If the world is unable to control the ongoing process of climate change, Pakistan is likely to be one of the countries that suffer the most. The climate change risk to Pakistan has already been highlighted. No one in central Punjab suffering from the crippling smog would have any doubt about how devastating the impact of human action on the environment has been. But it’s a different story when it comes to any action being taken against our anti-environment interventions. With Pakistan on course to build new coal power plants, there is a need to take stock of how seriously the country will be hit by climate change, the impact of which is already being felt in terms of natural disasters in the country. Changing rain patterns, glacial melting and heatwaves have already become a regular feature of life in the last five years. Flooding has increased and become more and more unpredictable.
Confirming existing fears, a German think-tank, Germanwatch, has ranked Pakistan as the seventh most vulnerable country in the face of long-term climate change. The German watchdog has asked the world to push the global warming limit down to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The countries on the top of the list of those affected by climate disasters each year continue to change. In itself, Pakistan is 40th on the list of those affected in 2016 but the long-term prognosis is not good. On average, Pakistan loses around 523 lives per year and has suffered losses of $3.8 billion – or almost 0.6 percent of the GDP. Over the last 20 years, Pakistan has suffered from 141 extreme weather events. The impact of heavy monsoons has adversely affected the agricultural sector as well as causing the death of hundreds per year. The biggest concerns about Pakistan’s future have been raised over its increasing reliance on coal. The time to start acting against climate change was yesterday, but scientists say that we can still prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change. It is not easy to understand what to do about climate events, which are often put down to ‘natural’ factors. This is why the ongoing COP23 conference in Bonn on tackling climate change is an important one. The fact that global fossil fuel burning has hit a record high makes it even more important that global agreements on reducing emissions are met.
The criticism of coal has continued at COP23, which has compared the use of coal to the use of ‘tobacco at a cancer summit.’ It is the Trump-led US which is now at the centre of reviving a discussion on coal-based development. The need to prepare for the fight against climate change must be taken up at the highest level. A country like Fiji is going to need $4.5 billion to prepare itself for climate change. For Pakistan, we need a comprehensive assessment of the country’s needs in the face of climate change. This must be followed by concrete action.