ISLAMABAD: Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman on Tuesday said although planting trees was a necessity to reduce environment degradation among other things, it was not, nor could be the core public policy on global warming.

Talking to Dawn, Sherry Rehman said this was especially true for an acutely water-stressed and climate-stressed country like Pakistan.

“We literally face a clear and present water scarcity issue along with a distraction challenge among provinces, but climate impacts are severe in multiple ways,” Ms Rehman said, adding that the UN has reported that by 2025 the country will become water-scarce.

“We have to see this as a near-future reality with serious impact on food security which is already under crisis,” she added.

Says Pakistan not educated on scale of climate emergency

Moreover, she said, Pakistan needed urgent awareness and “I believe the way forward is through a ‘policy ministry’ like climate change”.

“The climate change policy made a Climate Council the cornerstone of its institutional mechanism. But because one province and Sindh government, in particular, was with the opposition its lead performance in reforestation was downgraded, even through the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project,” she added.

Furthermore, the minister differentiated between the Billion Tree Tsunami Project implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was already under investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on, reportedly, 24 queries from media to the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project, which was partially funded by provinces.

The minister said her office was trying to look at different climate crises, challenging sustainable human development, food and water security, as well as air quality in Pakistan.

“It is clear to us that the country certainly needs to fight for climate justice at multilateral forums and platforms because our emissions account for less than 1pc of global emissions,” Ms Rehman said.

“A lot more work was needed at home and climate change was not a light switch to throw by acting now,” she said, adding that, “even acting now will not reduce warming in one region or country”.

At the same time given the level of multiple climate crises and extreme weather emergencies, it is imperative that policymakers are at least made aware of the scale of the task, Ms Rehman said.

According to the minister, the country had not been educated on a scale of climate emergency that Pakistan faced. She argued that research, too, was lacking when it came to fully understanding how climate change and current climate changepolicies impact the people.

“People must be made aware, whatever the reason, that our climate woes need to be openly aired for the public to understand that the extreme weather events we are facing are not random, but are a result of global warming,” the minister said.

She said expecting change overnight was a pipe dream at this point, but climate action was collectively needed.

“Glacial lake outburst floods, flash floods, heatwaves and droughts are going to get worse if we do not take climate stress seriously both at home and abroad,” she added.

Finally, Ms Rehman concluded by emphasising on the need to shift focus to transparency, data generation and other actions such as energy transitions that were possible only after mainstreaming climate change as part of the public policy agenda.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2022

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