The Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change will be holding a series of consultative dialogues in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference 2017 to be held in Bonn in November this year. The first of these dialogues, in which government experts, media and officials from various leading environmental NGOs are invited, took place this past week at the Serena Hotel. The topic of discussion was mitigation and adaptation, a key issue for a developing country like Pakistan that is affected severely by climate change impacts like heat waves, droughts and floods.
The federal Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid welcomed participants to the consultative dialogue, noting that the ministry under his charge has achieved a number of milestones which include the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions document to the UNFCCC, the introduction of the Green Pakistan Program, the approval of the National Forest Policy, the passing of the Climate Change Act 2016, and the declaration of Astola Island as the first Marine Protected Area of Pakistan. In his opinion all these positive developments should be highlighted at the upcoming COP. The Ministry is also reforming the Global Change Impact Study Centre in Islamabad and Dr Tariq Banuri, formerly Director of the Division for Sustainable Development at the UN, has recently been appointed its Executive Director.
Dr Tariq Banuri stated that Paris was a landmark agreement and COP23 would carry its work forward. In his opinion, “Pakistan often states that its agenda is adaptation since it is a low emitting country but we should not blindside mitigation. All countries need to work together for a common outcome. It should not be “Us vs Them at the negotiation and goals should be achievable”. He then opened up the dialogue on the mitigation. Dr Seeme Mallick from the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology began the discussion by pointing out the need to analyze/review Pakistan’s Nationally Determined Contributions document as that will form the basis of what Pakistan intends to do under the Paris Agreement with regard to mitigation targets.
Irfan Tariq, the Director General of the Ministry of Climate Change, was of the view that NDC document should not be reopened for discussion and instead more time and attention should be dedicated to develop strategies for implementing it and developing a roadmap for achieving goals. Participants, however, were concerned about the high level of future emissions noted in the NDCs document. Pakistan sees a four fold increase in emissions up to 2030 due primarily to energy projects, including new coal power plants, under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. It was noted that reductions in emissions are still possible and a revised NDC could still be submitted to the UN. The financing implications were also discussed, as Pakistan is demanding up to $40 billion as abatement cost to reduce emissions by 20% by 2030. Pakistan has not offered any unconditional reductions on emissions on a voluntary basis while other countries in the region are offering 5 to 10 percent cuts voluntarily.
Other speakers noted that the provinces lack capacity post 18th amendment and are not equipped to deal with the climate challenges they are facing. The AJK Speaker, Shah Ghulam Qadir, noted that 48% of the forest cover in Azad Jammu and Kashmir had been reduced to 9%. As there were no alternate sources of fuel it was hard to convince people not to cut trees for fuel. He called for the need for “engagement at the provincial levels”.
Dr Tariq summed up the session by reminding the gathering that climate change was upon us and it is time to decide whether we wish to continue with destructive policies or replace them with sustainable policies that help to build resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change. He quoted China’s example of proactive action to save forests and reduce air pollution by shifting to solar and wind without waiting for technology transfer. He stressed on the need to work for a sustainable development agenda as we were living in “the age of climate change”
Shafqat Kakakhel from SDPI advised that the Pakistan delegation to COP23 should have two objectives; one to contribute to global negotiations and second to present its own climate change related interests.
Rina Saeed: The writer is an award-winning environmental journalist
based in Islamabad, who also covers
climate change and health issues.