Feudal lords vs Pakistan’s climate change problem16 June 2018

This article was originally published by Daily Times, on 16 June 2018 by Syed Khuram Shahzad.

Climate change is one of our most urgent and complex challenges facing our world today, and human beings are the main reason behind this problem. The global impacts of climate change can be attributed to a set of common stressors. However, the magnitude of specific climate change impacts will depend on a region’s physical geography as well as its local socio-economic and political arrangements.

Low-latitude countries like Pakistan (24-370N) already experience high temperatures, and global warming pushes them further away from optimal conditions. Moreover, impacts of climate change are greatest in developing countries because they are less resilient and more dependent on climate change sensitive sectors, such as agriculture.

Over the last decade, climate change has become a major challenge for Pakistan’s economy. The temperature is rising at the rate of 0.06oC per decade and annual precipitation is increasing by 25%, generating droughts and floods. Extreme weather events seem to be more frequent; for instance, there have been devastating flash floods every year since the super floods of 2010. There were two super-cyclones in a single month in a single year in the Arabian Sea - an unprecedented event.

The increased frequency of climate-induced change has exposed the fragility of the social and economic systems in Pakistan, and the frailty of their adaptation efforts at both local and regional levels.

The 5th Synthesis Report of the International Panel on Climate Change warns that if no international action on climate change is taken and emissions are not stabilised, it is possible that significant warming will take place. This increases the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts on humans and ecosystems, creating vulnerabilities, especially in developing countries and sectors sensitive to climate change. The report further emphasises that “limiting climate change impacts would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a dangerous interference with the climate system”.

Over the last decade, climate change has become a major challenge for Pakistan’s economy. The temperature is rising at the rate of 0.06 degrees per decade and annual precipitation is increasing by 25 percent, generating droughts and floods

In the face of continuing climate change, adaptation will be needed to avoid long-term negative consequences and to maintain the capacity of human and natural resources.

Adapting to the impacts of climate change is an enormous challenge. It is also tremendously expensive. Developing countries have very limited public budgets, so policymakers at all levels are increasingly interested in engaging the private sector in climate change solutions.

However, while it appears to be imperative for private sector firms to help adapt to climate change, both country-specific resources and capabilities, and institutional arrangements influence the government’s capacity and motivation to adapt.

The Government of Pakistan remains unable to allocate an adequate financial budget to the Ministry of Climate Change. However, the World Bank committed $728 million through four major projects. These projects include a $188 million fund to acquire latest scientific forecasting technologies and install a state-of-the-art hydro-met and disaster risk management system. This can help Pakistan establish more efficient and reliable forecasting facilities. Subsequently, these facilities could help minimise adverse impacts of climate change and improve the adaptive capacity of natural-resource dependent sectors, such as energy and agriculture.

A second project worth$140 million is directly related to barrage improvement. This project focuses on improving the reliability of Guddu and Sukkur Barrages, and will ultimately contribute to strengthening Sindh’s irrigation system. It is important to mention that Sukkur Barrage’s water supply runs through 14 canals. It is expected that modernisation of Sukkur Barrage will increase the water-carrying capacity to 1.3 million cusecs, and reduce the possibility of flash flooding.

The $200 million allocated to the Punjab Green Development Program is to establish an efficient environmental system at the level of districts and union council. This is particularly to improve the climate change resilience of most vulnerable communities. In addition, the Punjab province is to get $200 million for 16 of its most populated urban cities. This project specifies certain terms of reference related to effectively engaging stakeholders and formulating required rules and regulation so as to improve transparency.

Notwithstanding the fact that these projects will pave way to improve Pakistan’s climate change adaptive capacity and resilience, effective planning will be needed. There is a need to understand that Pakistan is a developing country with adaptively inefficient institutions and weak governance structures of strategic factor market.

Political connections are important and ‘soft state conditions’ prevail; formal rules tend to be superseded by informal norms, values, and practices, which form a strong institutional basis for political and social behaviour. Over time, these conditions become a stable set of rules in their own right.

Read the full article on Daily Times.