ACCORDING to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020, Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country. Climate change is a reality, but, despite making pledges time and again, world leaders have failed to enforce a mechanism to cut harmful emissions. A top oil exporter has recently pledged to reach net zero by 2060. Ironically, the same country has planned to increase daily oil production capacity.
In this scenario, the states that are vulnerable to climate change despite contributing minimally to global emissions are left to their own devices. Such states alone would not succeed in bringing about any considerable change even if they rapidly shift to renewable energy.
What, then, is the right way to deal with the climate change challenge? Adaptation, it is. For instance, Karachi suffers regardless of the season. Be it summer or monsoon, heatwaves and urban flooding have been hitting the city hard for a few years. Yes, climate change is responsible for it, but partly. Unplanned urbanisation acts as a catalyst, escalating the damages done by climate change. Inadequate sewerage system and solid waste management together add to the miseries.
Having said that, rural areas are not immune to climate change. A valid case in point is my hometown, Pano Aqil. There is no check on illegal constructions and encroachments. Prevention is better than cure, and Pakistan must learn from the problems prevalent in big cities and implement evidence-based policies in areas where climate change is yet to have a direct impact.
Mere plantation drives are not enough to fight the genie of climate change. The authorities must also control the factors that multiply the losses. Efficient, empowered and capable local government is vital in this regard. The state must take proactive measures or all of us will have to bear the burden of climate change.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2021