by Aisha Khan

Q. How well is the Ministry (MoCC) prepared to participate in COP22 in Marrakech?
A: MoCC has started the preparations for COP22, including a preparatory event being held with the support of the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change and the French Embassy in Pakistan. As the Prime Minister of Pakistan has accepted the invitation by the Moroccan King, the Ministry will be making extra efforts to present Pakistan’s climate narrative at the COP effectively.

Q: Most people in Pakistan don’t know what COP is.  Can you briefly describe what it is, and who are nominated for participation and what is the basis for selection of delegation, and the end objective of participation?
A: COP is an official negotiating forum, in which officials dealing with particular issues participate to present the national positions on these issues. Participating delegates pursue the guidelines based on our official stance, and it is therefore imperative that only concerned officials participate in this event, so as to further the national interests in terms of climate change issues.

While the Conference of Parties (COP) is the highest negotiating platform under UNFCCC,  which includes 196 parties, it is a technical forum for discussion and decision making of the Convention. The stature of the COP21 was raised much beyond those of the previous 20 conferences, primarily because of the French Government’s effort to get the world to agree on the Paris Agenda and Agreement.

The nominees include high officials of the Ministry, and its associated organisations, like the NDMA, GCISC and EPA, as well as others who will add a definite value to their participation.

Q: What were the lessons learnt at COP21 and how are you planning to utilise them to improve the country’s representation?
A: Pursuant to decision 1/CP.17 in Durban, South Africa, the inter-governmental negotiations process for the Paris Conference can be broadly divided into two streams, namely: Work-stream 1 (Pre-2020 ambition) and Work-stream 2 (Long term cooperative action). In addition to these two work streams, COP/MOP also carried out its normal course of business and progressed on a number of agenda items under its mandate. An overview of issues and agenda items considered and decisions taken and summary of participation by Pakistan in both streams are discussed below.

a    Work stream 1 (Pre-2020 Ambition)

Scope/mandate under Work-stream 1 was to take decisions on enhancing the level of mitigation ambition in the pre-2020 period before the entry into force of the Paris Agreement. The decision on adoption of the Paris Agreement includes elements on enhanced action prior to 2020, which urged Parties to make highest possible mitigation efforts.

b    Work stream 2 (Long term Cooperative Action)

Scope/mandate under Work-stream 2 was to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, which was achieved by adoption of the Paris Agreement.
Of course, we will make an effort to improve the more public part of the country’s representation. We invite support and sponsorship of the civil society and private sectors.

Q: Pakistan was unable to submit INDC last year on time. Who is responsible for preparing the INDC this year? Do you think it will be submitted on time?
A: The Ministry of Climate Change, with the support of all relevant ministries and provincial departments, is finalising its INDCs and these would, God willing, be submitted in time for the COP22.

Q: What strategy did the Ministry adopt for developing the INDC? Was it prepared through a consultative process, or was it developed exclusively by the Ministry?
A: This study was developed under a detailed ToR approved by the competent authority. In line with the national stature of the document, a national level consultation was held in August and now the steering committee of the study is finalising the document. Indeed, there were extensive consultations in 2015, for the document which could not be presented.  This year’s exercise is linked with the previous one.  Any consultations that could not be held should not be viewed as an attempt to evade transparency (as has been communicated by some CSOs), but merely as a constraint that must be borne in view of the extreme paucity of time. In any case, while the INDC is termed as a “national determined”, all such documents presented to international fora by the government are primarily government owned, processed and presented. Due to a number of reasons, not every government document can be dissected and discussed ad nauseum.  

Q: How does the Ministry propose to monitor/track INDC?
A: The MRV process will be defined as per UNFCCC processes. 

Q: After the 18th Amendment, the environment has become a provincial subject. Do you think this has had a detrimental effect on environmental management from a national perspective? Do you think provinces and regions have the capacity and resources to deal effectively with the challenges of climate change?
A: The 18th Amendment is the will of the people, enacted through the parliament, in line with the Constitutional requirements. While all changes of such immense nature bring a number of problems in their wake, the amendment has provided an opportunity to align and clarify roles and responsibilities of environmental management at the federal and provincial levels, and as far as the provincial capacities are concerned, they have expanded and become enhanced across the board. Indeed, were it not for this change, these capacities would not have expanded.

Q: Water is Pakistan’s most critical problem. Does Pakistan have an effective water management policy? What measures do you recommend for surface and ground water conservation and efficient use?
A: Water security ensures our food and energy securities. The National Climate Change Policy has specific recommendations for the sector, which have further been elaborated upon in the Framework for Implementation of this Policy.  These recommendations are too detailed to reproduce here. I suggest that interested persons read through the policy, and its implementation framework.

Q: Do you see any likelihood of knowledge sharing, joint research or engagement on trans-boundary water issues related to climate change between Pakistan-India and Pakistan-Afghanistan?
A: These are areas of concern, and interest and should be taken up for consideration. The Ministry is cooperating and coordinating with a World Bank driven effort to develop regional synergies on cross-cutting issues, which affect most countries in the region - which does, unfortunately, suffer from some strong feelings between “distant neighbours”.

Q: The HKH region is the most heavily glaciated landmass after the Polar Region. Has Pakistan conducted thorough research to assess the impact of climate change on glaciers and its behavior?
A: An organisation attached with the Ministry, the GCISC, is conducting research on glaciers apart from other issues related to climate change. In addition, Pakistan Meteorology Department and WAPDA also conduct research on this issue.

Q: You have been engaging proactively with civil society to receive and share views and ideas on climate change. Has this approach yielded productive results?
A: Yes, we have had quite useful interaction with CSOs. Indeed, some well-meaning individuals have “warned” me of a perception that I am too much of an NGO-person, who is perhaps over-inclined to support such organisations.  But, quite frankly, such perceptions apart, I believe in the motto that the government and society rise and fall together. To some over-enthusiastic environmental CSOs, which at times see their role vis-a-vis the government not to be one of mutual respect and support but of exclusive zero-sum equations, I would like to say that it will be useful if CSOs define our respective areas of activity and mandate because this would strengthen the response.  Finally, there are certain things that civil society can do well, and others that the government can do well. But being an optimist by nature, I am certain that the work we can do together would be the best.

Q.  Do you think civil society can/should play an active role at Conference of Parties and other forums?
A: As noted earlier, the COPs, by their very definition, are conferences of state-parties to the UNFCCC. Yes, there are non-state party members of the UNFCCC, and thus COPs have a separate event for CSOs, which are not part of official negotiations. Those active in this area may participate in those particular events.

Q.  Some countries make civil society organisations part of government delegation at COP events to demonstrate national strength and unity but Pakistan hesitates to adopt this practice despite the fact that CSOs pay for their own expenses and are not a financial liability. To what do you attribute this reluctance?
A: First of all, to my certain knowledge, no State Party includes CSOs as official delegates. Hence, I would need hard evidence for the statement made above. It is not a matter of who bears expenses. It’s a matter of national stance and accountability. Government officials are paid from the public exchequer, and remain accountable for their actions – a situation that does not hold true for the CSOs, which are at best accountable only to their boards and donors. We have defined roles and should stick to these, coming together when national interest demands and working within our spheres when that is the requirement.

Q.  Are there any plans to engage civil society in climate change discourse through an institutional mechanism and utilise their strength and capacity to strengthen policy, expand outreach, raise awareness, build capacity and work as partners for a common cause?
A: I have excellent relations with the civil society of which, I am likely to become a part in about two years time, God willing. The Ministry does occasionally organise awareness events with different CSOs and other stakeholders. Off hand, I can quote numerous examples of our cooperation with CSOs, but this response will become too long. This practice will continue for national benefit. 

Q.  Is there any monitoring mechanism in place to ensure compliance of National Climate Change Policy?
A: Yes, The institutional hierarchy for this purpose is:

a.    PM Committee on Climate Change
b.    National Committee for Implementation of National Climate Change Policy
c.    Provincial Committee for Implementation of National Climate Change Policy

Q. How much does Pakistan spend on climate financing? Is there any specific plan for institutionalising the review of climate public expenditure and coding the budget?
A: Ministry of Climate Change, through UNDP support has initiated Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review study, with the basic aim to create a mechanism for climate financing and budget coding as part of its fiscal framework for budget planning. Their final assessment will determine our expenditure on climate change.