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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Oct 8, 2013

Experts call for steps to cope with challenges

Pakistan needs a better institutional framework to
address its vulnerability to climate change, speakers said at a seminar
on Monday.

The seminar, "Climate Change Repercussions for Pakistan," was
organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in
connection with an assessment report recently released by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Speakers said Pakistan was a "major victim" of climate change even
though it does not significantly world greenhouse gas emissions. They
said water availability, food security and human healthcare most likely
to be negatively affected by climate change effects such as erratic
weather patterns, changing rainfall trends and extreme weather events
including floods.

But the biggest issue was that the country lacks the institutional capacity to deal with these challenges.

"The institutional framework to combat climate change is weak,
fragmented and ill-resourced," said Shafqat Kakakhel, chairperson of
SDPI’s board of governors and former deputy executive director of the
United Nations Environment Programme. "We urgently need an office at the
federal level to deal with climate change issues, which has tentacles
in the provinces and federal ministries in cross-cutting areas such as
water, agriculture and health," Kakakhel said. "The existing climate
change division requires drastic restructuring.” Speakers said
transferring civil servants from one department to another would not
work as technical experts are required for the climate change division.

Earlier, Climate and Development Knowledge Network’s Asia Programme
Deputy Director Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry and Dr Mohsin Iqbal briefed
participants about an assessment report by Working Group I of the IPCC, a
United Nations body. Chaudhry said the IPCC report stated that human
activities led to an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and
consequently global warming.

Iqbal, head of the Agriculture and Coordination section at the Global
Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), said if the greenhouse gas
emissions are not checked, rise in global temperature would lead to more
extreme weather events.

Changes in precipitation levels, potential melting of glaciers in
Pakistan which have so far shown stability and unpredictable variations
in the monsoon will affect the supply of water in the Indus, experts
said. Consequently, crop yields and capacity for hydropower projects
will be reduced.

Speakers said Pakistan could try to access global funds available for
climate change adaptation and mitigation, but first the country needed a
“robust institutional framework.” They said studies about the impact of
climate change are available in the form of the National Climate Change
Policy and work by non-governmental organisations. But a policy
document is as good as its implementation, they said, and Pakistan has
done miserably on the implementation front.

Iqbal told The Express Tribune that the GCISC’s research is
shared with the Climate Change division and policymakers but its impact
remains to be seen in terms of concrete steps taken by the government.

"Slowly and steadily, a global movement is developing to tackle
climate change and Pakistan must prepare itself to become a part of the
process," Kakakhel said.