• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024
Pakistan’s Environmental Challenges and Policy Shortcomings – The Diplomat

Although Pakistan contributes only 0.9 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Although the Government of Pakistan has made commendable efforts in addressing environmental challenges through its current climate change policy, there are critical areas that require assessment and improvement. In particular, issues such as coal-based power generation, import of used vehicles, operation of traditional brick kilns, rapid urbanization and agricultural burning contribute significantly to pollution and environmental degradation in the country. A comprehensive policy reorientation at the national level is essential to effectively address these challenges.

Pakistan currently complies with Euro II and Euro III emission norms for gasoline and diesel fuels respectively. However, the country has made limited progress in implementing Euro VI emission norms. Also, plans and projects are underway to develop new coal-fired power plants, both domestically and through foreign investment.

Another major concern is the large number of old vehicles in circulation along with the lack of comprehensive vehicle scrapping programs. Traditional brick kilns using outdated and inefficient technologies cause air pollution, deforestation and environmental degradation. In addition, Pakistan’s rapid urbanization poses many challenges in terms of infrastructure, housing, transportation and environmental sustainability. Lack of proper planning and uncontrolled urban development strain resources, leading to inadequate infrastructure and further environmental degradation.

After the rice and wheat harvest seasons, agricultural fires, especially in Punjab, add to environmental concerns. Due to limited time between harvesting and planting seasons, labor constraints and lack of affordable alternatives for residue management, farmers burn crop residues such as rice straw and wheat stubble.

Industrial pollution, waste management, construction, urban development and indoor air pollution caused by inefficient cookstoves and dirty fuels are critical priority issues in Pakistan. However, existing mechanisms for implementing and monitoring policies in these areas have proven ineffective.

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Also, the government’s launch of billion-dollar projects such as the Billion Tree Tsunami raises doubts about the credibility of linking such initiatives to mitigating the effects of climate change and environmental friendliness. This and Pakistan’s heavy reliance on foreign loans raise concerns about the country’s financial stability.

Pakistan has sought support from the international community, especially in light of the devastation caused by the 2022 floods. The government urged developed countries to accept that the cost of climate change should be shared, as they are the primary contributors. Reconstruction needs for post-flood recovery are estimated to exceed $16 billion. Efforts led by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman received significant support. A generous pledge of $9 billion was made at an international conference in Geneva, providing much-needed aid for reconstruction efforts.

Despite these efforts, there is insufficient support and engagement from the Government of Pakistan in addressing climate change on the global platform. The level of engagement and clarity around the government’s commitment to addressing climate change internationally is unclear. Pakistan needs to take the initiative in international climate forums, intensify diplomatic efforts to secure funding and strengthen partnerships with other countries to collectively address this global issue.

Another critical shortcoming is the lack of a strong and dedicated institution to coordinate and integrate efforts among various stakeholders. Effective coordination and cooperation between government departments, scientific organizations, civil society and the private sector is essential for the implementation and monitoring of climate change policies. Establishing a centralized institute to bridge these gaps, share information and streamline decision-making processes is critical to a coherent and effective climate change strategy.

While current climate change policy focuses on mitigation and adaptation measures, its scope should be broadened to address additional factors contributing to climate change. These include deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, urbanization, and industrial emissions. The policy should include comprehensive strategies that promote sustainable land use, responsible farming practices, urban planning that prioritizes green infrastructure, and stricter controls on industrial emissions.

While the Government of Pakistan’s efforts to rehabilitate flood victims show commendable efforts, critical policy areas require urgent attention and progress. Increasing international engagement, establishing an effective coordinating body, and considering additional factors contributing to climate change will result in a more comprehensive and effective climate change strategy. Prioritizing these aspects is essential to effectively address climate change challenges and protect the environment for future generations.

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