By Gracie Pearsall
Last March, Zahid Hamid, the Pakistan Federal Minister for Climate Change, spoke to the audience of a national workshop on climate change about Pakistan’s commitment to tackling the issue. In his address, Hamid announced the creation of The Pakistan Climate Change Council, which will be the principal body for climate-related policy making. The council will create comprehensive plans and policies that will be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for the effects of climate change, and integrate resilient ideas into economic and developmental planning.
Climate change in Pakistan
Pakistan contributes very little to the world’s overall greenhouse gas emissions – only around 0.8% of total emissions. But despite this, it is extremely vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. Northern Pakistan is threatened by flooding that glacial melt causes in the Himalayas, whilst southern Pakistan, which borders the Arabian Sea, is at risk from coastal flooding thanks to sea level rise. These hydrological and environmental changes will limit access to freshwater, decrease crop yields, and threaten the food security of the rapidly growing population. Additionally, natural disasters, such as the predicted flooding, will likely exacerbate social inequality and allow infectious diseases to spread.
Funding government action
In the face of these threats, Pakistan has taken initiative to create a policy framework that includes adaptation and mitigation measures. Hamid issued a press release that outlined the structure of the council and described its mission and plans. Hamid will chair the Council, whose purpose is to create and strengthen policy and institutional responses to climate change, such as implementing a National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy and a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. The council also has the authority to “direct any government agency to prepare and implement projects for adaptation or mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change, to promote climate-compatible, climate-resilient and sustainable development or to undertake research in any aspect of climate change.” Through these plans, Pakistan hopes to become more resilient and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030.
Hamid emphasizes that the main obstacle to implementing these plans is finding sufficient financing. He stated, “Pakistan requires US$ 40 billion by 2030 for mitigation measures to reduce our expected greenhouse gases emissions by 20% and up to US$ 14 billion annually to adapt to climate change impacts. We hope that the financial commitments in the Paris Agreement…will be realised.”
International climate finance
Like Pakistan, most developing countries look to developed countries for financial support to reduce emissions and to help the world move to a cleaner economy, without sacrificing economic growth. The Paris Agreement made very clear that developed countries would support climate resilience and low-carbon growth in developing countries by committing to donate US$ 100 billion per year from 2020 to 2025, and to scale up that commitment in 2025.
The financial support promised in the Paris Agreement is crucial to countries like Pakistan, which has climate adaptation plans, but lacks the funding to execute the plans. Mobilising global climate financing could break the link between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth. The financing would allow developing countries to transition to low-carbon economies and implement adaptation measures without sacrificing economic growth. As seen in Pakistan, the costs of this shift are enormous, but if the commitments are honored, sustainable growth is possible.
The future of these commitments is uncertain because as the United States withdraws from the Paris Agreement, the donor pool may shrink. This withdrawal puts more pressure on other developed countries to contribute more to meet the US$ 100 billion commitment. However, the United States’ withdrawal has so far seemed to have a galvanising effect on other countries with India, China, and the EU publically stating their commitment to the Paris Agreement. Additionally, ministers in India, Brazil, South Africa and China, issued a statement at the 24th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change, urging developed countries to honor their financial commitment of US$ 100 billion per year.