The Paris agreement

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Pakistan faces serious climate change issues

Pakistan is the 104th country to ratify the Paris Agreement. The agreement requires the state to keep global warming below 2˚ centigrade, which experts describe as the threshold for our safety

 

Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. It lacks the technical and financial capacity to meet the challenge, but our ratification of the Paris agreement shows our strong will to fulfill the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Pakistan is the 104th country to ratify the Paris Agreement. The agreement requires the state to keep global warming below 2˚ centigrade, which experts describe as the threshold for our safety. It sets out an era of global cooperation to solve the issue of climate change, and requires all countries to ensure environmental protection, and envisages a legally binding accountability regime requiring all countries to report their progress, every two years, towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These reports are subject to expert review. The agreementfurther recognises “the need for an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge”. It appreciates the specific needs and special circumstances of developing countries as to funding and the transfer of technology.

The Paris agreement is a significant achievement in the history of international environmental law. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was constituted in 1992. Itacknowledged “the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with theirrespective capabilities and their social and economic conditions”. The Kyoto Protocol 1992 extended the UNFCCC. Further progress was made in Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban, where state partiescommitted themselves to a new agreement by the end of 2015. This commitment is, thus, fulfilled in form of the Paris agreement.

The agreement demonstrates the ambition of the international community to protect the common heritage of mankind. The president of the natural sources defense council stated that “it sends a clear message to our children: we will not abandon you to pay the price for reckless habits that ruin our planet and lives. A crisis that took centuries to get here won’t go away overnight, but climate change has met its match in the collective will of a united world”. He said: “our challenge now is to transform the action we have pledged into the progress we need”.

The Paris Agreement enables developing countries — including Pakistan and India — to avail international support for the scientific knowledge and technology that can help us ensure our basic rights (i.e., clean water, fresh air, and pure food)

Developed countries are obliged to provide scientific knowledge, finance, and technology to developing countries. Article 9 of the Paris agreement states that developed countries will mobilise and provide funds to developing countries through a transparent and efficient financial mechanism. Article 10 requires all countries to cooperate in the development of technology and its transfer from developed to developing countries. Article 11 states that developed countries will support the capacity building of developing countries on the basis of their needs and priorities. It says that enhanced capacity building should enable the developing countries “to take effective climate change actionto implement adaptation and mitigation actions”. At the same time, it requires that developing countries will take action “to facilitate technology development, dissemination, and deployment, access to climate finance as well aseducation, training, and public awareness”.

Pakistan faces serious climate change issues including increasingly intense weather (e.g. floods and, thus, siltation of dams; heat waves and, thus, water shortages) as well as deforestation. Water security, food security and energy security are now critical issues for policy makers due to our fast-growing population.

The issue of water security is particularly acute. We may see ‘water wars’ between Pakistan and India or Punjab and Karachi. Quite recently, India threatened to revoke the Indus Water Treaty. Afghanistan and China are potential stakeholders in the distribution of cross-boundary rivers water in the region. Escalation of tension among water-stressed countries in South Asia would have disastrous consequences for poverty-stricken nuclear states.

The Paris Agreement enables developing countries — including Pakistan and India — to avail international support for the scientific knowledge and technology that can help us ensure our basic rights (i.e., clean water, fresh air, and pure food).

While fulfilling obligations under the agreement, Pakistan must now resolve to address the looming challenge of climate change on an urgent basis. The developed countries must also reduce greenhouse gas emissions as per set targets and meet the promise made in Paris supporting developing countries in scientific knowledge, finance, and technology. The subject of the environment must be taught at schools. The government and civil society should launch an aggressive media campaign to educate the people as to climate change and their role in keeping the environment clean.

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