A man asked a neighbourhood grocer for 25 kilogrammes of grain and said he would pay later. The grocer agreed and started weighing five portions of five kilos each. Each time he weighed, he weighed less than before. The fourth time, he stopped weighing and refused to lend any grain at all. Surprised, the man asked what was wrong. The grocer said he had watched no signs of anger on the man’s face when he held back some part of the grain, and that meant he had no intention of paying back.”
Like the borrower in this folktale, Pakistan is quick to join all kinds of treaties, international peace keeping missions and multinational and bilateral agreements. The progeny of these agreements are a large set of policies, strategies and action plans made after “much consultation with all the relevant stakeholders”.
The latest in the series is the first draft of the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) of Pakistan, sent to the federal cabinet for approval in the second week of May. The fate of this policy may already have been sealed, like that of the preceding National Environmental Policy of 2005, National Drinking Water Policy of 2009, Clean Development Mechanism, National Operational Strategy, and many others. All these policies failed because of the absence of an implementation framework, poor communication with the stakeholders and a number of socio-economic ground realities.
Look at the results of our Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). According to Climate Connect, a UK based company which provides technical services to companies on clean technology and carbon markets, “Only 11 projects from Pakistan have been registered with UNFCCC since the introduction of CDM and a total amount of $273 million has been invested in these projects, which is just 0.27 percent of the total spending by countries in Asia and Pacific region”. This is despite the fact that CDM is one of the best opportunities offered to developing and cash strapped countries like Pakistan by the international climate regime.
Prima facie, there are inherent flaws in the development mechanism of NCCP as well. First, the general public as an important stakeholder is alien to the consultation process. To make an all encompassing climate policy, the wisdom of the crowds could have been invoked to identify important adaptation and mitigation measures already being practiced in various communities directly depending on natural resources and who are most affected during and after a natural or human induced disasters. This needs comprehensive surveys in the communities and pooling of experiences of a broad range of NGOs and development agencies working on relevant themes. The websites of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ministry of Environment could also have been used besides social media networks to invite comments and suggestions from informed sections of the public on the draft climate policy. Presently, these so-called “e-government tools” portray a dismal picture if one ventures to extract even the basic information on environment let alone the extensive one.
Second, under the 18th amendment, environmental protection has become a provincial subject. During this transition period, drafting of another national policy would result in more confusions and delays in transfer of powers and responsibilities. The fact that NCCP has been developed by Ministry of Environment, which itself stands dissolved after the 18th Amendment and the fate of its staff and functions is in disarray puts a question mark on the seriousness of the government to implement the recommendations made in the policy.
Third, NCCP “does not address the threat posed by climate change to the country’s socio-economic security”, says Shakil Ahmad Ramay, scientist at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), an Islamabad-based think tank working in liaison with National Task Force on Climate Change. This was quite predictable as Pakistan’s national security doctrines are based on military defence and are never developed or modified by civilian institutions. Conversely, there is little chance that climate induced socio-economic threats and conflicts are mapped in true sense to be incorporated in the country’s defence and strategic policies in the foreseeable future.
SDPI further claims that “the desired operation of any climate change policy would only follow if there are certain institutional arrangements already in place. The forthcoming National Climate Change Policy of Pakistan overlooks this dimension and fails to give an adequate provision for implementation of the policy”.
The proposed NCCP, as described to media, suggests some 120 policy measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The adaptation measures are mainly focused on developing resilience of the agriculture and water and power sectors in spite of the fact that development and modification of infrastructure and urban development should be given an equal focus. The mainstreaming of climate debate in national curricula and national health programmes are not less important while the transition to low carbon economy under present national circumstances will also be an uphill task during the next couple of decades.
There is more focus on developing resilience and adaptation mechanisms and less on mitigation measures in the proposed NCCP. The increasingly and extremely climate-vulnerable countries of South Asia and small island countries need to focus more on developing infrastructures for mitigation than on adaptation just as the Netherlands has done. There should be a paradigm shift in our urban development. The urban centres and cities need to be relocated away from seas and rivers to save them from hurricanes and floods. Where this is not possible, dykes can be built against the water encroachment.
As usual, a need has been felt to develop newer institutions and to increase bureaucratic weight without raising efficiency of the existing ones through optimisation and it has been recommended to set up a national climate change commission to coordinate climate change activities and to monitor and assess emissions of greenhouse gases. According to US EPA, the empirical evidence establishes climate induced impacts on five major areas. Therefore, the scope of the proposed climate change commission should not only be limited to monitoring atmospheric greenhouse gases composition but also to monitor and assess impacts on national and international climate and weather conditions, oceans, snow and glaciers and human society and ecosystems.
Welcome steps at least theoretically are the promise of “an increased investment in research for climate change mitigation and adaptation” and mainstreaming of climate change policy into other national and sectoral policies. The real question remains there as how this will be carried out. It must be realised that climate change is an international phenomena and no country has the capacity or resources to deal with its impacts. Therefore, any of the proposed activities including research would involve international cooperation and should have global scale. Internally, a close cooperation of more than eleven ministries and some relevant bodies is needed for implementation of proposed measures.
The author is a Senior Communication Specialist at the Cleaner Production Institute in Lahore.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>