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  • Writer's pictureDr. Farrukh Chishtie

Establishing a National Climate Emergency Task Force for Pakistan

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Dr. Farrukh Chishtie


Pakistan, a country rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage, is now confronting an escalating climate crisis. To address this existential crisis, this article proposes a National Climate Emergency Task Force, which can be also considered for other nations.



Pakistan, a country repeatedly battered by climate catastrophes, is at a pivotal moment in its battle against climate change. The devastating 2022 floods, along with previous disasters like the 2010 super floods, heatwaves, and droughts, have highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to climate emergency management. This cover story proposes the establishment of a National Climate Emergency Task Force for Pakistan as a means to address this existential crisis, learning from global best practices and adapting them to the unique challenges faced by the country. I initially proposed this framework in the context of Canada from the Green Party of Canada platform and have adapted this proposal for Pakistan, given its increasingly vulnerable situation, especially to climate change impacts.


Speaking of which, Pakistan's vulnerability to climate disasters is no longer a speculative discussion. The 2022 floods alone submerged vast areas, displacing 33 million, inundating a third of the country, and causing extensive damage to infrastructure and agriculture. The 2010 super floods were a grim precursor, impacting over 20 million people and causing damages exceeding $9 billion. Frequent coastal storms, heatwaves and droughts further exacerbate the situation, stressing the country's water resources and agricultural productivity.


Disaster management practices: A collaborative and holistic approach needed


Pakistan's approach to disaster management is decentralized, with responsibilities distributed among its provinces. This structure often leads to fragmented and uncoordinated responses to climate emergencies. Unlike many developed nations, such as the USA where disaster management is more centralized and uniform, Pakistan’s provincial approach results in varying levels of preparedness and response capabilities across the country.


Moreover, the concept of insurance as a safety net in times of disasters is almost non-existent for the public in Pakistan. Unlike in developed countries, where private insurance plays a significant role in post-disaster recovery, in Pakistan, such facilities are either inaccessible or unaffordable for the majority. This lack of financial support systems exacerbates the hardships faced by affected communities, leaving them to rely primarily on government aid, which is often limited and delayed.


The Reactive Nature of Current Practices


In Pakistan, the prevailing disaster management practices are largely centered on responding to crises as they unfold. This means that the majority of resources, both human and financial, are mobilized after a disaster has already struck. For instance, during the 2022 floods and the 2010 super floods, the response mechanisms were activated post-event, focusing on rescue operations, relief distribution, and temporary rehabilitation.



While these efforts are vital in providing immediate aid and relief to affected populations, they often lack the foresight and infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of such disasters before they occur. This reactive approach results in higher costs, both in terms of human life and economic losses, and prolongs the recovery process.


Limited Focus on Preparedness and Mitigation


The current disaster management system in Pakistan also reveals a limited focus on preparedness and mitigation. Measures such as early warning systems, community education on disaster risk reduction, and infrastructural resilience are not as developed or emphasized as they should be. Consequently, communities often find themselves unprepared for the severity and frequency of climate-related disasters, exacerbating the impact on vulnerable populations.


Filling the Gaps: The Role of the National Climate Emergency Task Force


The introduction of a National Climate Emergency Task Force in Pakistan is poised to address these critical gaps in the existing disaster management framework. The task force, with its comprehensive approach, aims to shift the focus from a solely reactive model to one that equally emphasizes preparedness, mitigation, and response.

  • Proactive Planning and Risk Reduction: One of the primary objectives of the task force is to develop proactive planning strategies. This includes identifying high-risk areas, conducting climate vulnerability assessments, and implementing measures to reduce risk, such as improving infrastructure and promoting sustainable land use practices.

  • Building Early Warning Systems: The task force would prioritize the development and implementation of advanced early warning systems. These systems are crucial for providing timely alerts to communities, allowing for early evacuations and reducing casualties and damage.

  • Community-Based Preparedness Programs: By focusing on community engagement and education, the task force would empower local populations with the knowledge and skills to prepare for and respond to climate disasters. This grassroots approach ensures that communities are not just recipients of aid but active participants in managing their risk.

  • Integrating Mitigation Strategies: The task force would also integrate climate change mitigation strategies into its disaster management plans. This includes promoting renewable energy, encouraging carbon sequestration practices, and advocating for policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall, disaster management in Pakistan is complicated by the devolution of responsibilities to the provinces. This structure, while allowing for localized solutions, often leads to disjointed efforts and resource disparities across provinces. A national task force can streamline efforts, ensuring uniformity in response and preparedness across the country.


The Imperative for a Centralized and Collaborative Task Force


Pakistan’s current disaster management system, fragmented across provinces, has proven insufficient in the face of these escalating climate emergencies. This decentralized approach results in inconsistent responses and often delays critical aid and resources to affected areas. A National Climate Emergency Task Force would centralize efforts, ensuring a more effective and unified approach across the country. Here are some of the key functions in this framework:



Key Functions of the Task Force


  1. Strategic Planning and Coordination: The task force would be instrumental in developing a national strategy for climate disaster preparedness and response, coordinating efforts across provincial and local governments. The task force would be responsible for collecting and analyzing climate data, aiding in the planning, prediction and early warning of potential climate disasters.

  2. Resource Allocation and Management: It would oversee the efficient allocation and management of resources, ensuring timely and adequate response to affected areas.

  3. Inter-Agency Collaboration: Bridging various agencies like the Pakistan Meteorological Department, National Disaster Management Authority, respective Provincial Disaster Management Authorities and the Ministry of Climate Change would ensure a coordinated response to climate crises. The task force would play a pivotal role in facilitating this collaboration.

  4. Emergency Warning Systems: Learning from Canada's call for a universal emergency warning system, Pakistan too needs an independent public alarm system. This would ensure timely warnings to even the most remote and vulnerable populations.

  5. Community Engagement and Education: Raising awareness and educating communities, especially in vulnerable areas, about climate risks and preparedness measures would be a crucial role of the task force.

  6. International Collaboration: The task force would also facilitate international cooperation, learning from global best practices and integrating them into Pakistan's unique context.

  7. Building Resilience and Adaptation Strategies: The National Climate Emergency Task Force would not only focus on immediate disaster response but also on long-term resilience and adaptation strategies. This includes developing infrastructure resilient to climate impacts, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and investing in renewable energy sources. Such measures are critical to reducing Pakistan's climate vulnerability and fostering sustainable development.

In summary, the establishment of a National Climate Emergency Task Force in Pakistan is a critical step towards addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change. By centralizing efforts and adopting a strategic approach, Pakistan can better prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate disasters. This initiative, which can further be emulated by other countries, represents a commitment to safeguarding the nation's future against the backdrop of an ever-worsening global climate crisis.


Devolution: Recent history and Impacts on Disaster Management


Devolution Plan of 2001

  • Local Government Ordinance 2001: Introduced under General Pervez Musharraf's regime, this plan was a significant step towards devolution, intending to empower local governments.

  • Impact on Disaster Management: The plan had mixed results. While it aimed to bring governance closer to the grassroots level, issues of coordination and resource allocation continued to hamper effective disaster management.


National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)

  • Establishment: The NDMA was established in 2007, post the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, marking a significant step in institutionalizing disaster management.

  • Challenges: Despite its creation, the NDMA faced challenges due to overlapping responsibilities and unclear lines of authority between national, provincial, and local levels.

18th Amendment to the Constitution (2010)

  • Decentralization Efforts: The amendment was a landmark in Pakistan's devolution, transferring several powers to the provinces.

  • Disaster Management: This decentralization included disaster management, but the transition of authority and resources was not seamless, leading to coordination and planning issues.

Recent Years and Continuing Challenges

  • Efforts at Integration: There have been efforts to better integrate disaster management across different levels of government.

  • Persistent Issues: Problems with long-term planning, resource allocation, and inter-agency coordination continue to challenge Pakistan's disaster management efforts.

Pakistan's journey of devolution has been uneven, with significant impacts on its disaster management capabilities. While there have been institutional developments like the creation of NDMA and legislative changes like the 18th Amendment, challenges in coordination, resource allocation, and long-term planning persist. Effective disaster management in Pakistan remains a work in progress, requiring continuous efforts to improve local governance structures and coordination mechanisms at all levels of government.

 

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 Cover Story (Part-II)


The crucial role of developed nations in mitigating climate change

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Dr. Farrukh A. Chishtie


The escalating climate crisis, particularly in countries like Pakistan in the global south, has highlighted a crucial issue at the forefront of international discussions, especially following the developments at COP28. It is increasingly evident that developed nations must assume a greater role in mitigating climate change and supporting vulnerable nations in their adaptation and resilience efforts.



The recent environmental disasters in Pakistan, including devastating floods and other extreme weather events, have underscored the disproportionate impact of climate change on the global south. These regions are facing severe consequences, including loss of lives, livelihoods, and biodiversity, due to the climate crisis. This situation necessitates a global response, with developed countries playing a key role in addressing these challenges.


Most countries among developed nations, have seen a significant increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over recent years. With some of the highest per capita emissions globally, these countries contribute substantially to the climate crisis. Despite their economic advancements, the policies and actions of these nations have often fallen short in effectively combating climate change.


The global climate crisis calls for an urgent shift in policies and actions by developed nations. Moving beyond mere humanitarian aid there is a pressing need to tackle the root causes of climate change. This includes drastically reducing GHG emissions and phasing out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources. The goal should not just be to achieve net-zero emissions but to aim for net-negative impacts, with ambitious targets such as a 60 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.


For a successful transition to sustainable practices, developed nations must adopt comprehensive strategies that encompass several key areas:

  • Ending subsidies for fossil fuel industries and redirecting investments towards renewable energy.

  • Supporting the workforce in transitioning from fossil fuel-dependent jobs to sustainable industry roles.

  • Halting the development of new fossil fuel projects.

  • Preparing for the increasing number of climate refugees through appropriate immigration strategies.


The Importance of International Cooperation


The recent COP28 conference has brought to light the importance of international cooperation in addressing climate change. Developed countries must lead the way in this collaborative effort, not only by transforming their domestic policies but also by providing support to those nations most affected by climate change. This support can take various forms, including financial assistance, technology transfer, and capacity-building initiatives.


Gaps in International Cooperation


While there is much talk about international cooperation, there is little to no implementation. The gaps seen in present approaches are:

  • Financing for Adaptation and Mitigation: Despite progress in some areas, COP28 highlighted persistent gaps in financing for climate adaptation and mitigation. Developing countries have long advocated for increased adaptation financing, which is crucial for countries like Pakistan that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts. At COP28, more than $700 million was initially pledged to the Loss and Damage Fund, and over $85 billion was committed during the conference, including funding for adaptation, climate and health initiatives, nature conservation, and climate-resilient food and agriculture projects. However, the funding remains insufficient when compared to the estimated loss and damage financing needs, which run into several hundred billion dollars a year.

  • Lack of Clear Commitments to Phase Out Fossil Fuels: The final agreement at COP28 included a recognition of the need for a transition away from fossil fuels. However, many countries expressed frustration at the lack of a clear call for a fossil-fuel phase-out this decade, along with loopholes in the text that might allow the continued production and consumption of fossil fuels. This is particularly concerning for countries like Pakistan, where the effects of climate change are already being felt acutely.

  • Disparity in Contributions to the Loss and Damage Fund: The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28 was a significant step. However, the contributions to the fund have been inadequate, with the total pledges falling well below the annual damages estimated in developing countries. For example, the U.S. and Canada’s contributions were considered paltry in comparison to their status as major contributors to cumulative greenhouse gas emissions.


The Role of Developed Nations


Developed countries have a crucial role in bridging these gaps. Their responsibilities include:

  • Enhancing Climate Finance: There is a need for increased financial commitments from developed countries to support adaptation and mitigation efforts in vulnerable countries. This involves not only fulfilling existing pledges but also significantly scaling up contributions to meet the vast needs of developing countries.

  • Committing to Fossil Fuel Phase-Out: Developed nations must lead by example in transitioning away from fossil fuels. This involves setting ambitious targets for reducing reliance on fossil fuels and increasing investments in renewable energy.

  • Supporting Technology Transfer and Capacity Building: Apart from financial aid, developed countries can support vulnerable nations through technology transfer and capacity building, helping them to develop more resilient and sustainable systems.


Moving Forward


To address climate change in a meaningful manner, a concerted global effort is needed. This includes honoring financial commitments, closing gaps in climate finance, and moving towards a more sustainable and resilient future. While incremental steps are being made, as seen in COP28, there is a pressing need for more ambitious actions and commitments, particularly from developed nations, to support countries like Pakistan in their fight against climate change.

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