THE year 2015 will be remembered for two landmark global agreements. In September, UN member states endorsed the 2030 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Later, 196 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted the Paris Agreement at the conclusion of UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in France.
The year will also be remembered as the warmest on record with temperature rises breaking the one degree Celsius milestone above pre-industrial era average. A heatwave swept the globe including Sindh where 2,000 perished reminding us of the increased intensity and frequency of climatic events and its growing impact on development, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
It has been established that climate change is the consequence of Greenhouse Gas Emission (GHG) and is caused by human activities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report of 2014 pointed to an increase in global temperature of 4°C contrary to the initial estimates of about 3.5°C till 2100.
Developing countries are more vulnerable because of their dependence on agriculture and socioeconomic dynamics including their weak capacities to cope with climate change. In 2008, more than 100 million people fell below the poverty line largely due to food price hikes and low agriculture yields.
At the COP21 participating countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding climate deal that promises a global action plan to save the world from the effects of climate change by limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.
The COP21 agreement is indeed a diplomatic success. However, the intentions in the Paris Agreement and actual commitments in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by governments don’t connect. Estimates suggest that the combined impact of all INDCs, if fully implemented, will account for 86pc of the GHG emissions and will still result in global average temperature hikes above the 2°C threshold. Similarly, the intention of developed countries to mobilise $100 billion per year until 2025 is not only insufficient but also uncertain to be realised.
Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change though it produces less than 0.5pc of global emissions. Events like the 2010 floods which resulted in 2,000 human lives and economic losses equivalent to 7pc of GDP reconfirm that climate change is the most immediate development threat faced by this country. There is a clear and visible shift in summer monsoons trend from northeast to northwest by a range of 80-100 kilometres, threatening the agriculture sector. Frequency of other extreme weather events like cyclones, droughts and glacial lake outburst floods show that Pakistan is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change.
Pakistan is conscious to the threats. The National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) of 2012 outlines mitigation and adaptation actions. Pakistan is one of the few countries to have undertaken a Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review (CPEIR) and has established public expenditure and institutional benchmarks. Post 18th Amendment, climate change has largely become a provincial subject and provinces must now take the lead. It is encouraging to note that some of the provinces have already started initiatives such as the ‘Billion Tree Plantation’ initiative.
The deficit of vision and action remains widespread however. The INDCs put forward by Pakistan for the COP21 were considered limited and devoid of quantitative commitments and investment requirements for adaptation and mitigation. Using the CPEIR, Pakistan could have spelled out in detail its vulnerability to climate change. This would have afforded an opportunity to plead climate change-related needs in front of lobbyists, donors and negotiators across the globe. Pakistan can still revise its INDCs.
It needs strong institutions to implement its NCCP. A ‘whole of government’ approach including parliament, finance, planning and sectoral departments is needed. The medium-term budgetary frameworks of ministries should take into account climate change’s effects. The finance and planning institutions at the federal and provincial level should track related expenditure and progress. Provinces must integrate climate change issues in their growth strategies given its impact on poverty and social development.
Pakistan incurred $6bn climate change-related losses in 2012. It needs to invest 5.5pc of GDP annually for mitigation and 1.5-3pc for adaptation to address its effects. For a 15pc reduction in GHG, an annual investment of around $8bn is needed. Given the global shortfall in financing, Pakistan requires an overarching climate change financing framework which can help streamline budget allocations and ensure holistic response to the challenge.
So far the evidence affirms that no one will remain untouched by the consequences of climate change. Developing countries will be most affected. It is time to act together. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “there is no plan B, because there is no planet B”.