Unprepared for climate change : The frequency and severity of the climate-related disasters that have occurred in recent months have been terrifying. Also alarming is the reactionary actions of our politicians. Most of the time they fail to understand the complex nature of climate change, and are presenting a few illusionary signs as policy goals.
Ad hocism has increased our vulnerability to climate change, and inaction impedes opportunities for climate adaptation, leading to irreparable consequences, referred to in climate talks as ‘loss and damage’. It’s time to act now, taking immediate, consistent and long-term measures to safeguard the Pakistani economy and people from the escalating climate crisis.
Pakistan must eliminate the three erroneous assumptions to ensure the effective design and communicating impact-oriented climate-related actions.
The first is that instead of talking about Pakistan as being among the nations most susceptible to climate changes, it’s more appropriate to call it one of the countries that are least prepared. Politicians often play up the vulnerability factor to minimize their own responsibility, thereby presenting as a fatalistic strategy. The “victim card” is often a target for government officials to deflect their accountability to minimize weaknesses.
Recognizing that we’re not prepared will increase the accountability and accountability of the departments of the federal and provincial government as well as the presently inactive local governments (LG) who are the ultimate responsible parties for the bottom-up adaptation planning process for resilience across the nation.
Vulnerability and resilience aren’t static concepts. They are terms that are relative that change in their magnitude or frequency as development interventions are implemented. To a great extent both resilience and vulnerability are the result of governance that is good or poor. A coordinated and systematic approach to development can reduce vulnerability. Preparedness for flooding by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is a success story.
In a large way it is the result of good or poor governance
The extent of the floods that swept through the country in 2010 caused Pakistan among the countries most susceptible to the impact of climate change around the world. It flooded one fifth of the country, afflicted 20 million people, and caused the deaths of more than 2,000 and damaged roads schools, hospitals, as well as other facilities. To deal with the situation, Pakistan developed an overly ambitious National Flood Protection Plan.
But, before the 10-year plan was able to be officially accepted in the Council of Common Interests in the year 2017, NDMA began taking preventive and preparatory measures to improve flood risk management , in collaboration with the key stakeholders. Through a variety of non-structural measures which always are less expensive, NDMA steadily reduced direct losses from floods caused by rivers even in times of monsoons that were extremely extreme. The threat of flooding from rivers hasn’t completely disappeared however it isn’t an easy task to ask Pakistan to initiate an inexpensive, consultative process to tackle the risks that come up annually.
The initial steps have slowly diminished Pakistan its global position in the top ten list of most vulnerable nations. This unaffordable spot is currently held by Philippines and Haiti which have more frequent tropical storms.
Although the risk of flooding from rivers has decreased, Pakistan still faces an immense number of climate-related threats which are typically present on large continents , or in large countries that span multiple time zones. For instance, Pakistan faces at least five types of flooding, in addition to the regular floods of the river (mostly during the summer monsoon but less in winter) Each category needs a unique, localized plan of action flash floods and glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF) urban flooding, torrential rains and cloud eruptions, both in rural and urban regions.
The causes of vulnerability can range between tropical hurricanes, seawater intrusions to the south, as well as snowstorms, heatwaves, landsides along with GLOFs and heatwaves that occur in north. The degree of vulnerability is able to be significantly reduced by low-cost, non-structural solutions in collaboration with the stakeholders involved — without needing to constantly seek international financial assistance. Every country is crying out to be systematically addressed for improved preparedness.
It is also an untrue argument to say that the issue of climate change is an technological problem in climatology, and only climate modelers can lead us. In reality, it is an issue of development that can be addressed through pursuing smart agriculture that is climate-friendly, energy, water urban planning, and LG issues. These are all provinces under the Constitution even though the federal government frequently oversteps these boundaries through cleverly utilizing interconnected layers of separate institutions and relying on weak capacities of provincial governments. It is clear that the 18th Amendment is an incomplete agenda.
It’s now a necessity for addressing climate-related issues. In Pakistan, the Planning Commission together with the provincial planning boards could lead the process, however it can’t be done effectively without constitutional amendments that guarantee that LG institutions are funded regularly, held regularly and are given specific mandates that are not interrupted. The basis of climate justice Pakistan must be laid within LG institutions to ensure equity and inclusion.
Third, it’s not true to claim that climate change is stabilized when developed countries cut their carbon emissions, while developing nations such as Pakistan concentrate on adapting. It is true that mitigation and adaptation are inextricably linked and connected. Each action has benefits for both economic and climate, and can contribute to resilience. Indeed, Pakistan’s first submission to the UN in 2016 was Nationally Determined Contributions particularly dedicated to adaptation. But successive governments have failed to create national plans for adaptation despite the availability of international financial assistance.
A quick look at budgetary allocations that have been made since 2012, which was the year the initial National Climate Change Policy was approved shows that development spending has diminished. The inaction of the government costs Pakistan the equivalent of 9.2 percent of its GDP, which is more than twice the size of the expected growth rate.
Pakistan might or may not be able to meet its expected growth rate in the economy, but climate-related costs will only go up unless climate-related catastrophes are considered to be a non-traditional security risk. This will require the development budget to increase to 2030, from 2.7pc to the same amount as we saw in 1972-77, which was 21 percent, according to the economist Kaiser Bengali in another context.
Climate change isn’t just an issue of north-south, although the West could — but won’t provide financial aid because it is the one responsible for releasing large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. The moral resentment we have for the West aside protecting the growing population of Pakistan is our obligation. If we are able to shed our false notions and beliefs, the better to strengthen our resilience to climate change.
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