Pakistan’s 5000 glaciers retreating fastest in world


Pakistan is categorised amongst the highly vulnerable countries to the adverse impacts of climate change due to its diverse topographic and demographic settings. Pakistan’s 5000 glaciers are on retreat. They are retreating faster than any other part of the world, according to new Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-15.

The country is vulnerable to a host of natural hazards, particularly of hydro meteorological nature, the frequency and intensity of which has increased due to climate change. The recurring extreme events that Pakistan has faced in the recent years carried significant climate change footprints. These included flash floods, cyclones, heat waves, droughts, glacial lake outburst floods and intrusion of saline seawater into the Indus River Delta Region. Pakistan suffered economic losses of more than US$15 billion during floods of 2010 to 2012.

The unprecedented floods of 2010 were described by the UN secretary general as a slow moving tsunami. More than 20 million people were affected and roughly 300,000 were displaced. Climate change is severely impacting the development aspirations of almost all developing countries. Although the developing countries do not have the historical responsibility for the present day challenges yet they are taking the brunt of its negative impacts. It even threatens the very survival of the small island developing states.

The sustainable development prospects of Pakistan are undermined by the climate change in multiple ways which has already entrenched with numerous economic, security and social challenges. While the ministry of climate change is working to avert these challenges for Pakistan, climate change is serving not only as a threat but also a threat multiplier. Above all, it is seriously undermining the gains achieved in this regard. It is inflicting huge losses to human life and property. It is also causing additional stress on the sustainability and access to natural resources both for the present and more importantly for the future generations.

The actions to address climate change should ensure the sustainable development and sustained economic growth of the developing countries and the universal elimination of poverty, hunger and disease. In Pakistan alone, additional US $ 6 – 14 billion are required annually to adapt to the climate change adverse impacts. Pakistan’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are low compared to international standards. In 20 08, Pakistan’s total GHG emissions were 310 million tons of CO2 equivalents. These comprised: CO2 54% Methane (Ch4) 36%; Nitrous Oxide (N2O) 9%; Carbon Monoxide (CO) 0.7%; and Non – Methane Volatile Organic Compounds 0.3%. The energy sector is the single largest source of GHG emission in Pakistan; it accounts for nearly 51% of these emissions and is followed by processes (6%), land use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) (3%) emissions and waste (1%). As such, the most important targets for mitigation efforts focused on reduction of GHG emissions are the energy and agriculture sectors. In the energy sector, integration climate change and energy policy objectives are particularly important. The buildings and transport infrastructure put in place today should meet the design needs of the future.

Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is very small, its role as a responsible member of the global community is very important in combating climate change – in mitigation efforts in sectors such as energy, forestry, transport, industries, urban planning, agriculture and livestock. Furthermore, appropriate actions relating to disaster preparedness, capacity building, institutional strengthening; and awareness rising in relevant sectors is also a part of this framework for implementation of National Climate Change Policy which has been developed not as an end in itself but rather a catalyst for mainstreaming climate change concerns into decision making that will create enabling condition for integrated climate compatible development processes.

It is therefore not a stand-alone document but rather an integral and synergistic accomplishment to future planning of the country. Despite being a low GHG emitter, Pakistan is bearing the brunt of climate change related disasters at a high cost to its economy. It therefore requires concerted efforts to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Number of measures are in focus to address both mitigation and enhancing various ongoing efforts and initiating new activities such as adaptation strategies, mitigation strategies, clean development mechanism and nationally appropriate mitigation actions.

The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency in coordination with international union for conservation of nature, ICUN and other partners had recently conducted the National Impact Assessment Programme (NIAP). The programme is aimed at contributing to sustainable development in Pakistan through strengthening the environmental impact assessment process introducing Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in national development planning. Based on the experience of NIAP, it is expected that interventions at the policy level through introduction of SEA, capacity building, development of tools, procedures and mechanisms and improved understanding of impact assessment processes, principles of sustainable development could be introduced into country policies and programmes.