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New Report Highlights Pakistan’s Need to Adapt to Climate Change

Expert says that since the 2010 floods, country’s ability to respond to climate change impacts has improved but a long-term vision to drive public policy is still lacking.
By TR Pakistan

A report launched by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) comes as a reminder about the potentially devastating impact of climate change on Asian countries under a business-as-usual scenario of up to 8.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century.

The report also predicts impact on sectors like agriculture and public health and discusses issues like population migration, security, and trade in a scenario where average global temperature is kept at around 2 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial temperatures, in accordance with Paris Accord.

It’s common knowledge among policy makers, activists, and researchers that climate change is going to trigger more extreme weather events like intensive heatwaves, unpredictable monsoon patterns and frequent river floods. From Pakistan’s perspective, A Region At Risk: Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific specifically projects a decline in annual mean precipitation in the range of 20 and 50 percent over the course of the century. This is in contrast to a 50 percent projected increase in annual mean precipitation for most of the rest of Asia.

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Another devastating projection relevant for the country, as well as for the entire South Asian region, is related to the public health sector. The report predicts that under a business-as-usual scenario, vector-borne diseases will have a significantly greater impact on human health. It also projects greater heat-related mortality among the elderly.

The report predicts up to 15,000 more deaths per annum from diarrhea among children below the age of 15 in South Asia. Among all sub-regions in Asia, this is the greatest increase in mortality rate from the disease. Similarly, it forecasts an exponential rise in deaths from heat strokes among the elderly.

To get an overview of how Pakistan is preparing to deal with climate change impacts, MIT Technology Review Pakistan spoke to Kashmala Kakakhel, a climate finance specialist and a board member from Pakistan at Climate Action Network that comprises around 1,100 NGOs working in 120 countries worldwide.

She says that starting from the 2010 monsoon floods, most of the efforts initiated in Pakistan have been related to the disaster risk reduction (DRR) stream. These have yielded in the establishment and capacity building of disaster management authorities at the federal and provincial levels. Therefore, she says, there has been progress in terms of the country’s ability to respond to climate change impacts. What remains lacking, however, is evolution of a long-term perspective on these impacts in view of projected climate change, she adds. This preventive approach will entail planning for adaptation to climate change impacts, rather than just for response. Kakakhel notes that this is not just a problem specific to Pakistan.

Internationally as well, DRR and adaptation practitioners work in their own silos. The former falls under the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the latter under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At the country level, she says the best forum for coordinating adaptation activities is the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC), though it remains underfunded.

Kakakhel says that sector-level projects may be underway at NDMA and PDMAs, Ministry of Food Security and at provincial health, agriculture, and irrigation departments. However, there is currently no well-defined mechanism to implement these projects in view of projected climatic changes and their associated impact in coming years.

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Though it’s not rigorous but coordination is still taking place through the Planning Commission at the federal-level and Planning and Development Departments at provincial levels, Syed Rizwan Mehboob, climate change focal person for the Prime Minister’s Office tells TR Pakistan. He says Punjab’s P&D Department even has an officer just to look at the climate change component in development projects.

Recently, there has also been legislation done on the establishment of a climate change authority and a council with representation of all provinces. Besides the executive heads at federal and provincial levels, the two bodies will also have representation of development practitioners, academics, and researchers. “These will be steps in the right direction allowing the country to make progress on the adaptation front,” Kakakhel notes.

The PM Office focal person says that the authority has already been notified and work is now underway to finalize its rules. Once they have been drafted, advertisements will be given in the media seeking applications for staff positions. “This process will take another four months,” he says. The council will be established afterwards.

So far, progress has been achieved on drafting new policies and establishing relevant ministries and authorities. The task now is to put this framework to use in dealing with climate change impacts. For this, the country needs to ensure implementation of policies and empowerment of ministries and authorities concerned.

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