Each year, Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd. It marks the anniversary of what many people say is the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring explain the detrimental effects of chemicals on wildlife, birds, bees, livestock, pets, and humans. Carson used it as an introduction to scientifically complicated and already controversial subject at that point of time.
Today, climate change has taken over the environmental movement. Environmental problems like air pollution, loss of biodiversity and water scarcity have been proven to be disastrous; yet we believe we can solve these problems as we progress. With climate change comes the threat of tipping points that can push the planet's climate system past the point of no return. Thus, runaway climate change is a much more serious threat than other environmental problems.
Today, climate scientists believe that an increase in global average temperature of more than 2°C will prove to be catastrophic for the survival of human race. “ … according to the U.N. organization’s latest report, temperatures have already risen 1°C as a result of human activity, and the planet could pass the 1.5°C threshold as early as 2030 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate,” says Justin Worland, Time.com. With climate change we have a short window in which we can act responsibly and try to save our planet.
In Pakistan, after the process of devolution, we now have the Federal Ministry of Climate Change that has power over the multi-lateral environmental agreements signed by Pakistan. After the Paris Climate Summit of 2015, Pakistan signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, which aims to curb carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement is based on voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for pollution. Countries that have signed the agreement have now indicated that they are able and willing to work together as a unified body which aims to strengthen their ability to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Under Article 4, the appropriate financial flows, a new technological framework and an enhanced capacity building framework has been exercised and submitted to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — now Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — of the 186 countries responsible for more than 90% of global emissions. The Paris Agreement recognizes that it will take time to work on solutions and we need to figure out a way together. We now have this comprehensive system where everybody has a stake. Pakistan’s stand is that we are more worried about the impact of climate change (adaptation) than what we can contribute towards mitigation. We emit less than 1% of global emissions. We might be low in emissions but we are high on the list of countries suffering from the impact of climate change.
Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy (NCCP), states the climate change threats to Pakistan clearly: “increased variability of monsoons; recession of the Himalayan-Karakoram-Hindukush glaciers, which will threaten water inflows to the Indus River; increased risks of floods and droughts; water-stressed and heat-stressed conditions in arid and semi-arid regions and threats to coastal areas due to sea level rise and increased cyclonic activity.”
This past December, Pakistan also became one of the first developing countries to commit to reviewing its NDC to global climate action before the Paris Agreement starts in 2020. Malik Amin Aslam, the advisor to the Prime Minister on climate change, has said that the revised NDC would include measures initiated by the new government, which will strengthen Pakistan’s efforts to reduce planet-warming emissions.
These programs include the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation project, which was designed by Mr. Aslam and first implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Now the federal government, under PM Imran Khan, has launched a nationwide 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project.
Mr. Aslam said the current government is also committed to capitalizing Pakistan’s potential for wind, solar and hydropower, as well as utilizing nuclear energy. With Pakistan now forced to cope with worsening floods, droughts, heat waves and melting glaciers, he continues to explain that the new government is working on a shift towards climate-resilient agriculture, plus an initiative to utilize the Indus River floodwaters for ecosystem restoration. In his words, “Pakistan must take action on the ground for the sake of its own people.”
The earth has already reached 1°C of warming and we are experiencing the impacts of climate change as extreme wildfires, record heat waves, crippling typhoons, devastating droughts, and thick air pollution in cities across the world. Imagine what will happen if we ever reach 2°C of warming. Scientists say that South Asia will be the region most impacted by global warming.
If countries, especially the big polluters like the US and China commit to cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 and achieve the target of Clean Power Plan (a state-by-state program to cut carbon pollution from the power sector), it will help make the planet a safer and cleaner place to live for our future generations.HH
The writer is an award-winning environmental journalist.
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