Ms Ayesha Zafar is currently pursuing her Bachelor's in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. She has authored multiple academic publications including research articles and book chapters. Her areas of interest include Middle Eastern politics, the geopolitics of Central Asia, and the Indo-Pacific region
Human beings across the world are experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels, heatwaves, droughts, desertification, cyclones, etcetera. The rapidly changing weather patterns pose the biggest threat to the sustainability of life on Earth. To address this, a global climate summit called the Conference of Parties is organised every year, and in 2021, COP 26 will take place in Glasgow, Scotland.
An increase in the discharge of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere due to fossil fuel combustion has led to a sudden rise in Earth’s average temperature. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe was 1.76°F in 2020, which is warmer than the average, thus making it the second-hottest year on record. In fact, seven of the warmest years from 1880-2020 have been recorded since 2014.
Apart from this, NASA’s Gravity Recovery shows that Antarctica and Greenland have lost around 6.4 trillion tons of ice since the 1990s. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increased by more than 417 parts per million in February and March 2021, while the pre-industrial level was 278 ppm, according to the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii.
Resultantly, world temperature is expected to hit between 2.7 °C and 3.1 °C of warming by 2100. Not just this, the global sea level rose by about 8-9 inches since the 1880s and its acidity proportion has increased by around 30%. Nevertheless, all of this is largely the result of human activities that have devastated the environment to the extent that the sixth report by IPCC has generated a “Code Red” for humanity.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres stated that the Working Group’s report was nothing less than “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable“. Although countries have pledged under the Paris Climate Agreement 2015 to keep the average surface temperature well below 1.5 °C (pre-industrial level), the report shows how difficult it really is for the world to maintain this limit.
Surging Global Temperatures
Instead, the temperature surge is most likely to cause huge havoc for the ecosystem. The extreme heat event that used to happen once in every ten years between 1850 and 1900 is now likely to occur 2.8 times in every ten years and is said to increase by 4.1 times every ten years if the world temperature hits 1.5°C.
Not just this, a total of 12 million hectares of land are lost every year due to desertification and drought alone. The Statistics by Swiss Re-institute estimated a GDP fall of 18% by 2050 if the global temperature rises by 3.2°C. Henceforth, protecting the environment is more important than ever since human existence is dependent on it.
It is time for countries to dramatically reduce global carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy resources. There is a need for an intensive, coordinated, and persistent effort by all stakeholders to find a way out of the climate change issues and to save planet earth from destruction.
Since human beings themselves have created such a crisis, it requires every single person to fully realize the issue and their duty towards the environment. Importantly, developed and developing countries have to accept the damage caused to the environment and should stand together in their fight against climate change.
In this regard, the upcoming Conference of Parties COP 26 that will take place in Glasgow, UK from Oct’31 to Nov’12 is a great opportunity. Giving hope for a better future, COP provides a mechanism to states for ensuring a sustainable environment. This climate summit will bring parties together from across the world to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the UNCCC.
Pakistan has shown its commitment to climate change mitigation since it is ranked among the top ten vulnerable countries due to climate change. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned that the temperature will increase up to 2.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades, and World Bank (WB) has estimated an economic loss of $3.8 billion annually due to climate change.
Therefore, to address such climate change issues, Pakistan has ratified several treaties including the Kyoto Protocol, the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Paris climate agreement-2015, and has been a key participant in multiple conferences of parties (COP) held each year.
In 2017, it passed the Climate Change Act that fast-tracked the measures needed for climate change and established a policy-making Climate Change Council, along with a Climate Change Authority and Pakistan Climate Change Fund to prepare and supervise the implementation of projects. This has helped Pakistan adapt to climate impacts and fulfil its obligation to keep global emissions below the 2°C thresholds.
Apart from this, Pakistan’s Ministry of Environment has developed a National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) that was adopted by the Cabinet in September 2012 to accomplish the goals set out in the Planning Commission’s Vision 2030. In 2018, a law was passed that established the Global Change Impact Studies Centre in Pakistan with a task to advise the government on climate adaptation.
The current administration of Imran Khan, which is perhaps ostensibly the most environmentally conscious government, has initiated multiple projects. In 2020, it passed the National Electric Vehicle Policy that aims for a 30% shift to electric vehicles by 2030. Likewise, a green stimulus package was passed in 2020 to build sustainable economic growth.
Moreover, Pakistan has pledged to source 60% of energy from renewables by 2030 and is looking for the creation of over 85,000 green jobs; it has also attracted $180 million in funding towards the creation of 15 new national parks. For adaptation, Pakistan has introduced a near-term action (2020-2025) led by the Ministry of Climate Change which will provide a framework for coordination within and among different levels of government for climate-resilient development.
Nevertheless, the most important initiative by the government is the launch of the 10 billion Tree Tsunami Program for over five years. This program is an important contribution towards climate protection and is crucial for Pakistan to accomplish goal one of COP 26 that intends to limit global temperature to 1.5 degrees.
The world has also acknowledged this initiative of Pakistan, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the world to follow Pakistan as an example. Moreover, Pakistan’s National Determination Contribution (NDC) report 2016, though not updated, has set a target of a 20% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.
Pakistan banned the use of plastic bags in 2019 and has started a Clean-Green Cities Index in twenty cities to trigger a shift towards improved waste management and sanitation. Also, the government has reserved around Rs. 14.327 billion in budget 2021-2022 for various ongoing and new projects of climate change division including the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Plantation.
Recognizing the efforts of Pakistan for climate protection, the UNDP report stated that Pakistan achieved the UN Earth Globe target 10 years before the deadline. Likewise, according to the World Bank’s Director, Pakistan has achieved the highest climate co-benefits (CCBs) during the fiscal year FY21 in terms of absolute value and has made the highest percentage of climate change commitments in South Asia.
However, since Pakistan is still undergoing development, the international community’s support in terms of climate funds is much needed. Around $40 billion is required to achieve its target of reducing emissions up to 20% by 2030. Thus, the Conference of Parties (COP 26) is an important opportunity for Pakistan, and the task force created by the UK in collaboration with other countries under goal three to mobilize funds would play a major role in Pakistan’s efforts towards climate protection.
The advisor to the Prime Minister for Climate Change, Malik Amin, also showed determination for COP 26 and stated that “It’s important to see Pakistan as a responsible country that, though affected by climate change in an unjust manner, is still willing to be a part of the solution to climate change and not add to the problem”.
Henceforth, the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow will open new avenues of opportunity for Pakistan to keep its determination high and ensure a healthy and safe future for generations to come. To conclude, everyone in this universe is in a state of planetary emergency with environmental problems piling up. Therefore, the upcoming COP 26 scheduled from Oct ’31 to Nov’12 is an important opportunity for states to unite together and find a collective solution to the everlasting issue of climate change.
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