Speakers urge collaborative action beyond policies to tackle climate crisis in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD : Senator Sherry Rehman called for urgent action to combat climate change and its profound impact on Pakistan, saying that the demand for interventions must go beyond mere government policies and focus on collaborative efforts involving civil society and the wider public.
She was speaking at the Jinnah Institute’s “Pakistan’s Race to Resilience” conference held in Islamabad today. The conference brought together experts from the government, international organizations, and civil society to discuss the challenges and opportunities of climate resilience in Pakistan.
In her opening remarks, Senator Rehman highlighted the devastating impact of climate change on Pakistan, noting that the country has suffered from record-breaking floods, heatwaves, and droughts in recent years. She, however, noted that in order to move toward resilience, policies alone cannot be the solution as there was a need for communities to get involved as well.
She said: “This is something I consistently assert: no government – the most effective government or the most low-intensity government – can achieve climate or environmental goals alone.”
The Senator added that it was highly irresponsible of the public not to raise their voices against climate change as it would eventually affect everyone – from the elderly to the younger generation.
“Which is why I think we all need to become champions of stressing the dangers and the costs of climate inaction.”
She also talked about the outcomes of COP 28 and stressed that while there was an abundance of pre-COP talk about ensuring no one is left behind, yet currently, more than half the world is being excluded from climate-related decision-making.
“Moving from rhetoric to responsibility at COP is crucial and the key message,” she said.
Panel discussions
The conference featured two panel discussions, one on climate finance and the other on local adaptation.
During the first panel discussion, focused on climate finance, Najy Benhassine, World Bank’s Country Director for Pakistan, said that Pakistan needs to develop its own home-grown plans to access climate finance.
“It is true it takes capacity and preparedness to identify potential, but my personal view is that none of it will come to the needs of the hour to finance climate adaptation.
He added that the first source of climate financing to face this disaster, that is climate change and its impact on Pakistan, will come from inside.
Jane Marriot, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, said: “In the run-up to COP 28, there has been a lot of talking, but it’s the doing that matters. Renewable sector can attract that private sector funding but it’s the adaptation financing that is not getting the money.”
In talking about the role of the private sector in contributing to climate change initiatives, Ehsan Malik, CEO of the Pakistan Business Council, said: “The private sector has to look after itself but there are constraints. It does not need to go after the government. Local farmers can’t take big initiatives for mitigation and adaptation. It is private financing that will matter.”
Talking about Pakistan facing difficulties in accessing climate financing, Mujtaba Hussein, Assistant Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, said: “Across all the federal and provincial ministries, line ministries, and the provincial government. We do not have the capacity to design technical projects which are called bankable projects. This is one of the primary constraints that Pakistan has so far not been able to access that level of funding for a country of almost 250 million people, the way it should have been.”

The second panel discussion on local adaptation explored the role of communities in building resilience to climate change. Sobiah Beker, a climate advisor, emphasized the importance of indigenous knowledge in developing adaptation strategies.
“All is not lost yet, and we have a chance for a better future. We need to have an inherent and indigenous understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. We need to take that into account for a meaningful change.”
Beker stressed the utmost importance of having robust data on climate change, highlighting the urgency to move beyond rhetoric due to the limited time available.
“Data will help define climate risk profiles and identify the areas susceptible to floods or the next drought. All our adaptation planning must pivot around central elements such as data.”
Aafia Salam, a climate journalist, urged the youth to actively raise their voices in combating climate change, highlighting their stake in both how they are governed and by whom. She said the impetus for change must originate from society.
She referenced the collapses of hotels into the Swat River in 2022 and 2010, suggesting that instead of government compensation, penalties should be imposed on those responsible for permitting the construction of buildings near the rivers.
Ahmad Rafay Alam, a lawyer and environmentalist, emphasized the urgency for climate policies and financing that prioritize the underprivileged.
“Millions of monies are available in the global economy. There is money for Afghanistan, there is money for Ukraine, there is money for Israel, but for countries suffering from climate change, we have loans. This has to change.”
Samuel Rizk, Resident Representative of the UNDP in Pakistan, talked about the crucial role of communities in adaptation efforts. From Chitral to Gilgit, he observed that women, despite facing challenges, already possessed innovative ideas and required minimal assistance.
Reflecting on COP 27, Rizk envisioned COP 28 as a critical opportunity for Pakistan. He underscored the precarious situation of local communities, often one flood away from destitution, expressing their stretched hope for a better tomorrow. He stressed the significance of youth-led policies, emphasizing their initiation at the grassroots level.
The conference concluded with a call for collective action to address climate change in Pakistan. Participants urged the government, international organizations, and civil society to work together to build a more resilient Pakistan.
About the Jinnah Institute
The Jinnah Institute is a policy research and public advocacy think tank based in Islamabad, Pakistan. The institute’s mission is to promote a free and prosperous Pakistan through research, education, and advocacy.

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