Pakistan badly needs a new Climate Change Policy: Federal Minister Sherry Rehman

By Our Staff Reporter

Islamabad: Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman, took charge of the Climate Change Ministry today. Minister Sherry Rehman said, “Climate Change is a very important and serious issue, particularly in developing countries such as Pakistan. 80% of the urban population lack access to clean drinking water. Pakistani cities rank highly on the air pollution score in the world and one in ten deaths amongst children under five are caused by air pollution and 128,000 people die from airborne particulate matter yearly in Pakistan.  What we have seen so far are headless climate change ministries that fail to blip on the federal government’s own policy radar. We need to rethink our policies and coordinate priorities quickly.”

“First and foremost, a policy roadmap beyond planting trees is needed. At the same time, public awareness and community buy-in are crucial if we are to combat climate change as a nation. We need the Ministries’ priorities and policies to be up and running to focus on all key challenges, particularly the terrible damage caused by waste and pollution of all resources; behavior change needs messaging, in language that should also be easily accessible by the common citizen,” she said

“Our population needs to be made aware of the ever-increasing danger we face at the hands of climate change. We as a society don’t really understand that Pakistan will be threatened by even deeper social instability than it faces today without a public plan that focuses on action. Climate action is not just about planting trees, but much more. Pollution of our water and air, temperature rise, has caused incalculable costs to the country, to its soil, to its people and exposed us to disease and vulnerability,” she added.

Whilst the potential cost of climate inaction is varied, the estimated consensus is a shocking $3.8 billion annually. The Minister said It is the painful irony of climate change that those least responsible for the problem are often the ones most exposed to its ravages. Global climate change has been partly caused by greenhouse gas emissions by industrialist countries. Pakistan contributes only 6% of the world’s emissions, yet is one of the countries consistently ranked amongst the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of climate change. Environmental pollution, air pollution, smog eradication, water scarcity, public awareness, and a number of other key issues are among our policy priorities.”

“Pakistan is primarily dependent on the Indus River system as it supports 90% of our agricultural industry. It is immensely affected by climate change, resulting in frequent flooding. We rank third in the number of countries facing severe water shortages. Our four major crops i.e. cotton, wheat, sugarcane, and rice are all water-dependent. A number of challenges await the ministry in this regard and our focus will be not only on policy reform but also on increasing awareness so that the general public is aware of steps that they can take. Pakistan has been water-stressed since 1981 and the UN predicts we will be water-scarce by 2025. The water crisis is an issue that affects everyone. We must make positive large-scale and small-scale changes that will eventually lead to a more positive impact on the environment,” Sheri added.

On the topic of pollution, she said, “Air pollution has been one of the more prominent fallouts of overall climate degradation, particularly in Pakistan, where city centers become routinely choked with smog and thick layers of visible smoke. These consist of greenhouse gasses such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O) and particulate matter that combine in a lethal mix. The adverse implications for health cannot be emphasized enough. An AQI of between 100 and 150 poses a potential risk to children and people with heart and lung disease; Islamabad is currently at 104. In Pakistan, one in ten deaths in children under the age of five is caused by air pollution. Approximately 128,000 Pakistanis die annually from air pollution-related illnesses. The eradication of these threats needs to be of utmost importance.”

When speaking of energy conservation she stated, “The effects of our negligent energy conservation methods are clear when we look at the current energy crisis Pakistan is facing. We derive 64% of our energy from fossil fuels and only 4% from renewable sources. A number of efficient initiatives need to be taken.”

She concluded by saying, “We must consider the extreme potential of social destabilization that compounding vulnerabilities pose to the future, both immediate and medium-term. It is unfortunate that for 3.5 years our former government only focused on the Billion Tree Project. We are not abandoning the tree plantation project, however, our policies need to be more than that if we are to improve the quality of life. I will be presenting a climate change policy to the cabinet and advocating strongly for instituting a climate change council within 100 days which will maximise policy communication, input and coordination amongst the provinces on this existential risk to our country and its future.”

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