Why doesn’t Pakistan care about climate change?

Published: November 20, 2015

A temperature rise of 2 degrees or higher would mean rising sea levels, change in weather patterns, extreme storms, and floods. PHOTO: REUTERS

You may have come across news about climate change or an agreement in Paris in December, and ignored it. For many of us, this threat seems far off from Pakistan; but it is coming our way, and if we don’t prepare ourselves the right way, the damage could be insurmountable.

The threat I am referring to is one posed by climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are causing world temperatures to rise and if we don’t act to slow down, and eventually stop carbon emissions, our planet will become uninhabitable for our grandchildren.

People in Pakistan might question why this matters for a country like ours; it is not as if we are responsible for emissions. It is the western industrialised nations who have caused this, and they should be the ones to fix it. It would be partially correct arguing this. Unfortunately, we live in a world where laying the blame solely on someone else, and expecting them to solve the problem, is not a sustainable solution (in reference to climate change and elsewhere).

Climate change affects us all; from the mountains in the north, to the fertile plains of the Indus, to the deserts in Sindh, and the entire coastline in Balochistan. A temperature rise of two degrees or higher would mean rising sea levels, change in weather patterns, extreme storms and floods.

Yes, floods, like the one Pakistan had to suffer through in 2010 that nearly destroyed a quarter of the country and affected millions of people. Such floods offered a stern example of the threat that lingers in Pakistan and should serve as a warning to us. The floods were devastating and a stark reminder of how incapable we are as a nation to handle the challenges of climate change.

Adaptation to the effects of climate change is a big part of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. Negotiators from all member countries meet at this convention several times a year to discuss climate change issues.

Of late, these negotiators have been working to formulate a deal, to be brokered in Paris in December, which will provide a framework for countries to reduce their carbon emissions, adapt to the effects of climate change and arrange for finances – all while ensuring a fair and ambitious agreement is reached between all countries.

To ensure that each country played their respective part, all were asked to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that lay out each country’s plan to both reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.

The deadline to submit the INDCs was in October. Pakistan, however, submitted its INDC on November 12, 2015.

While the majority of other countries have put forward a plan that lays out how they intend to reduce emissions by reaching peak emissions, and reducing their current emissions, Pakistan has failed to make any such commitment. As an example, China has committed to reach peak emissions by 2030 and start drawing 20% of its primary energy needs from non-fossil fuels by the same time.

Bangladesh has committed to reduce its GHG emissions from Business-As-Usual (BAU) by 15 % in 2030 based on adequate provision of international support and Afghanistan has committed to a reduction in GHG emissions from BAU of 13.6% by 2030, conditional on international support. Pakistan’s INDC states that we were not able to measure our emissions and vaguely mentions that we may choose to reduce emissions in the future.

A major concern for Pakistan is not to lose access to cheap energy like coal. And while that may make short term political sense, the INDC provided us with an opportunity to explore a development pathway that was both green and sustainable and highlight such efforts as Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park.

The need to choose between development and a green economy no longer exists, and the New Climate Economy reports have shown that it is possible to sustain high GDP growth rates and become increasingly green. In fact, in the long run, especially, as fossil fuels run out, it would be more beneficial to switch to renewable energy to fulfil our development needs. For once, the government of Pakistan could have chosen to be forward-thinking and chosen a development path which is sustainable, both economically and environmentally. But, hey, who cares about the environment, Lahore is getting a new theme park!

Burhan Razi

Burhan Razi

The author is a development professional based in Washington DC. He is also a lover of mangoes. He tweets as @Raziburhan (twitter.com/raziburhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Psycho

    We are too poor a country to care about climate change…..Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    it does seem to care so much about the toilets in india , going by the commentsRecommend

  • cautious

    When has Islamabad ever done long term strategic thinking? Climate Change is a long term problem that even advanced countries with educated populations wrestle with.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Unfortunately the majority of the public are clueless about climate change or deny such a thing, which was according to some poll not too long ago. So there’s not much pressure on the government, or any initiative and forward thinking. Nor is there activity from the people to implement such green solutions.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Busy harbouring terroristsRecommend

  • Pro Truth

    we dont care, we will keep installing thermal power units without giving any attention to environment.
    We keep cutting trees too so we dont neutralise any carbon we produce.

    This is last thing to worry about in Pakistan where people worried about their next meal.
    But Government could have done with some sanity but that also consist of illetrate clowns.Recommend

  • Fawad Gilani

    India did not commit either except to a vague relative goal. Why do you not mention that?Recommend

  • Fawad Ali

    Country which wants to sell protected migratory birds, sells national animals hunting liscence and other animals hunting permits, how can gather courage to protect environment?Recommend

  • Pakistan

    In case you have not noticed we are at it since long and are almost there now. Behold.Recommend

  • Saifullah saifee

    It is lot easy to say things like that while sitting in Washington DC. For a country like Pakistan which lacks basic necessities for vast majority of its people talking about climate change is like advising a poor street child to eat organic food.Recommend

  • Gemini

    Here people are cutting tree’s to install billboards and you are crying about climate change? I have read in my school that planting tree’s is sunnah and now we have forget basic deeds of Islam which can make huge difference and stuck in the presence of jannat and hoors.Recommend

  • Jayman

    According to Islam this is not the real world. There is your answer.Recommend

  • Raghu
  • Poor Pakistani

    Please read UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s passionate plea on climate change- Dawn, 25 November front page. To quote him ” We have a moral responsibility to act in solidarity with the poor and most vulnerable…..” Being poor does not mean we have to be shallow and myopic. Thank you to all those who think for the better of Pakistan and the world. Please keep up the Good Work. A Poor PakistaniRecommend

  • http://mohammadsajjadhaider.blogspot.com/ sajjad

    according to Islam, cutting of trees is not a good act,
    according to Islam, we are advised to tread carefully on earth, leaving a small footprint
    according to Islam, the prophet (pbuh) said, do not waste water even if you are at a streamRecommend

  • Jayman

    Taking non-Muslim women as s-slaves is also allowed by the same religion.Recommend