Experts, academics, policymakers stress measures to tackle climate change

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LAHORE: Oxfam in Pakistan and the Indus Consortium on Wednesday organised a “Grow Festival” to launch the Climate Public Expenditure Review (CPER) in Lahore.

Over 4,000 guests, including parliamentarians, environmentalists, academia, civil society experts, government officials and development organisations’ personnel, participated in the festival which was inaugurated by Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yaseen at the College of Earth and Environment Sciences (CEES) of the University of Punjab.

The vibrant event was full of cultural festivity, colours and a variety of cultural food stalls by community women from different districts of Punjab.

Speaking on the occasion, Provincial Environment and Population Welfare Minister Begum Zakia Shahnawaz said, “It’s high time for Pakistan to get fully prepared on the legal, institutional and policy frameworks regarding climate change using a bottom-up approach at district and provincial levels. Climate change is a big challenge to the world, and especially affects developing countries like Pakistan. The proper way to tackle the issue, at the government level, is to consider climate change an emergency and develop its policy, legal and institutional frameworks to mitigate the impacts on the vulnerable segments of the society.”

Referring to Oxfam’s research paper on climate change, Oxfam in Pakistan’s Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash said, “An Oxfam analysis of policies and public investments in six countries, including Pakistan, shows that women farmers are not getting the resources they need to feed their families and communities and adapt to climate change.

“While climate change affects us all, the risks of displacement are significantly higher in lower-income countries and among people living in poverty. The first priority must be rapid reductions in global climate pollution. At the same time, communities must be supported to build resilience to the impacts of climate change that can no longer be avoided.”

Speaking on the occasion, Bilal Yaseen stressed upon the need to fight against food insecurity in the country. He said, “Food security is a high priority for the government and we have initiated a number of megaprojects and programmes to overcome food insecurity issues with a special focus on women and children in the province.”

He added that his ministry will take the recommendations of the climate change study launched today to incorporate these in the policy and planning of Punjab and ensure targeted communities’ food security.

The minister further said that climate change was amplifying the risk of extreme weather disasters by increasing the destructive power of storms and floods. At the same time, rising seas, shifting rainfall patterns, droughts and other slow-onset changes were eroding people’s land, natural resources and security, and magnifying existing vulnerabilities. The impacts of sea-level rise and other slower-onset changes such as desertification are felt incrementally over time, with assets and security being steadily eroded, and communities having to face long and difficult decision-making periods.

Discussing the role that academic institutions can play in the face of climate change, Rawalpindi Arid University Vice-Chancellor Dr Sarwat Naz Mirza said, “Academic institutions can enhance their role and produce results with the collaboration of civil society members and communities. To get results with long-lasting impacts, research on climate change should be aligned with local issues and solutions which is somehow a missing factor.”

University of the Punjab Vice-Chancellor Dr Zaffar Mueen Nasar added to these views, “Research on climate change has sensitised us to take up the issue with more seriousness. The joint efforts of relevant stakeholders will give us the results and localised and practical solutions.”

He added that while it was essential to recognise the disproportionate impacts of climate change, it was equally important to recognise the crucial role of those most affected in driving solutions to climate change. Many countries that are acutely vulnerable to climate change are showing determined leadership and building partnerships in response to the climate crisis. This includes implementing ambitious renewable energy strategies and climate change adaptation plans.

Indus Consortium Chairman Jamshaid Fareed said, “Partnerships with the government, international non-government organisations (INGOs), academia, the private sector and local communities is the dire need of the time. Joint deliberations can fill the gap of unavailability of inclusive planning and execution of the programmes and schemes initiated at all levels.”

He went on to say that the growing threat of climate change required an integrated global agenda and jointly organized development initiatives of academia, the government and the private sector. Young university researchers should take the challenge of quality research and develop a vital link with rural communities and come with new climate resilient solutions.

Sharing the findings of a recent study, Ms Anila Bibi said, “Since Punjab is responsible for contributing more than 50 percent annual food grain, only 10 percent of increase in the agriculture sector for climate change-related activities and the massive decline in livestock and food sectors is alarming.”

She further said that in fiscal year (FY) 2015-16, only Rs10 million out of a total allocation of Rs50 million to the environment sector was devoted to climate change. Persistent advocacy enhanced the climate change-related allocation during the last FY 2016-17 so that out of a total of Rs185 million budget allocated to the environment sector, Rs99 million is dedicated to climate change. In the current year, Punjab’s government has increased the overall allocation to this sub-sector to Rs540 million out of which, 331 million is climate change-related. This has meant an overall increase of 234 pc from 2016-17 to 2017-18, reflecting the high concerns for climate change in the province.