A NEW Schroders and Cornell University study on the potential impact of extreme heat and flooding on the apparel industry should serve as a wake-up call for Pakistan’s textile industrialists and policymakers. The authors of the study project that extreme heat and floods induced by rapid climate change could result in huge job losses and erase $65bn in apparel export earnings from four Asian countries — Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Vietnam — by 2030, as workers struggle under high temperatures and factories shut down. The losses will keep increasing if corrective actions are not taken. These countries account for 18pc of the global apparel exports and employ 10.6m workers in the apparel and footwear factories. The report points out that “Understanding climate-related physical risks to companies in a warming world is critical, but the process is in its infancy with few businesses disclosing enough information and few investors undertaking proper assessments”. Experts claim: “The climate response by the industry is all about mitigation, about emissions and recycling, and little or nothing with respect to flooding and heat.”
These observations are particularly true for Pakistan where textile and apparel exporters are yet to realise the grave implications of global warming for their business and come up with effective strategies to tackle it. At best, a few progressive firms have, in recent years, adopted basic mitigating strategies at the factory level to reduce fossil energy usage, shift to renewable power sources, and set up wastewater treatment plants to cut costs and defuse the environment concerns of their consumers in Western markets rather than prepare themselves for meeting climate change challenges. No effort in this direction has been launched at the wider industry level, although it is crucial to the survival of businesses. Regrettably, our policymakers also remain oblivious to the urgency of building strategies to fight the impact of a warming world on the economy and jobs. In recent years, the country’s economy and exports have received large shocks due to repeated climate-induced flooding and heatwaves that have caused export losses worth billions, and increased poverty and unemployment. With Pakistan among the top 10 countries affected by climate change, it is essential that policymakers, industry and other stakeholders, including factory workers, sit together to formulate climate-resilient strategies to prevent potential job and export losses that the study has predicted.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023