A matter of policy
After the 18th Amendment, implementation of policy on environment remains an unfinished business with the provincial governments
Pakistan’s first (and only) National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) is still to be implemented after five years. Pakistan adopted a comprehensive climate change policy in 2012 which, two years later, was followed by a framework for action plan and a federal level monitoring/coordination for the implementation of the policy at the provincial level.
Globally, Pakistan is among the top 10 countries in the world considered highly vulnerable to climate change. This month, Pakistan has been ranked the 7th vulnerable country to climate change in a recent global climate risk index 2018 report.
The climate change policy mainly demands assistance for sustainable economic growth by appropriately addressing the challenges posed by climate change, in particular the threats to Pakistan’s water, food and energy security. It calls for help to increase the country’s area under forest cover and minimise the risks to the country’s population and national economy arising from the expected increase in frequency and intensity of extreme events: floods, droughts, tropical storms, etc.
“Implementation of the policy is a major issue because of various challenges, including lack of coordination at the federal and provincial level and disengagement of local governments,” says Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director, SDPI.
The policy demands to increase the capacity of national organisations and to make full use of new developments in science and technology for effectively addressing climate change and calls for identifying areas of cooperation.
Overall, the NCCP has more than one hundred recommendations, focusing both on adaptation and mitigation, relating to key sectors like water, agriculture and livestock, forestry and biodiversity, disaster preparedness, mountain ecosystems, human health, energy, transport, etc.
The policy also provides a framework for addressing issues that Pakistan faces or will face in future due to the changing climate. In view of Pakistan’s high vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change, in particular extreme events, adaptation (of measures) is the key focus of the policy.
“The vulnerabilities of various sectors to climate change have been highlighted and appropriate adaptation measures spelled out,” says United Nations Development Programme review of the policy.
“Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is very small, its role as a responsible member of the global community in combating climate change has been highlighted by giving due importance to mitigation efforts in sectors such as energy, forestry, agriculture and livestock,” it adds.
The UNDP has also done a climate change public expenditure and institutional review of the NCCP of Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s climate change policy is a comprehensive document covering all aspect of environmental changes and nearly eight percent of federal budget is being spent on climate related activities,” says Dr Qamar-ul-Zaman, former director general of metrological department and a lead author of the Pakistani climate change policy. “We have made some progress but we need to speed up doing more focused things in infrastructural adaptation and focus on helping provincial governments to take effective measures sin this direction,” he adds.
Another major challenge to this policy is the 18th Amendment in the constitution after which environment has been made a provincial subject. At the federal level, Pakistan has a climate change policy and a climate change ministry but implementation of the policy, actually, falls on provincial governments.
“Till now Azad Jammu and Kashmir has approved a climate change policy; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has formed a provincial climate change policy; Punjab is drafting a policy and action plan; Gilgit-Baltistan has drafted a policy and action plan; while the work in Sindh and Balochistan is on initial stages,” says Dr Zaman.
In 2016, Pakistan passed its Climate Change Act. According to the act, Pakistan Climate Change Council and Pakistan Climate Authority will be formed. However, little progress has been made in this direction.
Despite this, Pakistan is looking for more Green Climate Fund believing that “it has a considerable scope to gain a lot more and channel these funds towards the uplift of Pakistani people,” he says.
Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), says implementation of the policy is a major issue because of various challenges, including lack of coordination at the federal and provincial level and disengagement of local governments. There is no proper chain of command to follow the implementation, especially, in a situation when provinces are free to work on it according to their own choices. “We have to understand that climate change policy implementation is a multidimensional task. For example, in Punjab there are more than a dozen different departments that are related to climate change and need a joint strategy and proper coordination.”
He thinks that the NCCP should be taken as an umbrella policy and there should be more work at the provincial and district levels as a shared agenda.
“Usually, we bring up the issue of climate change as a priority when we are seriously hit by changes or affected at a large scale,” says Suleri, citing recent examples of smog in Lahore and heatwave in Karachi.
Citing another example of how Pakistan is doing with its climate change policy, Suleri mentions governments’ focus on coal-based energy. “We all know one of the major reasons of climate change is emission of carbon. The whole world is discouraging carbon emissions while in Pakistan we are opting for coal-based energy.
Recently, the chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has written to his Indian counterpart to jointly address this “aggravated and widespread” problem of smog that the people of Punjab have had to face over the past weeks.
In the letter, widely circulated on social media, Pakistani Punjab CM has called for a “regional cooperation arrangement to tackle the issue of smog and environmental pollution.” The World Health Organisation in 2014 classified New Delhi, situated close to Pakistani Punjab, as the world’s most polluted capital with worst air quality.
However, Faisal Bari, writer and senior teacher at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) says there is an externality issue here in Pakistani Punjab chief minister’s call for a joint strategy with India. “If India does something bad (more pollution), we also suffer as winds go across borders. And the same goes for Pakistan. If India does good in reducing pollution, we will be benefiting from their expenditure. Since I do not get full benefit or my good deeds and do not bear the full cost of my bad deeds, I under-invest in good and over-invest in bad things which results in too much pollution.”
Bari adds, “Coordinating on removing externality remains a problem too. It is in the benefit of both countries to coordinate but since there is no way to check if the other side is living up to promises, agreements have a higher probability of failure.”
He thinks that evolving cooperation on this issue will not be easy between India and Pakistan.
Bari believes that rather than doing such things, there is need for developing deep understanding of our issues of climate change. “Making policy in the area of climate change requires deep understanding of causes and what alternative do industrialists/agriculturalists/commuters, etc, have and their costs of switching. If the policy is made without understanding, it will fail as people will not switch,” he says. “And even if a good policy is there, we need a very good regulatory structure to ensure implementation. That is missing, too. I don’t see we can have good implementation at this point.”
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.