Climate Change Adaption and Pakistan
The early initiative taken by the incumbent Government was Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP), popularly known as Billion Tree Tsunami. Under the umbrella of this project over the period of five-year Khyber Pakhtunkhwa restored 350,000 hectares of forestland by natural regeneration and planned afforestation.
Pakistan is all set to host the World Environment conference 2021 on 5th June in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). It is revealed that Prime Minister Imran Khan will preside over the conference in Islamabad on the night of June 4. It is an achievement for Pakistan as this will be the first time in history that Pakistan is going to host any such conference officially. Fortunately, this year only 4 global personalities, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, have been selected to participate in this Environment Conference. Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, Pope Francis, and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also attend this conference.
Once we have a look at the achievements by Pakistan related to initiatives that have already been taken to mitigate the effects of climate change, the 10 Billion Trees Tsunami Programme, Clean Green Pakistan, the Electric Vehicle Policy, National Parks, and Green jobs are actually depicting the true vision of Pakistan. This conference was previously hosted by China and this year Pakistan is privileged to do the same. The day chosen for this conference is also significant since its World Environment Day on June 5. The day is observed every year to promote worldwide awareness and action for the environment or climate change.
This year’s theme is ‘ecosystem restoration’ and focuses on resetting the country’s relationship with nature. It will also mark the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030. It is also pertinent to mention that as per the sustainable development report of 2020 which is an annual global assessment of countries’ progress towards achieving the United Nations-led Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Pakistan has attained the ‘Climate Action’ SDG almost 10 years before the ultimate deadline. Proudly, it is not only an acknowledgment of Pakistan’s commitment to fighting out climate change, but also a recognition of the success of various environmental protection initiatives launched by the government as mentioned previously.
Historically, climate change is something which never been a key agenda item in Pakistan’s public discourse previously. Consequently, the gravity of the situation became more visible. Therefore, acknowledging the fact regarding climate change and initiating many projects was the need of the time. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan was the 5th most affected country by the impact of climate change during the twenty-year period from 1999-2018. The Index used a weighted score, based on climate change mediated death toll and loss to the economy (in purchasing power parity terms), to calculate a Climate Risk Index (CRI) score which was then used to rank countries. The effects of climate change are very much evident in Pakistan.
Due to mounting Greenhouse Gas emissions and a dwindling forest cover, Pakistan’s annual temperature is estimated to rise by three to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Unfortunately, this increase in temperature can rapidly melt the glaciers that feed Pakistan’s rivers, as well as can raise the sea level by the year 2100. This further can cause heatwaves, floods, droughts, and tropical storms, jeopardizing Pakistan as witnessed in the past too. The early initiative taken by the incumbent Government was Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP), popularly known as Billion Tree Tsunami. Under the umbrella of this project over the period of five-year Khyber Pakhtunkhwa restored 350,000 hectares of forestland by natural regeneration and planned afforestation. This initiative received global attention and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) confirmed nearly 85% average survival of the plantations. Later the same project was initiated at the national level by the inclusion of all the federating units with the aim of planting ten billion trees by 2023. The other initiatives of climate change have also received much applause and success. The forthcoming conference is proof of what all have been done so far with an aim to do much more in the future.