Islamabad: A country that contributes less than one percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, has paid a heavy price for the effects of climate change, making it the eighth most vulnerable nation in the world to suffer catastrophic devastation caused by climate change.
This has resulted in Pakistan confronting major disasters, the most recent of which has been the unprecedented floods of 2022, which affected at least 33 million people with a staggering 20.6 million requiring urgent humanitarian assistance.
Over 2 million houses were destroyed, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland was washed away and over 7.9 million people were displaced.
While Pakistan advocated following climate resilient infrastructure reconstruction in the flood hit areas, and the debate over the urgency of addressing the serious and dangerous threats climate change poses to vulnerable nations continued at domestic and global platforms, common grounds of action and challenges have been agreed to but not much has been achieved in mitigating and adapting solutions to counter the effects of climate change in the country.
“We have no time to waste. There is an immediate and urgent need for all stakeholders to work in tandem. Otherwise, Pakistan’s climate crisis would continue to devastate the country and its people”, said Sidra Iqbal, a climate change expert.
“Its time to galvanise our industry leaders and policymakers to stop talking and start acting. At this point, only cumulative and collective action will be effective in dealing with the crisis that climate change has brought to Pakistan’s doorstep”, she added.
Ahmed Shabbar, Founder and CEO of GarbageCAN, emphasized the importance of tackling climate change effects as it has a direct impact on social strata, economic sectors and public domain.
“Climate change affects everyone, everywhere, which is why its solutions must also involve everyone everywhere”, he said.
Experts say that the biggest problem for Pakistan in handling climate change effects is that it has kept itself in its usual modus operandi of working reactively and has done nothing to engage the public and private sectors to invest in infrastructure.
“Pakistan has remained in reactive mode to climate change triggered challenges and has worked reactively in a state of hyper emergency when a crisis arises”, said architect and researcher Marvi Mazhar.
Minister for Energy Muhammad Ali has reiterated the “need for a unified climate change action plan for Pakistan”.
“Not only do we need to realize the urgency of our climate vulnerability, but the government, together with both local and global stakeholders, must also work on a three-tiered action plan to deal with climate change by creating awareness, drafting policy, and executing that policy”, he said.
While the debate on how to handle climate change effects seems to be in the preliminary stages of realization, identification of challenges and crisis, pre-emptive measures to safeguard human lives and livelihoods from catastrophe and the need for the world to come together on the matter; it would not be wrong to say that the climate change challenge, its threat and its impact on vulnerable nations, is yet to be a top priority on the global agenda.
In Pakistan, it has been over a year since the devastating floods triggered by climate change, the scars of which remain fresh. Over 1.5 million people are still displaced.
Basic necessities, such as food and shelter, continue to be out of reach for a major portion of the flood-affected population. More than 40 per cent of the 1.5 million people still rely on humanitarian aid for survival.
While climate anxiety is the newly coined term and the stakeholders are yet to finalise a roadmap for a solution, the distress and suffering caused by climate change has been long felt by the vulnerable communities, who unfortunately have failed to make headlines.