Framing Pakistan’s Climate Profile 2020-2030: Future Projections and Pathways to Resilience
Dec 09 2020 | 02:07:33
Aisha Khan, Executive Director, Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change, delivered the opening remarks for the one-day virtual conference, noting the continued need for dialogue and climate action as it relates to accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and limiting global warming to 1.5oC under the Paris Agreement. She highlighted that 2020 has brought to the forefront global interconnectedness and fragilities that must be addressed to chart the course forward.
Key Note Address
The Honorable Mr. Malik Amin Aslam, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, in his key note address to the conference participants, stated that Pakistan’s historic low emissions and high vulnerability to climate change necessitate policy implementation that balances nature-based solutions approach with sustainable development. Citing the UN Decade on Ecosystem Services, Mr. Aslam pointed towards the globally lauded 10 Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation program active in all seven federating units of Pakistan. He cited the PTI government’s commitment to renewable energy, noting that a shift towards 60% renewable energy by 2030 was now underway, as well as a 30% shift towards electric vehicles, and transition towards EURO-V fuel standards directly from EURO-II. Regarding the international level, he emphasized informal discussions with the Prime Minister and international partners to reduce Pakistan’s liabilities from mega coal projects signed under previous administrations, in a bid for clean energy across Pakistan.
Opening Plenary – Contextualizing Climate Risks
The opening plenary, Contextualizing Climate Risks, saw Dr. Abid Suleri, Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, bring attention to sustainable food systems and food security for Pakistan, arguing for the development of value chains (sowing-to-table), citing the UN Secretary General’s recent call for reducing the gap between the richer and the poorer. Specifically, he referred to the fact that 1 billion people go hungry globally while 1 billion tons of food goes to waste each year, and that gaps must be overcome to achieve the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. He sought to get back to the basic climate parameters, precipitation and temperature, at the local level, and incentivize markets to follow agro-ecological zoning plans of Pakistan in place since the 1980s. He elaborated on the need to delink water and sanitation from climate change, which alone is not the cause of national sustainability challenges. He emphasized the need for developing countries to frame their narratives for financing under the changing global dynamic, specifically post-COVID. Dr. Ghulam Rasul, Regional Programme Manager, Mountain Environment and Regional Information System at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), spoke on the cross-cutting nature of sustainable development in the Third Pole – the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH). He stated that it is the origin of 10 Asian rivers, supporting a quarter of the world’s population. ICIMOD studies point out that the varied and high elevations are particularly sensitive to climate change, and even within the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5oC-2oC warming, the HKH region will see higher warming, resulting in reducing glacial mass. He called upon governments of the region to recognize the upcoming water security challenges as a national security issue that requires regional cooperation, citing science diplomacy akin to the Arctic Council as the way forward.
Session I: Climate Impacts on Water-Food-Energy Nexus
For the session titled Climate Impacts on Water-Food-Energy Nexus, Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, Chairman, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), served as moderator. He guided the panel discussion by reminding the participants of the changing agricultural production scenario for the country vis-à-vis climate change, and reiterated the development of strong institutional arrangements to invigorate the water-food-energy nexus. Dr. Arif Goheer, Senior Scientific Officer at the Global Change Impact Study Centre (GCISC), made reference to multiple recent studies, deriving lessons from the latest suite of climate models, CMIP5/CMIP6, to elucidate the climate scenario, as it links to water and food security in Pakistan and the region. He noted the higher climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions over South Asia, as well as the rampant food insecurity and subsequent malnutrition in the country as critical challenges for Pakistan. Comprehensive studies at GCISC show declining crop yields due to shortened seasons and increases in net water requirements for crops. While climate change has an impact on agriculture, Dr. Goheer pointed out that the reverse relationship is also true – with agricultural emissions included in the national Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory process. Implementation of other appropriate strategies beyond the climate dynamic will raise the level of efficiency in the agro economy of Pakistan and the region.Dr. Arif Anwar, Head International Water Management Institute, Pakistan, elaborated on the uniqueness of the HKH region, in terms of its natural water storage capacity. Intensifying and shifting precipitation monsoon patterns, under a changing climate, now require smarter, more agile policies and management strategies that balance storage and release in order to build climate resilience. He added that distinguishing land and water rights for peoples and natural systems can clarify upcoming resource conflicts, particularly with respect to urban and agricultural water demand. Further, the domain of groundwater management remains little explored in Pakistan, alluding to a water price. Regional, national and subnational dialogue for water security of Pakistan requires making fundamental shifts in thinking on natural resources, including the promotion of natural resource endowments, and multi-disciplinary action along economic and social protection agendas. Dr. Khan concluded the session by informing the participants of the newly launched centers at PARC to develop speed breeding of heat and drought resistance crop varieties in partnership with Chinese and Australian authorities.
Session II: Disaster Projections and Socioeconomic Impacts
Session moderator, Lt. Gen. Omar Hayat, former Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority, introduced the panelists and highlighted the role of NDMA in moving Pakistan from climate vulnerability to resilience. Maj. Gen. Asghar Nawaz, also a former Chairman NDMA and currently serving as Managing Director of Fauji Foundation Power Company Daharki Limited, pointed to the hydro meteorological threats to the country, particularly the historic flooding situation (77% of all disasters), followed by geophysical disasters and then droughts. After the 2005 earthquake, efforts to move beyond the reactive approach and began formulating a disaster risk and reduction framework within upcoming international obligations. The evolving disaster management narrative in Pakistan faced another transition with the devolution of multiple subjects related to disaster through the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan. He contextualized the need for strong local governments to provide first responders the backing to respond effectively. We cannot talk of disaster risk management without mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement into our institutions. A meaningful intervention was the establishment of a fund after the 2005 earthquake came in the form of response, management and risk transfer, which created a holistic structure that is in line with the evolving disaster management policies of the country.Chief Engineer Ahmed Kamal of the Federal Flood Commission, with growing population, by 2030 our water availability per capita per day will be reduced to 645 Million Acre Feet (MAF), going further down to 561 MAF by 2040, impacting food security. Our priority must be water reservoirs of at least 10 MAF, which we intend to do through Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams, and two other small dams. We must ensure the provision of funds for these activities in line with the National Water Policy. At least 10 per cent of the provincial development funds must go towards the water sector, signifying the sector’s importance for the development agenda of Pakistan. This past year a 28 per cent investment from the PSDP has been made to the water sector, primarily to the two mega dams and for Balochistan. We must also ensure interprovincial harmony through water accounting to monitor the Indus River Basin. Further, an accurate flood telemetry system that runs through the river chain of Pakistan, in line with the upcoming Rivers Act. Twenty urban environments have been identified as vulnerable to urban flooding. Within this decade securing at least five of our large cities is critical to build climate resilience. Finally, groundwater extraction remains under assessed and unenforced, with 50-52 MAF extracted through 1.2 million tubewells. A regulatory framework is required to offset many of the other measures proposed.Mr. Ahsen Tehsin, Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the World Bank (Pakistan), outlined the future disaster scenarios under CMIP6 and AR6, but pointed out that their impacts depend upon the commitments of countries to recognize, act and investment on resilience and adaptation. COVID-19 has further complicated the balancing act that developing countries in particular must make. The key is for countries to continue to chart the accelerating warming and ensuring that pathways to RCP 4.5 remain in sight. Beyond floods, heatwaves are complicating multiple sectors and putting people at risk of poverty, reverse many of the development gains already made. He referred to the World Bank Hotspots Report, where the largest change in living standards on the basis of changing climate parameters. By 2050, 800 million people in South Asia are expected to be living in hotspots, under carbon intensive scenarios. But under a climate-sensitive scenario, the number is down to 300 million people (49 million in Pakistan). The key message is that damage is entrenched, but reducing the damage is a political and social decision. The discussion must also move beyond carbon and greenhouse gases, towards other warming accelerants, such as black carbon and its impacts on glacial melt in the HKH Region.
Ambassador Nadeem Riyaz, President of Institute of Regional Studies, thanked CSCCC for their joint initiative to have a discussion on this very important topic. He spoke on the upcoming resource conflicts under changing climate, and the need to address them in holistic manner. He clarified that climate security in linked to human security, and at their core, national security. It is a threat multiplier dimension that needs to be articulated with evidence, and addressed through national and regional level cooperation.
Session III: Climate Induced Demographic Changes and Social Destabilization
Lt. Gen. Tariq Waseem Ghazi, as moderator, discussed the interloping role of demographics in triggering climate vulnerabilities and, in turn, being triggered by climate change. In addition, dwindling resources under climate change impact the political economy, social institutions and capacities that lead to demographic shifts that we must be prepared to handle. Population growth and distribution must be better understood in terms of the strain they will put on existing systems.Dr. Zeba Sattar, Senior Associate of the Population Council, gave thanks to CSCCC for including the demographic aspects of climate change into the discussion on resilience needs for Pakistan. Population Council globally and locally looks at how to get more from people in an uncertain future. The Council has reclassified population zones of Pakistan based on basic climate parameters by temperature and precipitation impacts. Balochistan and Sindh are most severely affected by climate, with Karachi being the standout hotspot. A total of 65 million are projected to be severely affected. Differences in household size, numbers per room and children under 15 are key indicators for vulnerability for the districts severely affected by climate change, pointing to a need for reimaging housing infrastructure in Pakistan. Additionally, our national reliance on agriculture must overcome issues of sharecropping, contract cultivation and unpaid family help in order to build a sustainable agriculture system in the hotspot zones. A key element for building the human capacity and moving people out of vulnerability is through education, which remains a critical challenge in the more severely affected zones. These are factors link to rural poverty, where jobs need to be created to secure the populations and reduce climate migration. Prof. Dr. Saqib Jafarey of City, University of London, echoed the sentiments of previous panelists with reference to climate being a national security issue. Vulnerabilities extend into multiple dimensions of human development in poorer districts, and access to education and job opportunities remains a key investment for shifting populations from vulnerable to resilient. Many of the poor do not have access to far migration either. They are primarily migrating to nearby districts where job opportunities may be higher. This implies that the focus for future climate migration interventions must be on district level development for secondary cities of Pakistan. Dr. Jafarey also highlighted that urban centers are facing more intense climate threats. Our policies and plans are technically strong, but overcoming the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change requires implementation by engagement of government at all levels and the involvement local communities. The missing gap is social change, since we see human development as a human right, and not as an engine of economic empowerment and human resilience. Dr. Usman Mustafa, Senior Consultant with Pakhtunkhwa Economic Policy Research Institute at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, pointed to the effects on demography and the people from the various threats of climate change across all sectors. Crop yield decreases, changing water and energy demands, migrations, et cetera, all fall within the human domain. He posited that the primary mechanism to resolve many of these challenges in Pakistan is to raise the level of entrepreneurship across our least secure districts, to enhance the population’s capacity to engage in business, and to create an enabling environment to foster sustainable business practices. The basic role of an entrepreneur is to develop technologies, business models and services that create jobs and resilience at the local level. Climate services, sustainable innovations and funding to scale up incubated ideas are continuing to rise at the global level. Attracting that investment to Pakistan requires uplifting the human capital in the country as the center of enhancing climate response.
Closing Plenary: Moving Toward a Climate Resilient Future
Mr. Basharat Saeed, Water Resources Specialist at the World Bank (Pakistan) made agreement with the panelists that the water sector is central to Pakistan future development and climate resilient path. Revealing the intricacies of the current water governance system can build resilience not just to climate shocks, immediate and gradual, but also to other shocks. It is the eight lowest water productivity system in the world, with agriculture water productivity in the lowest 10 per cent globally. Water scarcity is an issue, but there are 32 countries with lower water availability than Pakistan who are doing better than us. The country loses $1-$2 billion annually to water-based environmental degradation in Sindh wetlands and the Indus delta. Water and sanitation remains critical challenges for Pakistan as well, linked to high disease rates. If we expect Pakistan to bring online an additional 8-10 MAF of water through storage enhancements, and if we do not address these inefficiencies, those investments are losing bets. Our water management system require more holistic approach. In Mr. Saeed’s mind, groundwater extraction is the most critical issue for Pakistan to secure in terms of regulation on extraction and quality (geologic contamination). Decisions to extract must be to the benefit of people and sustainability of groundwater. We need greater hydraulic controls for surface water use. Ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel, Chairperson of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change, delivered the closing remarks, thanking the team and panels to their efforts to provide a rich and comprehensive discussion on all aspects of Pakistan’s climate vulnerabilities and responses. Enabling communities and ecosystems to survive (at minimum) and thrive (at maximum) within the impacts of climate change. Knowledge, policies, institutions, governance, participation of stakeholders and resources to overcome the threats to climate change. There is a huge deficit of quality governance, which makes it impossible to translate the needs articulated by the remaining factors listed. The other major lacking aspect is the inadequate participation of stakeholders. The management of water resources and its protection in terms of quantity and quality ought to be our single biggest national obsession to grow our population, economy and ecosystems to deal with climate change.
· Steps undertaken by Pakistan have historically fallen short of the mark in terms of national adaptation to climate change, primarily due to a lack of political will to grow institutions under a holistic climate mandate.
· Recent increase in government commitment to interventions that bring climate change to the forefront are laudable. However, pressure from all sectors must continue to build if the climate ambitions of the country are to sustain to 2030 and beyond.
· Pakistan’s primary concern under climate change remains the water sector. The value chain of water must be articulated across all levels of government and sectors in order to facilitate effective decision making.
· Climate change must be elevated to a national security concern for the country in light of destabilization of transboundary natural resources and demographic changes. The devastating impacts of climate change require clear communication to all stakeholders.
· Mainstreaming sustainability into the regional, national and subnational development agenda is imperative to securing the population and natural resources of the country in an uncertain climate future. Particular emphasis on the HKH region can generate many lessons for the diverse responses needed for the rest of the country.
· A national consensus on economic growth and its links to emissions and environmental degradation must occur today, if the climate ambition of Pakistan is to align with the global narrative for sustainable development post-2030.
· Local level engagement can fulfill many of the resiliency hurdles. Enhancement of human capital is necessary to hold governments accountable to sustainable development to 2030 and beyond.
· The onslaught of climate change is exacerbating already stressed systems in Pakistan, but many systemic inefficiencies are not related to climate change. It is imperative that the links to climate change impacts are clarified, and where necessary, delinking of climate from the regular inefficiencies of the economy, environment and people must be undertaken as well, to enable effective decision making.
· The water-food-energy nexus presents a complex interplay of multiple institutions and markets. Capitalizing on the progress made in any subsector requires coordination that feeds from the national levels down to district and community levels. Knowledge generation through these activities must link to decision support that incentivizes markets to respond along climate resilient pathways.
· Technical policy formulation is Pakistan’s strong suit, but policy implementation must break out of the cycle of political transfers of power. The agro-ecological zones of Pakistan from the 1980s remain relevant even today, but successive governments have not stuck to the implementation frameworks already established, highlight weak governance.
· Reliance on donor-driven and international climate financing mechanisms alone will not secure the country from continual climate threats. Ownership, responsibility and accountability of national, natural resources requires crucial input towards the development of endowments that reduce the country’s international development finance needs before 2030.
· Entrepreneurship and a focus of climate services is the crux of the solutions-oriented approach that builds climate resilience at the local level and creates jobs. This provides the human security platform for our massive youth base by 2030 to respond to the accelerating climate threats by 2050 and beyond.