Pakistan is among the countries that is being most impacted by climate change, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said on Monday, as she confirmed the formation of a Climate Change Task Force to coordinate policymaking between the federal and provincial governments.
Addressing a press conference alongside National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz, and Climate Change Additional Secretary Jodat Ayaz, she said that Pakistan was responsible for less than 1 percent of global emissions, but was facing the worst of global warming due to the actions of other countries.
According to Rehman, the government must undertake several initiatives to mitigate the impact of climate change. Noting that the prevailing nationwide heatwave was a consequence of climate change, she regretted that Pakistan, despite possessing a large reserve of glaciers, was at the risk of water scarcity by as soon as 2025. Urging the public to change their lifestyle and conserve water, she warned that Pakistan was already facing extreme water stress and reduced crop yield.
The minister said that the Indus River was responsible for 90 percent of the country’s food basket and there was a great need to conserve it through better agricultural practices like drip irrigation. Additionally, she said, the country should switch to crops that require less water to prevent the looming water shortage.
“PIDE [Pakistan Institute of Development Economic] studies indicate that 80 percent of our water supply goes to rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton. I am told that this is the invisible drain on our economy along with population growth,” she said, adding that public awareness should be raised on this issue. “Lack of public awareness needs to be dealt with through better communication. We need to set up a nationwide climate communication strategy for different levels of lifestyle changes, conservation messaging and urgency of action to deal with the multiple crises facing Pakistan,” she said.
According to Senator Rehman, there were also concerns about future heatwaves causing glaciers to melt, resulting in glacial lake outburst floods that could cause loss of life and property. “Water, food security will be seriously impacted even if rains help with water levels,” she said and called for the Pakistan Climate Council to meet regularly and review urgent priorities.
To a question, she said that the government would examine the pros and cons of the Billion Tree Tsunami project launched by ousted prime minster Imran Khan. Noting that the Billion Tree Tsunami had been the subject of several inquiries, she said the incumbent government would take steps to ensure transparency. “We need a coordinated set of core priorities for long-term climate adaptation, not just mitigation,” she emphasized. “There’s not a light switch that can be flipped to reverse climate damage that has been caused,” she added.