleted. As Pakistan is rapidly moving from water stressed to a water scarce country, this is one of the biggest issues faced by the country today.
- Pakistan’s Renewable energy potential
Pakistan has faced an energy crisis for the past decade or more, due to its rapidly expanding population as well as its reliance on fossil fuels imported from other countries. Recent studies suggest that Pakistan has the potential for biogas, wind and solar energy, but lack the technology to effectively put these resources to use. Pakistan may use the rising demand for energy to its advantage to solve its energy problem, without the use of fossil fuels.
- Pakistan’s food security is at risk
Changing weather patterns have also had impacts on the agriculture of Pakistan, with a study by the Peshawar University this year claiming that KPs crops could fail by 2080. The South Asian region is reported to already be experiencing around 1 degree of warming, which has led to shifts in weather patterns. A further increase in temperature will have devastating impacts for the region. Erratic rainfall patterns, including more intense, shorter monsoons, will be likely to adversely impact Pakistans crop production. Not only will this have consequences in terms of food availability, but will also mean that most of Pakistans population, which works directly or indirectly in agriculture, will lose their means of livelihood.
- Pakistan may miss out on accessing important development funds for Climate Change
Pakistan recently presented its first project to the Green Climate Fund, on the 14th of October 2016 it was approved by the board. This project will see the UNDP in Pakistan and the Ministry of Climate Change work on a USD 36 million project in the north of Pakistan to adapt to and mitigate GLOF risk.
If Pakistan continues to be proactive in its local policies and encourages a proactive approach in international negotiations, it may be in a position to amass more funding. Funding that is desperately needed to tackle the gargantuan challenge that is climate change.