Equity in an Emergency: The Imperative of Climate Justice in Pakistan

Yasir Ali

PhD Scholar and Teaching Associate 

Department of International Relations, University of Karachi 

Amidst rising environmental catastrophes and crises, Pakistan appears to be standing on the very crossroads. Climate change and its extremely serious impacts is actually not limited to any country, as it equally hits rich and poor nations alike. However, the most vulnerable countries like Pakistan are the ones who get affected by it the most fiercely. Along with other states on earth, Pakistan faces the issue of rapid climate crisis.

The country is blessed with various ecosystems ranging from the majestic peaks of the Himalayas to the fertile plains of the Indus Valley, is endangered by this ongoing threat. Climate change is yielding more unpredictable weather occurrences, the melting of glaciers, more disastrous floods and longer regional droughts. These consequences further aggravate already marginalized communities, endangering human security and increasing its vulnerabilities.

Pakistan produces less than 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world but continuously ranks in the top countries that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts as stated by the annual Global Climate Risk Index. In 2022, a catastrophic flood that submerged a notable area of Pakistan took lives of more than 1,700 people and displaced many others. Key structures such as roads, bridges, and electricity grids suffered extensive damage, and crops were devastated on millions of acres.

This is not a one-off event. It is getting worse every year, which is caused by climate change. From the 1960s till now, Pakistan has seen a general rise in average rainfall during monsoons as a result of temperature increase. According to climate models, extreme precipitation events becoming even more intense as global warming goes into its continuation. India is already the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and has continued to show lukewarmness even at the recent COP2 inter sessions. Pakistan on the other hand has to compete with an uncertain scenario of the fast melting Hindu Kush glaciers along with a global climate emergency already looming over it.

With the country’s proliferating population and straining resources, the destabilizing effects of climate change become more pronounced. The poor households are at the greatest risk of losing their food security since the temperatures, precipitation, and extreme conditions are becoming extremely harsher causing a reduction of major crop production in some farming areas. Water shortages force millions of children to leave school and work instead for their families gathering supplies. For that they have to travel great distances to find them in remote places. This leads to youth unemployment, an upsurge in civil conflicts over resources, as well as insecurity and an increased sense of injustice.

In response to this catastrophe, Pakistan has actively engaged on the international stage, demanding climate justice and asking for global commitment in dealing with climate change issues. Pakistan’s ratification of the Paris Agreement and pledge towards the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions serve as a realization of the country’s accountability in confronting the climate crisis. Also, programs such as the Billion Tree Tsunami and the Clean Green Pakistan campaign demonstrate the government’s determination to improve the environment and development.

Nevertheless, despite the adoption of different strategies, there remain many obstacles that make it difficult for the government of Pakistan to put its climate policies into practice. The fact that the country is still largely dependent on fossil fuels, along with poor infrastructure, and the limited financial resources makes the transition to a low-carbon future a struggle. On the other hand, unequal distribution of resources increases the vulnerability of marginalized communities to climate change and thus limits their efforts to adaptation.

In order to overcome this situation, Pakistan has to make sure the climate justice has the prominence and priority in their policy-making. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and creating opportunities for participation, as well as shielding the vulnerable groups with services and strategies that make them resilient. Investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and climate resilient infrastructure will not only help to reduce the negative impacts of climate change, but is also essential for achieving the inclusive development. Besides, forming global partnerships with the United Nations, non-profit organizations, as well as the private companies is a very powerful way of gathering the funds and expertise for climate change improvement.

In addition, the development of Pakistan’s policy on climate justice has to be based on a pledge to protect the rights and interests of its people, now and in the future. This needs an effective leadership that will come up with cutting-edge solutions which will help in squaring with the climate alteration challenges. In the turbulence of the uncertain and changing climate, Pakistan will have a decisive role to undertake to build a more equitable and sustainable world for everyone.

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