Efficient local governments imperative to tackle climate change, say experts


ISLAMABAD: Climate change is a real existential threat to societies, economies and ecosystem at all levels. The dire consequences of climatic changes have already been felt in the form of heat waves, devastating floods, water scarcity and droughts etc. All this happening around us and one can witness the negative implications at local level. Therefore, an effective, efficient and empowered local government system is critical to tackle the challenges of climate change.

This was the crux of experts’ discussion during the seminar titled ‘The Role of Local Governments in Tackling Climate Change Challenges’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) to mark World Environment Day hereon Tuesday.

Speaking on the occasion, Romina Khursheed Alam, Former Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change said climate change is the area where we all should play our due role religiously to protect our environment. She said small steps and measures at local level can bring bigger change at national level. We should capitalize on local indigenous solutions which could prove instrumental in tackling climate change, she added. Romina said it is about time to bring the environment into the main political discourse and all political parties must urge to include climate change as an issue into forthcoming election campaigns and in respective party’s manifestos.

Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, Senior Advisor Chemicals & Sustainable Industrial Development, SDPI on the occasion said that solid waste, especially plastic waste is one of many pressing environmental challenges, which is severe in large metropolitans. He said ten percent of deaths are caused by contaminated waste sites in low and middle income countries.

Following the philosophy of think globally and act locally, strengthening local government coupled with effective stakeholder participation is fundamental to deal with environmental challenges such as beating the plastic pollution, he added.

Dr Khwaja suggested establishment of Stakeholders Advisory Committees (SACs) at union council level with the mandate of assessment and awareness rising to address the challenges associated with environment at local level. He further recommended the industry to adapt Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) with three prong approach, waste reduction at source, reuse and recycling, for solid waste management.

Later, Irfan Tariq DG Environment, Ministry of Climate Change on the occasion said environmental challenges and its associated threats to lives and livelihood has now gained much attention of policy makers than ever before. He said after 18th constitutional amendment, most of the responsibilities and powers devolved to the provinces and then local governments. He said that the local government should be empowered enough to take small steps, which can be managed and subsequently scaled up, to cope with challenges of environment.

Zeeshan Naqvi Deputy Mayor, Islamabad said that despite facing funding constraints Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad initiated several environmental protection awareness raising campaigns and tree plantation drives. While highlighting the issues of Metropolitan Corporation, he said that the corporation is still struggling for its mandate and power, as there is tussle going on with Capital Development Authority on clear roles and responsibilities.