Weather catastrophe



August 29, 2022

Shahmeer Kazi comments on the excessive damage caused by the current monsoon

The monsoon was never so lingering and devastating as the one currently experienced by Pakistan. The extent of devastation could be gauged out from the fact that the rain is reported as more than 385 per cent than the rainfall experienced in the country for decades. The rainfall has brought about a wave of death and destruction that continues making lives of Pakistanis miserable. Right through the length and breadth of the country floods triggered by heavy rainfall continue to wreak havoc, destroying livelihoods and sweeping away entire settlements, leaving death and misery in their wake. Despite warnings about the impending climate change, when it actually hit Pakistan, it caught everyone unprepared.

The matter of fact is that this highly unusual rainfall has come after spells of intense heat that was rated as one of the most severe for decades. Many climate experts fear that such extreme heat spells followed by intense rainfall may become the new normal and if that happens then the country may not be able to withstand such catastrophe for long. The current disastrous rainfall has amply brought to fore the weakness of the infrastructure of the country and the poor level of supplies and logistics and any repeat of such a phenomenon may prove literally fatal.

Pakistan’s actions concerning climate change have been marked by weak political commitment, reluctance to recognise that the multi-faceted effects of climate change warrant efforts by multiple segments of the government and society and, above all, inadequate institutional arrangements. Despite federal policy measures, coordination and coherence on climate-related initiatives between the federal and provincial governments have been conspicuously absent. Unfortunately, most problems emerging out of the current inclement weather have a dual basis: lack of political commitment and apathy of the support services.

Absence of an efficacious institutional structure has perpetuated Pakistan’s unedifying actions concerning climate change. Nearly all the 35 or so projects funded by the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) were proposed by the UNDP or other UN organisations with little inputs from the climate ministry. The same is the story of projects supported by friendly countries such as the 60 million euros clean energy project funded by Germany and the projects for enhanced climate resilience and water governance supported by the UK.

The government ratified the Climate Convention in 1984 but subsequently failed to take any substantive action as follow-up. Pakistan’s role in the global climate discourse has been insignificant while at home it has failed to implement the climate policy adopted in 2012. All countries are committed to take actions that contribute to the mitigation of climate change, such as reducing greenhouse emissions as well as adapting their economies to the adverse impacts of climate change. Climate initiatives should be shaped by credible assessments of the effects of climate change and comprise result-based targets.

The establishment of a Task Force on Climate Change by the Planning Commission represented the first serious effort to comprehensively assess the impacts of climate change on Pakistan and propose responses. The task force submitted its report, based on the inputs of several multi- disciplinary working groups but it took the government three years to produce a climate change policy reflecting its recommendations. Years after the adoption of the NCCP, most of its over 100 policy recommendations remain un-implemented. Recently, the government issued a revised version of the policy claiming, inaccurately, that it reflects the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015.

A fatal flaw of our climate policy has been to assign the small, poorly staffed and cash-strapped Ministry of Environment to implement the ambitious climate policy, in addition to following up on a dozen or so environmental conventions ratified by Pakistan for which it serves as the focal point.
The situation deteriorated further in the aftermath of the 18th Amendment, which devolved most of the functions concerning ecology and environment to the provinces. The environment ministry was marked for abolition but was saved by changing its nomenclature to the Ministry of Climate Change. The federal government has failed to ensure that the provincial governments implement policies made in Islamabad or respond to the smaller provinces’ complaints about lack of capacity for climate related actions.

In 2017, the parliament adopted a draft Climate Change Bill proposed by the climate change ministry, comprising a robust institutional architecture for climate related actions. The act provided for a National Climate Change Council (NCCC), headed by the prime minister and mandated to approve national climate-related policies and coordinate their follow up. It also provided for a National Climate Change Authority (NCCA) whose wide- ranging mandates include developing projects submitted for funding by the multilateral Green Climate Fund and a National Climate Change Fund to mobilise and expend funds for climate-related programmes and projects.
The most pitiable fact is that more than five years after the enactment of a truly promising legislation no follow-up action has been taken to operationalise it. This is where the situation stands now and, as could be seen, it is highly unsatisfactory and is mainly responsible for the devastation experienced now. There is the urgent need to quickly make up for the laxity shown up to now. TW


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