Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed hope on Monday that the world would take the challenge of climate change more seriously, as he outlined steps taken by Pakistan on this front and warned of consequences if immediate measures were not taken to address the problem.
"I hope that all of us collectively take this challenge much more seriously than what we have done so far," the premier said while addressing the opening ceremony of Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh.
At the outset of his address, he pointed out that just 10 per cent of the world's countries were responsible for emissions causing environmental damage.
"And unfortunately, we (Pakistan) are among the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change," he said, sharing with other participants that over the past 10 years, the country had faced "152 extreme weather events ... which had triggered an economic loss of over $3.8 billion".
He added that Pakistan's future climate adaption costs were estimated at between $6bn and $14bn.
"So, we decided that before the world takes any action, we, as a country, for our own survival, must [do] whatever is in our reach," he said.
Outlining the decisions taken by his government in this regard, the premier said the country would shift 60pc of all its energy production to clean sources by 2030. Moreover, the government planned to shift 30pc of all transport was to electric vehicles by 2030 and the country had committed not to initiate any new coal projects.
"We have already shelved 2,400 megawatts of coals projects [and] replaced them with 3,700 megawatts of hydroelectricity," he said.
He added that his government had also focused on nature-based initiatives, notably the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project.
"We have already planted 2.5bn [trees] " of the 10bn target, he said.
The premier further stated that the government planned to plant 1m more mangroves by 2023 and green parks in the country had been expanded by 50pc during the pandemic.
"In the process, we have also provided green jobs — jobs that are related to improving our environment," he said, adding that 85,000 jobs had been created in this area and the number was expected to rise to 200,000 by next year.
PM Imran said his government had also been working towards the restoration of wetlands.
He shared with the participants that the World Bank had ranked Pakistan as the top country for using development finance for climate-friendly initiatives and gave examples of green bonds, blue bonds, nature bonds and a mechanism devised by the government for the transition to clean energy.
The prime minister also highlighted that glaciers were melting at a rapid pace due to climate change and as a resultant, Pakistan and several other countries were at risk of facing water scarcity.
Terming climate change "one of the biggest crises" the world faced today, PM Imran said the problem was visible 20 years ago, but unfortunately, the world failed to realise its implications.
PM Imran meets John Kerry
On the sidelines of the summit. PM Imran met Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and "underscored the need to reinforce national as well as global emphasis against [the] existential threat" of climate change, according to the Prime Minister's Office.
In a series of tweets, the PMO said the prime minister highlighted during the meeting the priority attached to climate change by his government.
"The PM shared his perspective with the special envoy on challenges faced by Pakistan and other developing countries due to climate change, while highlighting Pakistan’s experience of launching nature-based solutions to address the environmental challenges, [the] including Plant for Pakistan [campaign]," it added.
It said ongoing collaboration between Pakistan and the US on climate change and environment was reviewed during the meeting.
Moreover, PM Imran "expressed satisfaction on the recently held inaugural meeting of the 'US-Pakistan Climate and Environment Working Group', which explored potential areas of bilateral Pak-US cooperation on climate action", according to the PMO.
"Special Envoy Kerry agreed that Pakistan and the US shared a longstanding relationship, which should be further reinforced in areas of mutual convergence, including climate and environment," it further stated. "He (Kerry) acknowledged various initiatives undertaken by Pakistan to fight climate change."
The PMO said Kerry emphasised the priority attached by the US administration to the issue of climate change and briefed PM Imran on various measures taken by the Biden administration "for developing a broad global consensus on climate action in the run-up to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP26), later this month".
"The PM underscored that Pakistan and the United States should continue sharing ideas, expertise and technology to optimise mutually beneficial opportunities in the fight against climate change."
According to the PMO, the prime minister also encouraged Kerry to further "explore [the] possibility of enhanced bilateral engagement through the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to support investment in climate mitigation, resilience, and adaptation in Pakistan and the developing world".
"The special envoy acknowledged the huge potential of cooperation in these areas and expressed the desire to further explore opportunities of bilateral cooperation including in power generation projects from renewable sources," it said, adding that the two sides agreed to work in close coordination to determine next steps in building an effective framework of cooperation in this regard.
The ongoing situation in Afghanistan also came under discussion during the meeting, the PMO said.
It said PM Imran underscored the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan for Pakistan and the rest of the region.
"The prime minister stressed the imperative for the international community to work pragmatically to preserve peace and security, avert humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and prevent an economic collapse," the PMO said, adding that the premier also stressed the need for "positive engagement and release of economic resources and financial assets for the welfare of the Afghan people".