“YESTERDAY, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself” is a quote attributed to Rumi.
So, what could Pakistan’s goals on climate be, given that we cannot really affect the world, but we can change ourselves? My suggestion would be to have three goals: (i) strengthen citizens’ ability to be more resilient to climate impacts (especially the poor), (ii) put in place climate-integrated approaches to energy, agriculture, water and in cities, optimising local co-benefits, (iii) encourage continuous development of climate solutions amongst all stakeholders, including youth, private sector, and the provinces. The first and third are clear enough. What do I mean by the second?
People often distinguish between being affected by climate impacts (and the need to build resilience) and reducing emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that cause climate change. A climate-integrated approach addresses both together. Why is this a good thing, given that Pakistan only produces less than one per cent of the greenhouse gases emitted? Well, quite simply, projects that reduce emissions help to position Pakistan for future global markets, are eligible for climate finance, and also yield local co-benefits. For example, air quality improvements will reduce public health impacts (such as strokes, heart disease, cancers and respiratory illnesses, among others) and reduce greenhouse gases. Having a good solid waste management system will help the country shift to better public services, at the same time as reducing methane (greenhouse gas) emissions into the air. We already know that planting trees will reduce greenhouse gases, but they can also protect upstream watersheds, helping to reduce impact of floods, if planted with both mitigation and resiliency in mind. Ultimately, as a country, we have the most to gain in both the short term and the long term, if we take a climate-integrated approach.
Getting to a climate-integrated approach in a sector is not a simple task. It is just not enough to say that we will increase wind and solar energy capacity in the power system, even though that is a valid and important step. A much more structured approach is needed to develop a climate-integrated plan. Two countries, that I helped, took different approaches. Romania conducted extensive economic analyses over a two-year period in 2014-2016 to develop its climate strategy and action plan. Mexico effectively utilised the analyses already available, working with a knowledgeable team, and began putting in place policy measures as early as 2002 to begin to integrate sustainability into their energy, tourism, water and forestry sectors.
A broad and inclusive ‘Climate NCOC’ is an important start to ensure there is broader ownership.
How could we go about developing a national plan to meet these climate goals that is owned by every citizen? A broad and inclusive Climate NCOC is an important start to ensure that there is broader ownership. We also have pieces on which we can build further to ensure the plan incorporates many perspectives and brings along all stakeholders.
First and foremost is the desire to do something after this horrific flood, the impact of which is still unfolding. According to FAO, the 2010 flood resulted in over 70pc of farmers losing more than half of their expected income and agricultural sector growth dropping from 3.5pc to 0.2pc between 2009 and 2010. Second, we have existing water and energy crises in the country, which could potentially benefit from a different approach. We also have programmes in place, such as the Ehsaas programme that can help deliver swift financial relief to the most needy, as it did in Covid-19 times. In addition, institutional frameworks that could help the financial sector and large industries to shift to a different approach quickly include the State Bank of Pakistan’s Green Banking Guidelines and the Pakistan Business Council’s Centre for Excellence in Responsible Business’s focus on business-level Sustainable Development Goals implementation. These are already in place due to external drivers, such as the SDGs, as well as financial investors who are focused on climate risk reduction and environmental, social and governance indicators.
Finally, we also have existing national capacity, with authorities such as the national and provincial disaster management authorities, as well as the environmental sciences and engineering degrees offered by 15 higher education institutions in Pakistan.
There are also many questions that arise from the current flooding disaster. Answers to these questions, coupled with learning from other countries’ experiences, could help determine an appropriate action plan to minimise impacts of future disasters. Did people not move out of affected areas quickly because of the lack of an early warning system or because they did not have national ID cards and/or no land titles, and in effect were leaving everything behind when they moved away? What systems could be put in place to mobilise support faster and to coordinate aid? How can we work with the increased water from glacier melt to store it for drier times in the rest of the year?
It is also important to think about the role of federal and provincial governments in moving the country towards these climate goals. In what areas should government play a role to share knowledge, create the correct incentives for others in the country to act and facilitate access to finance? And in what areas should they fund and implement projects themselves? Given Pakistan’s macroeconomic situation and levels of debt, careful selection of what the government should actually do, is crucial.
A broad-based Climate NCOC, with technical expertise included, could begin to formulate a climate plan for Pakistan — a plan which learns from Pakistan’s experiences and those of other countries, taking into consideration both the long-term and short-term implications. If done in an inclusive manner, developing a climate plan in itself will help to build knowledge and empower citizens to ensure that they can change their own quality of life for the better, in addition to positioning the country in future markets and minimising the impact of future disasters.
The writer is the director of Integrated Learning Means and a former World Bank sector manage
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022