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Examining Pakistan’s First National Adaptation Plan

Image Credit: Living Architecture Monitor
Examining Pakistan's First National Adaptation Plan

In July of this year, Pakistan came up with its first-ever seven-year National Adaptation Plan (NAP) spanning from 2023 to 2030. The plan aims to address the detrimental consequences of climate change on the country. Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populated country, makes up less than 1% of global CO2 emissions, yet it is currently one of the ten hardest hit countries by climate change. This initiative signifies Pakistan’s stride towards addressing the challenges of climate change.

According to the former minister of Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, “Pakistan is now on the world’s radar as a flashing hotspot for climate disasters, and when your house is on fire, one has to take responsibility.” Pakistan’s 2022 mega-flood affected 33 million lives and surpassed global monsoon flooding records. It was not a random occurrence that ought to be regarded as a natural event, but it necessitated a pressing need for adaptation. Besides, the cumulative effects of climate change could deepen Pakistan’s financial problems. They might cause Pakistan’s GDP to decrease by up to 18 to 20% by 2050. The Agriculture-Water Nexus, Natural Capital, Urban Resilience, Human Capital, Disaster Risk Management, and Gender, Youth, and Social Inclusion are the priorities outlined in the plan that must be addressed to combat climate change’s impact on marginalised groups.

Several individuals and procedures played a role in developing the adaptation plan. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) offered a foundation to initiate this process. The Federal Cabinet’s Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC) managed and prepared the process. Pakistan’s NAP aimed to enhance resilient development, mitigate risk, foster collaboration, ensure inclusivity, fulfil global commitment and promote sustainable growth to ensure equitable outcomes. The rationale behind the NAP was to develop the framework for adaptation strategies, integrate climate change adaptation into policies, initiatives, and actions, and implement those strategies for the vulnerabilities of climate to lower the climate risk, specifically strategies and techniques for planning and development in all relevant areas.

The adaptation plan mentions the need for strategies to attract climate finance, engage the sector, and ensure sustainable funding in the long term.

In an ideal world, Pakistan would have composed its NAP in 2012 per its climate strategy. Conversely, the country had been waiting for the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to approve its relevant scheme. Although Pakistan’s seven-year adaptation plan is well written and lists the significant sectors prone to climate change effects in Pakistan, it does have shortcomings. Pakistan’s earlier preliminary adaptation plans have faced criticism regarding how they fell short of their ability to comprehensively chart actionable steps for each identified goal and an authentic and genuine articulation of the state’s obstacles in its attempts to take those steps.

Preferably, the latest plan should have mentioned the policies and climate-related programs introduced by the previous government, which might disregard valuable insights, lessons learned, and progress achieved in climate adaptation. The NAP’s disregard for prior efforts minimises accountability, competence, and the usefulness of adaptation strategies, possibly contributing to a disorganised and ineffective path for dealing with climate challenges. This lack of continuity can waste resources and time as previous policies provide a guiding framework and baseline for the development of future initiatives.

It is interesting to note that the recent plan seems to have overlooked forest-related issues. Forests act as buffers against disasters and provide livelihoods for various communities in Pakistan. By neglecting forestry, the NAP fails to recognise the vulnerabilities of these communities and inhibits the development of strategies that involve sustainable forest management practices. Furthermore, forests have the potential to help Pakistan achieve its emission reduction targets and contribute to efforts in combating climate change. Besides, most of the climate data in the NAP is also not relevant to the 2023 climate situation of Pakistan. The plan also needs concrete action measures to address issues like agricultural contamination. MoCC should have conducted a fresh assessment and collected data relevant to 2023 challenges for the new adaptation plan to be more effective and beneficial.

In addition, due to the lack of a comprehensive consultation process with all stakeholders, including less involvement of non-governmental actors, essential input and concerns from many groups were omitted. The document discusses the NAP’s coordination of institutional roles and capacity-building system. However, it does not provide a comprehensive plan for developing the necessary skills and expertise among stakeholders. Despite countless pages of explanation on the bureaucracy behind the implementation of the NAP, there was little or no data available regarding various non-governmental stakeholders, their thoughts and concerns, or the mitigation aspects. Environmentalists have claimed this as an unsustainable practice, pointing to a lack of financial transparency, and bureaucratic control over the natural environment rather than of specialists and environmentalists.

Writing for the Times Magazine, former minister Sherry Rehman said that Pakistan needs $348 billion by 2030 to build resilience and sustainability in a climate-adaptive future. The Bretton Woods system needs structural reforms and $1.5 trillion annual investment in developing countries. United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provides up to $3 million in Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme financing to 35 countries, including Pakistan, to construct an effective adaptation plan. This shows how Pakistan’s relies mainly on foreign funds for adaptation strategies. Besides, the adaptation plan lacks an effective strategy for utilising private sector assets. The state needs a proper financing mechanism to promote climate change adaptation efforts. While it is recognised that identifying funding gaps and mobilising resources is essential, there is a lack of detail regarding how the various financing mechanisms will be utilised. The adaptation plan mentions the need for strategies to attract climate finance, engage the sector, and ensure sustainable funding in the long term. However, it does not provide information on these strategies or the necessary implementation steps. The relevant ministry intends to establish, fund, and operationalise the National Climate Change Fund. However, it needs to outline measures for doing so. Straightforward coordination methods are necessary for budget management, distribution, and administration.

Pakistan’s recent announcement of its NAP showcases the country’s dedication to creating a resilient and sustainable environment locally and globally. This plan goes beyond reacting to existing risks; it represents a proactive step towards ensuring a solid future. However, it is essential to note that this plan is the beginning of a much larger journey. Addressing Pakistan’s climate crisis requires more than a comprehensive plan; it requires active involvement from stakeholders like NGOs and climate ministries. The ministry should be commended for developing a plan, and domestic and international collaborative efforts are needed to implement it effectively.

Aimen Shahid

Aimen shahid is pursing her bachelor's from National Defence University, Islamabad. She is a research intern at CSCR. Her areas of interest are contemporary global affairs, climate change and peace building measures.

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