Climate change figures prominently in Pakistan political parties’ manifestos

Ranked as the 5th most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index

Islamabad: After Pakistan was by catastrophic floods in 2022, two major political parties in the country have prominently highlighted the importance of dealing with climate change-related issues in their manifestos ahead of the February 8 general elections.

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Ranked as the 5th most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index, a UN report has warned that Pakistan will experience increasingly severe extreme weather events.

The total damage from the devastating floods in 2022 that hit 33 million people in Pakistan is estimated at PKR 3.2 trillion (USD 14.9 billion), with a total loss of PKR 3.3 trillion (USD 15.2 billion).

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But not just annual, large-scale floods, Pakistan has faced melting glaciers in the north triggering Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), record-breaking heat waves, droughts, forest fires in various regions and cyclones in the southern parts that have been exacerbated by the changing climate in recent years.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as its head, released their manifestos on Saturday and promised a multitude of things to their voters.

One common thing in both was the emphasis on climate change-related issues and the promise of many mitigation and adaptation measures. While the PML-N mentioned the measures under the section Building a Climate Resilient Pakistan’, the PPP had a separate chapter Green New Deal: Climate Resilient Futures’ in its manifesto.

The third prominent party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) headed by incarcerated Imran Khan, has not released any manifesto as yet, however, given its track record of implementing Billion Tree Tsunami’ as part of the party’s Green Growth Initiative,’ it is known that climate change is part of their discourse.

Before it was replaced by a caretaker administration in August, Pakistan’s outgoing government had approved a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) in July 2023. It sets out how Pakistan will deal with challenges brought by climate change. However, there are a whole lot of things that need to be done vis- -vis climate change.

Extreme events such as the devastating floods of 2022, which directly and indirectly affected 33 million people, exposed Pakistan’s vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change and weakness in the state’s pre- and post-disaster planning, including the lack of proper early warning systems. Both PML-N and PPP parties have addressed these issues.

“We must do everything to ensure that we increase our climate resilience and protect our people and our land from the dangers of climate change,” stated the PML-N manifesto.

The PPP manifesto said, “Our priority will be to not just adapt and shock-proof our people from the risks of extreme weather, but to educate and mitigate against the dangers of such global threats . to build resilience against the existential threat of climate stress, environmental degradation, pollution and waste.”

The PML-N, which gave the example of its 2022-23 rule, that had designed and initiated the implementation of the Climate-Resilient Recovery Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework’, termed the 4RF, said, it will continue e?ective implementation of this Framework in the government and envisioning a Resilient Pakistan by 2029′. “This commitment extends beyond immediate gains, ensuring a sustainable legacy for future generations,” it said.

After listing its achievements in the environment and climate change section for its previous two terms, the PML-N manifesto mentions Promise 2024-2029′ with 16 main pointers.

The list starts with a promise for clean air with various steps to be taken for good air quality, including trans-boundary cooperation between India and Pakistan to reduce the impact of crop burning dependent on the direction of the wind; speaks of a Green Pakistan Programme’ and banning plastics apart from proper waste management.

The document promises action for increasing forest cover; launching a National Adaptation Plan’ to enhance the country’s capacity for climate change adaptation and also mentions carrying out national environment conservation awareness-raising campaigns focusing on energy, water, solid waste management and air quality.

It talks of developing and implementing a sector-based Carbon Credit Policy Framework for Pakistan; 4RF (Resilient, Rehabilitation, Recovery, and Reconstruction Framework) to ensure transformative measures for sustainable climate resilience; incentivising climate-resilient agriculture investment and promises National and Provincial Action against Climate Change’ including disaster risk management and reduction, urban planning climate, ?nance and climate-resilient infrastructure.

On the other hand, the PPP manifesto spoke about bringing in policies that “will also aim to leverage renewable resources for cheap, clean energy to power the homes and schools and workplaces of the most vulnerable, protect our forests and wildlife, and to lower air and water pollution, as a priority for our cities and rural waterways while retaining our reform focus on gender inclusion.”

The Green New Deal will include building Climate Resilient futures on the ground “by climate-proofing all investments and infrastructure and by ensuring all upcoming energy solutions are clean, people-friendly and generate jobs for local communities.”

The manifesto promised that the investment in Pakistan’s public sector infrastructure including roads, communication, health, irrigation and agriculture would all be made with a focus on climate resilience; green energy parks harnessing solar power would be set up; climate-smart agricultural practices along with crop insurance and also climate resilient health facilities.
One important approach was to address climate change as a Human Rights Issue.

Pointing out that according to a UN estimate, Pakistan will be water-scarce by the year 2025 and given the increasing instances of dry periods leading to water shortage, the PPP also promised “comprehensive agricultural reforms” to enhance food security and to make the agriculture sector more resilient and sustainable in the face of climate change.

Other promises include scaling up the Living Indus Initiative for collaborative responses and action, from communities, corporations, cities, multilateral entities and governments; setting up a Climate Fund for Pakistan’ to facilitate and attract green investments in community adaptation, risk mitigation, disaster preparedness and clean energy transitions and sustainable forest management.

It also talked of a comprehensive water policy, biodiversity conservation and how restoring ecosystems across Pakistan’s mountain to delta terrain will be a priority.

There were at least two common things in both the manifestos. The PML-N manifesto, taking a leaf out of international climate politics, promised to activate and utilise the Loss and Damage Fund,’ established two years ago and continue and implement the Recharge Pakistan Programme’ for climate resilience through the Green Climate Fund.

The PPP manifesto emphasised Pakistan’s disproportionate vulnerability despite its minimal contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, and said, efforts would be directed towards the utilization of the Loss and Damage Fund to address climate-related losses and damages, especially after major climate events like the 2022 floods.

The other common thing was the green buildings and solarisation of all government buildings, especially educational institutions and hospitals.

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