The Federal minister’s inability to answer a simple question regarding NDCs relevance to Pakistan and insistence upon giving his five-minute long written speech at COP23 conference sums up our seriousness towards climate change. The COP23 conference at Bonn was in fact used as an excuse to visit Germany by officials from different departments. It is clear from the way they represented their country. The whole world watched how ill-prepared they were and how serious they took the conference.
While talking to DW (Urdu), the federal minister again found himself in an embarrassing situation when the host asked him about his ministry’s performance since its inception in 2012. He had nothing else to mention except a list of the policies and plans they have made on paper. He regarded deforestation as a routine affair and didn’t seem bothered by the ongoing deforestation in the country. He could have mentioned the billion tree tsunami by the KP province but his political affiliation did not allow him to do so.
Earlier this year, on the eve of the environment day, where other parts of the world seemed to have been observing it with new promises, unfortunately in Pakistan, Ministry of Climate Change remained silent. There was not a single activity arranged the ministry in the Capital city, Islamabad, or any in other city of the country which shows how disinterested the ministry was, in regards to this day. One wonders, if the ministry of climate change has not achieved anything concrete so far, then why it exists.
Ministry was climate change appeared on scene in 2012 when the ministry of national disaster management was renamed the ministry of climate change. In July 2013, two months after coming to power, the PML-N government demoted it to a division. Now, not too long after, the same government has upgraded it again, not because they were concerned about the environmental degradation but to create vacancy for a minister and bureaucrats. It is a common practice in Pakistan. Ministries often come about not so much because they are needed but to accommodate large cabinets and a burgeoning bureaucracy.
Unfortunately in our country, no government has given priority to the issue, even though climate change is considered a major challenge at the global level. But it is such an issue which we cannot ignore for long. Geographically, Pakistan is located in a region that is likely to be affected most by climate change. As per vulnerability to climate change determined by Germanwatch (which compiles a climate change performance index), Pakistan is among the top 10 vulnerable countries in the world. Another study has included Pakistan in the eight countries most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change despite the fact that Pakistan is 135th among carbon emitting countries and contributes only 0.8 per cent to global carbon emissions.
Several scientific studies and reports have warned us regarding the threat posed by climate change. In fact, climate change poses a greater security threat than terrorism because it can affect temperatures, the environment, the economy and the future policies of the country. Moreover, 70 to 80 per cent of Pakistan’s water from glaciers, but in the next 30 to 40 years, there, may be no more water in the Indus River because the glaciers will have all melted.
A recent study conducted in Chakwal and Attock districts by Intercooperation, a Swiss non-governmental organisation, predicts horrible consequences of climate change. The report predicts that the region is going to lose its spring and autumn seasons and stated that there will be only two seasons: summer and winter. The summers are going to be wet while the winters are turning into a dry season as we are facing an increase in summer rains and a decrease in winter rainfall. Due to the decrease in winter rains, the chances of the wheat crop failing are increasing while the crop has also become more prone to getting infested with weeds. The increase in summer rains means more soil erosion, more land degradation and more floods.
The agriculture sector, which is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, is going to suffer badly. The change in the weather pattern is already having an impact on crops. This sector is vulnerable to both temperature and rainfall. The rise in temperature is hampering the per acre yield of the wheat and maize crops. There is also a serious impact on fruit and vegetables. The net farm revenue, as gauged from farming business, is the lowest in the region which is substantially attributed to climate change given all the other factors. There is an element of micro-climate change in the Barani region. It has been observed that some insects have started attacking livestock, thereby reducing the growth of animals and milk production. The frost phenomenon is also shaking the very fabric of plantation in some regions.
Earlier this month, smog disrupted life activities in different parts of the country. Thousands of people were hospitalized as well. Meteorologists say the pollution surge was triggered by vehicle exhaust fumes and dust. Levels of Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) have been touching 500mg per cubic meter in the last several days in parts of Pakistan where the normal upper limit is 150mg. The particles, if inhaled deep into the lungs, can cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, severe allergies and respiratory diseases. Different parts of the country experienced long drought as well which affected agricultural production. These events are enough to open our eyes and take necessary steps to counter climate change.
We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel and make a transition to renewable energy. All the provinces and other federating units need to follow KP billion tree tsunami keeping aside the political differences. Although reforestation and climate change is primarily the responsibility of provincial governments but due to the importance of the issue, the federal government should take steps and resolve such problems, adding that most of the local industry did not even know about carbon credits.
Climate change is real. We cannot afford to ignore it for long. It should one of our top priorities. We need to a strong commitment on the part of government and concerned departments.