WELCOME REMARKS – Public Talk on “Global Climate Change and its implications for Pakistan”

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Welcome Remarks of the Director General

Worthy Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I extend you all a warm welcome to the Institute of Strategic Studies.

We are gathered here today to listen to Dr Adil Najam, a renowned academic and expert, on Global Climate Change and its Implications for Pakistan.

Dr Adil and I share a panel formed by the Foreign Minister to advise on important foreign and security policy issues. Once I learnt that he was coming to Pakistan, I suggested to him if he would like to share his perspective on this subject of crucial importance for Pakistan, and on which he has worked for decades. He readily accepted. Thank you Adil sahib for agreeing to speak to us.

Ladies and gentlemen, It should no longer be a surprise to anyone, anymore that Pakistan is one of the countries at greatest risk of the impacts of climate change. Pakistan lives this reality every day. Already accustomed to nearly annual floods in the northern regions, nearly annual droughts in Thar, nearly annual deadly heatwaves in Karachi and nearly annual pollution upturns and smog in Lahore, the average Pakistanis can well see how climate is impacting their lives in real terms. I understand Pakistan was the eighth most affected country by climate change from 1998 to 2017 according to the Long-Term Climate Risk Index (CRI).

Look around Pakistan or at South Asia as a whole, even in the last ten years, and you see a constant procession of climatic crises. Making the lives of people miserable. Making them insecure. Every time there is a flood or drought or disaster, it imposes new challenges for an ordinary person and huge financial and law and order burdens for the government. Climate change thus is connected to the broader issue of human security.

Pakistan’s climate change concerns include:

  • increased variability of monsoons,
  • the likely impact of receding Himalayan glaciers on the Indus River system,
  • decreased capacity of water reservoirs,
  • reduced hydropower during drought years, and
  • extreme events including floods and droughts.

Other potential impacts induced by climate change include:

  • severe water stress;
  • food insecurity due to decreasing agricultural and livestock production;
  • more prevalent pests and weeds;
  • degradation of ecosystems;
  • biodiversity loss; and
  • northward shifting of some biomes.

Furthermore, higher temperatures may affect the composition, distribution and productivity of mangroves, while lower precipitation could contribute to salt stress.

For Pakistan, one particular potential impact arising out of climate change is worth singling out. That is Water scarcity. This is one of the biggest security challenges arising out of the climate change phenomenon. In Pakistan’s context, water stress quickly becomes a food security issue. We should therefore regard the climate change as a serious non-traditional security threat. Ignoring non-traditional dimensions of security is, in fact, making our own country less secure. The threat is existential. It is no longer long-term; it is right there, upon our heads. It may have implications much larger than even an inter-state threat we often face in our rather hostile neighborhood.

That climate change has both domestic and national security dimensions, everyone agrees. But beyond this, and especially on the question of what to do about it, I wonder how much thought process has gone into addressing these challenges.

What we need is action. Urgent action.

With global mitigation efforts moving as slowly as they are, Pakistan has no choice but to find ways to harness international resources to bolster its own adaptation efforts. However, we should also be in no doubt that over reliance on international resources alone is not the answer. It could well be that much of the cost of adapting to climate impacts will eventually fall on the poorest Pakistanis.

Although climate negotiators continue to elevate hope over evidence, scientific data suggests that it will now be nearly impossible to meet the Paris Agreement target of restricting climate change to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This means that even as the world has to redouble its efforts towards climate mitigation, the most vulnerable countries, of which Pakistan is one, need to begin preparations for living in a world with climate impacts.

This is all the more important because, as I said earlier, we may well have to bear the burden of adaptation ourselves since the international system can only go thus far in providing resources for adaptation in developing countries.

I hope that this intellectual endeavor of the Institute will encourage others in our academia to address this important subject and help in first creating awareness about the gigantic threat that we face and then identifying tenable solutions to overcome this real live menace which has already been affecting Pakistan for the past decade.

Thank you all once again for gracing this important event. May I now invite Dr Adil Najam to kindly take the floor.

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