Provincial Consultative Workshop Punjab (Lahore)

Oct 31 2017 | 01:06:18
                      Keeping the historical and future trends of climate change at the national, provincial and state level, the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Climate Change held a consultative workshop for developing recommendations and actions for an institutional framework for achieving the objectives of the provincial climate change policy that is currently being finalized by the Government of Punjab.
                     Among those speaking at the event were Provincial Minister for Environmental Protection Ms. Zakia Shahnawaz, Federal Secretary Climate Change Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Provincial Secretary EPA Capt. Saif Anjum, Executive Director of the Global Change Impact Studies Center Dr. Tariq Banuri, Professor and Director of Centre for Public Policy and Governance at Forman Christian University Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Chief Executive of Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change Ms. Aisha Khan, Former World Bank president Mr. Shahid Javed Burki, former UN representative Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry, and Environmental Lawyer and Activist Mr. Ahmad Rafay Alam.
                    Delivering introductory remarks, Ms. Aisha Khan thanked all the participants for joining in the consultative workshop and described the strong relationship between climate and water, human health, infrastructure, the ecosystem, HKH mountain ranges, and the broad spectrum of socioenvironmental indicators in light of dwindling resources and an ever expanding population. Ms. Aisha Khan mentioned the NDCs, national climate change policy and its implementation framework, and the need for consultative exercises to work out ways to turn the policies into measurable actions with a collaborative “whole of government and civil society” approach.
                Dr. Saeed Shafqat in his remarks thanked the Punjab provincial government and CSCCC for hosting the event and mentioned how climate change was of a special interest to the Center for Policy and Governance at Forman Christian University. He stressed on the need for changing the mindset and approach towards climate change issues to those based on data, evidence and scientific information rather than spiritual theories and misconceptions.
                       Mr. Rafay Alam in his remarks mentioned the impact of modernism and urbanism on our connection with nature and the environment. Speaking about climate governance, he said the radical decentralization and devolution of powers from the federal to provincial governments through the 18th Amendment had compounded issues since the provincial governments and line departments were largely unprepared and lacked the capacity to deal with the bulk of challenging new responsibilities like environment and climate change that were handed to them. He further added that climate governance can be bolstered by enhancing provincial capacities to deal with the new challenges, developing TORs, and identifying departmental responsibilities to streamline their functions. 
                     Capt. Saif Anjum highlighted the commitment of the Punjab government to tackle the issues of environment and climate change and also stressed upon the individual responsibilities of the public to protect and conserve the environment and natural resources. He said that climate change and environmental issues were previously regarded as low importance matters and “drawing room/NGO talk” but the realities are coming to light as they are costing us in loss of life and property in the billions every day.
                Capt. Saif Anjum reiterated the need for coordinated and cohesive efforts for climate action using the “whole of government” and civil society approach. 
                  Dr. Tariq Banuri touched upon the scientific processes responsible for climate change by describing the greenhouse effect which is brought about by the heat trapped by a high concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere and the subsequent impact on the hydrological cycle including glacial melt, rainfall, and an increase in the spread of harmful organisms and diseases as well as impacting security and aggravating conflicts. He said that we are living in an era of “committed climate change”, an era where all developmental processes including agriculture, food security, and water management, have to be carried out in the backdrop of climate change.
                    Furthermore, Dr. Banuri stated that climate action was not just the responsibility of one or two institutions like the Ministry of Climate Change or the Environment Departments, but a collective responsibility of all Government, non-government and private sector organizations and communities. Mentioning the role of GCISC, Dr. Tariq Banuri said that since the GCISC Act of 2013, there was an enhanced need for focus on climate research, especially climate projections and technology to predict future impacts on water, food/crops, mitigation, climate science, impacts and adaptation. He also mentioned efforts to create units of GCISC at the provincial level.
                        Mr. Shahid Javed Burki laid emphasis on the rapid degradation of air quality due to industrial malpractices and rampant toxic emissions. He cited a WHO report which claimed that hundreds of thousands of people died annually due to air pollution. He also highlighted the role of deforestation in making the situation worse by giving an example of air quality and temperature indicators as recorded on his own personal electronic devices displaying radically different measurements for greener areas as compared to areas where there was no vegetation.
                          Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry described some examples of Bangladesh’s long term efforts for adaptation and mitigation including efforts to preserve forest cover, and how they may be introduced in other parts of the developing world. He also underscored the importance of the positive pressure created by a strong, informed and coordinated civil society voice and actions to force the government to perform its duties as mandated.
                     Secretary Syed Abu Ahmad Akif expressed the resolve of the Federal Government to support the provincial governments in all their activities and measures and to collaborate with the civil society wherever needed to address important subjects like climate change in an integrated manner. He described how present global GHG and CO2 concentration levels in the atmosphere were the highest ever in history and how these were leading to the devastating effects of climate change at all levels of development at national and provincial level.
                      Ms. Zakia Shahnawaz spoke about the need to reverse the alarming level of degradation and destruction of environment and forests that she personally witnessed over several decades. She described how rampant deforestation was evident in her recent visits to various parts of the country, especially the northern areas like Neelum Valley in AJK and Swat where mountains that used to be covered in thick forest were now reduced to little more than barren rock surfaces.
                          She also mentioned the impacts of climate change and deforestation on glacial melt and flash flooding, citing an example of the Attabad Lake formation. Ms. Zakia also mentioned the shortcomings of the provincial government and the need for federal government support and international development funding and assistance to make up for the financial and other constraints faced by the provincial governments in ensuring environmental protection and robust climate action.