On 16th March, 2016 Pakistan Climate Change Act was passed by the Parliament of Pakistan and then the Senate of Pakistan; with an objective to help the country progress and attain sustainable goals. New institutions were formed: the Pakistan Climate Change Council, Pakistan Climate Change Authority and Pakistan Climate Change Fund. Elaborating the role of the new institutions, Zahid Hamid Federal Minister for Climate Change, said that; Climate Change Council will be chaired by the prime minister, chief secretaries of Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK and representatives of non-governmental organizations, scientists and researchers as its members. No doubt it was a historic moment that such a good initiative was taken by the government for the first time; to reduce the dire effects of climate change.
Zahid Hamid said Pakistan was now the seventh most vulnerable country to impacts of climate change. But the question that now arises is that, the rapid development, which is now taking place now, will give the country the same position? There will be obstacles for the government to fully implement the climate change policy. Developments are mixed blessings, it can facilitate the country but along with that it has a darker side as well; if careful measures are not taken. For instance installing if a fossil fuel power plant will benefit the people; but on the other hand it will be equally disadvantageous for the people. So therefore the government has to find the alternatives such as solar energy and wind energy, which can plug the gap.
Although many bills have been passed by the national assembly but the question that arises in one’s mind is that how can be it implemented? Moreover it will be a challenge both for the civil society and international community to change the political will into real practice. This wide range of issues can be addressed through a systematic way; if the government works with the civil society and international organizations.
Role of Civil Society
Civil society can play a vital role in pushing the government to meet the standards of Paris Agreement. Apart from that the civil society allows common man through transparency and check and balance system. In case of Pakistan the civil society has more contribution in research works on various issues vis-à-vis the government. These research works can assist the government to aggrandize its effort, to overcome this challenge.
A way forward for Pakistan
First of all the government must be sincere in enforcing Pakistan Climate Change Act 2016, to meet the standards of Paris agreement. And rather than forming new federal bodies, the government should support the provinces in implementing climate change policy. Because it will not only help the provincial governments to enhance in their capability; but it will also help them to take quick decisions. Moreover the provincial governments should establish their setups in every district; especially those, which are close to dams, rivers and glaciers. This will help in disaster preparedness and moreover, early warning system must be initiated in highly sensitive areas to overcome any dire event.
The next step that government must take is that, it should only allow licensed industries to operate in the country. And along with that there should be hard check and balance system on industrial units. Industrial zones should not be established in those areas which have high sensitivity for climate change; for instance those areas, which have glaciers. And industrial zones must be established far from residential areas.
More efforts should be made in the areas like Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, which have biggest glaciers and rivers. And once the roads are disconnected due to any disaster in these areas; there is no alternative route for their mobilization. Thus the provincial government of Gilgit-Baltistan must be facilitated with more resources and power; rather than taking decisions from the federal; which only delays the process.
The government of Pakistan alone cannot gain the ultimate goals. Cooperation with international organizations is necessary. Pakistan should pave the way for international organizations and researcher. This will allow the government to enhance its capability, knowledge and it will also help in bringing advancement in technology in the country.
By Ibrar Karim