by Aisha Khan

Q. What is Pakistan’s national narrative on climate change?
A: Pakistan’s per capita emission of green-house gases is one of the lowest in the world; hence our contribution to global warming is minimal. Yet we are one of the worst sufferers from its adverse effects, including glacial melt, erratic monsoon rains, recurrent floods, sea-level rise /saline water intrusion, droughts, and desertification.  Pakistan is ranked in the “extremely vulnerable” category by a host of climate change indices. According to the latest report from German Watch, Pakistan is the 8th most vulnerable country in the world from the effects of climate change.

Q. Do you think that the government is attaching enough importance to the subject of climate change?
A: The Government of Pakistan has attached a very high priority to the adaptation and mitigation measures required to combat the adverse effects of climate change.
A dedicated Ministry of Climate Change has been established at the national level, with Global Change Impact Study Centre as its research arm. This is much more than most countries in the world can claim.

Soon after taking office in 2013, the Government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prepared a Framework for Implementation of the National Climate Change Policy (2014-2030), which lists the adaptation and mitigation actions to be taken, by specified authorities, in four time-frames: priority, short term, medium term and long term.  On the legislative side a new statute titled “Pakistan Climate Change Act, 2016” is on the anvil and is likely to be finalized soon.
To address natural disasters due to extreme climatic events, the National Disaster Management Authority, and the Provincial and District Authorities (PDMAs and DDMAs) have been strengthened and made more effective.

At the international level, we are committed to the multi-lateral processes dealing with climate change under UN auspices and have initiated action for ratification of the Paris Agreement, 2015 for implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Q. What strategy will Pakistan adopt to leverage its concerns at the COP 22 negotiations?
A: COP21 in Paris was an “Agreement COP”.  COP22 in Marrakesh is expected to be an “Implementation COP”. We hope and expect that the onerous task of developing modalities and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement would be initiated in this COP.

In particular, we would like to see concrete progress regarding the financial commitments made by developed countries to assist developing countries to meet their contributions.

We hope that a mechanism will be put in place soon which would enable vulnerable countries such as Pakistan to easily access the huge amount of global finance likely to be made available in coming years.

Q. Last year Pakistan was unable to submit its INDC on time. Is Pakistan ready to submit its INDC on time this year?
A: Last year, Pakistan could not prepare detailed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) before COP21, due to non-availability of reliable data, especially regarding projects being set up under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

We have since commissioned an expert study for this purpose and on the basis of its report are finalizing the detailed INDCs, which we will forward to the UNFCCC Secretariat before COP22.

Q. Can you please share some of the major issues that Pakistan proposes to highlight in the INDC?
A: While I would not like to pre-empt launch of the INDCs, which is likely to be soon, our report has followed the format prescribed by the UNFCCC and the five major sectors.

Obviously, we will highlight our extreme vulnerability to climate change, the forced adaptation situation we find ourselves in, along with the mitigation potential and the sectoral abatement costs.

Q. What in your opinion is the most important aspect of climate change that will affect Pakistan and what measures is the government taking to build resilience and reduce vulnerability?
A: As mentioned above, Pakistan faces threats from a number of climate-induced disasters. A Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy is in place with the primary objective to build resilience in the affected communities. An institutional mechanism from federal to local level (NDMA, PDMAs and DDMAs) has been developed and operationalized.

Q. Does the government have any plans to create a mechanism for climate financing and budget coding as part of its fiscal framework for budget planning?
A: The Ministry of Climate Change has initiated, with UNDP support, a Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review study with the basic aim of creating a mechanism for climate financing and budget coding as part of its fiscal framework for budget planning.

Q. Do you think that a country, such as Pakistan, with a vast topographical range, varied geography and climatic extremes needs a single approach to adaptation or a strategy that is place based and people centric?
A: Pakistan is a multi-eco system country ranging from high mountainous regions in the north to deep seas in the south, and from fertile plains to barren deserts.

Obviously, a one-track approach cannot address all eco-regions. While the Climate Change Policy and its Framework for Implementation are comprehensive documents, the Provincial Governments are also being encouraged to develop strategies and action plans in accordance with their ecological and developmental needs to specifically address climate change issues relevant to their particular physical jurisdiction. Naturally, these strategies and plans will be more place-based and people-centric.

Q. Is the government taking any steps to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of un-served and under-served communities living in the mountain, arid and semi-arid regions of the country?
A: The basic aim of the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods Project implemented by the Government of Pakistan through Adaptation Fund of UNFCCC was to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of mountain communities. Similar projects are being prepared for arid and semi arid regions.

Q. How much is Pakistan likely to get affected by hydrological imbalance triggered by climate change?
A: Pakistan has progressed from a water-affluent to a water-stressed country and is heading towards the water-scarce list.  Water resources are inextricably linked with climate and the projected climate change will further exacerbate this issue. Climate projections for Pakistan suggest decrease in glacier volume, increase in formation and bursts of glacial lakes, alterations in the seasonal flow of the rivers, irregular monsoon rains causing frequent floods and droughts.

These trends will have a significant adverse effect on the country’s water resources, already under stress due to population growth and increasing economic activities. Water shortage will of course negatively impact our energy and food securities.

Q. Pakistan emits less than 1% of global carbon emissions but pays a heavy cost in loss and damage. Is Pakistan going to demand climate justice at COP22?
A: Of course, we will raise the question of compensation for Loss and Damage, but that initiative is still in the formative stage.

Q.  What are the anticipated threats to environmental degradation as a result of activities related to CPEC and what mitigation measures are being taken to address this?
A: In accordance with procedures prescribed under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997, and similar provincial laws, a CPEC project, like any other development project, will undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment.

This Assessment also includes preparation of Environmental Management Plans, whose objective is to mitigate the impacts on environment.

Q. Climate change is a multi-dimensional and mulit-sectoral subject. Does the government have any plans to make the process of policy planning more participatory, inclusive and gender responsive?
A: The Policy in vogue was developed in consultation with as many stakeholders as was possible at the time. To be specific, 34 consultative workshops were held all over Pakistan.  Large numbers of stakeholders have been mentioned in the acknowledgement.

Q. What are the steps that the government can take at the local level to arrest environmental degradation that contributes to climate change?
A: Renewable energy, waste and transport are the sectors which have local implications. Local solutions like low carbon and renewable energy options like solar, scientific waste management at household level and mass transport usage can prove to be good options.

Q. Do you think that Pakistan will be able to play a meaningful role in the upcoming SAARC Summit to initiate a regional dialogue on climate change and reach agreements that are realistic and achievable?
A: Since there are no differences among the SAARC countries regarding environment and climate change, Pakistan is hopeful that the outcome of the SAARC Summit would be positive.

Q. What does Pakistan hope to achieve in Marrakech?
 A: In Marrakesh we will not only describe the adverse effects and highlight the colossal damages suffered by us in every sector of the economy during the last several years due to climate change but will also seek the support and assistance of the world community for our policies and plans, containing the adaptation and mitigation projects and measures prepared by us.