Review of climate change policy of Pakistan

climate change1. Introduction

Climate change resulting from an increasing concentration of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere due to the use of fossil fuels and other human activities has become a major worldwide concern. It is particularly so for Pakistan because climate change is posing a direct threat to its water security, food security and energy security. The country’s vulnerability to such adverse impacts is likely to increase considerably in the coming decades  as  the  average  global  temperature,  which  increased  by  0.6  °C  over  the  past century, is projected to increase further by 1.1 to 6.4 °C by the end of the current century.

A Task Force on Climate Change (TFCC) was set up by the Planning Commission of Pakistan in October 2008 with the view to take stock of country’s situation in relation to climate change; to contribute to the formulation of a climate change policy that would assist the government in achieving sustained economic growth by appropriately addressing climate change threats so as to ensure water security, food security and energy security of the country; and to recommend policy measures for promoting large scale Adaptation and Mitigation efforts, raising awareness of various stakeholders; and enhancing the capacities of relevant national institutions.

Drawing upon the best available expertise in the country, the Task Force set up 9 Working Groups (WGs) comprising some 40 experts. Each WG headed by a TFCC member was assigned to look into some particular aspects relevant to the TFCC mandate. Based on the inputs of the above WGs and the deliberations of the Task Force in its various meetings, the TFCC Secretariat has prepared a 76-page report which takes stock of Pakistan’s status as a GHG emitter, brings out its key vulnerabilities to climate change, recommends appropriate adaptation and mitigation policy measures, and highlights various ongoing and planned activities that implicitly address the issues of climate change. The report identifies main objectives for Pakistan’s climate change policy, reviews the country’s existing organizational  structure  for  addressing  issues  of  climate  change,  and  recommends measures to improve its ability to face the challenge. It takes cognizance of the existing capacity of various national and international organizations in the country and identifies Pakistan’s needs for international cooperation in terms of capacity building, technology transfer and financial support for major Adaptation and Mitigation activities. Salient points of the report are summarised here.

2. Objectives of Climate Change Policy of Pakistan

The report identifies the basic elements of Pakistan’s climate change policy for the near to medium term future. Salient among those are to:

  • Assist  the   government   for   sustainable   economic   growth   by   appropriately addressing the challenges posed by climate change, in particular the threats to Pakistan’s water, food and energy security;
  • Contribute  to  the  international  efforts  to  check  climate  change  by  controlling

Pakistan’s own GHG emissions to the maximum extent feasible;

  • Help to increase the country’s area under forest cover;
  • Minimize the risks to the country’s population and national economy arising from the expected  increase  in  frequency  and  intensity  of  extreme  events:  floods, droughts, tropical storms etc.;
  • Help to increase the capacity of national organizations and to make full use of new developments in science & technology for effectively addressing climate change; and
  • Identify need for international cooperation and support for addressing issues of climate change.

3. Pakistan’s Status as a GHG Emitter

Pakistan’s total GHG emissions in 2008 amounted to 309 million tonnes (mt) of Carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, comprising about 54% CO2, 36% Methane, 9% Nitrous Oxide and 1% other gases. The biggest contributor is the energy sector with 50% share, followed by the agriculture sector (39% share), industrial processes (6% share) and other activities (5% share).

Pakistan is a small GHG emitter: It contributes only about 0.8% of the total global GHG emissions. On per capita basis, Pakistan with 1.9 tonnes per capita GHG emissions stands at a level which corresponds to about one-third of the world average, one-fifth of the average for Western Europe and one tenth of the per capita emissions in the U.S., putting it at 135th  place in the world ranking of countries on the basis of their per capita GHG emissions.

  1. Past and Expected Future Climatic Changes over Pakistan

During the last century, average annual temperature over Pakistan increased by 0.6 °C, in agreement with the global trend, with the temperature increase over northern Pakistan being  higher  than  over  southern  Pakistan  (0.8  °C  versus  0.5  °C).  Precipitation  over Pakistan also increased on the average by about 25 %.

Studies based on the ensemble outputs of several Global Circulation Models (GCMs)

project that the average temperature over Pakistan will increase in the range 1.3-1.5 °C by

2020s, 2.5-2.8 °C by 2050s, and 3.9-4.4 °C by 2080s, corresponding to an increase in average global surface temperature by 2.8-3.4 °C by the turn of the 21st century. Precipitation is projected to increase slightly in summer and decrease in winter with no significant change in annual precipitation. Furthermore, it is projected that climate change will increase the variability of monsoon rains and enhance the frequency and severity of

extreme events such as floods and droughts.

  1. Major Climate Change Related Concerns

The most important climate change potential threats to Pakistan are identified as:

  • Increased variability of monsoon;
  • Rapid recession of Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan (HKH) glaciers threatening water inflows into the Indus River System (IRS); reduction in capacity of natural reservoirs due to glacier melt and rise in snow line;
  • Increased risks of floods and droughts;
  • Increased siltation of major dams resulting in greater loss of reservoir capacity;
  • Severe water-stressed and heat-stressed conditions in arid and semi-arid regions, leading to reduced agriculture productivity and power generation;
  • Increased upstream intrusion of saline water in the Indus delta, adversely affecting coastal agriculture, mangroves and breeding grounds of fish; and
  • Threat to coastal areas including the city of Karachi due to sea level rise and increased cyclonic activity due to higher sea surface temperatures.

The above threats lead to major concerns for Pakistan in terms of its Water Security, Food Security and Energy Security. Some other climate change related concerns of Pakistan are identified as: Increase in deforestation; loss of biodiversity; increased health risks (heat strokes, pneumonia, malaria and other vector-borne diseases) and risks to other vulnerable ecosystems (e.g. rangelands, degraded lands, mountainous areas etc.).

  1. Mitigation and Adaptation Measures

The Task Force report recommends a number of measures to address both Mitigation and Adaptation aspects of climate change. It also identifies various ongoing activities and planned actions envisaged under the Planning Commission’s Medium Term Development Framework 2005-10 and Vision 2030 which implicitly represent Pakistan’s plans and actions towards mitigation and adaptation efforts. Salient recommended as well as ongoing and planned measures are listed below:

6.1.      Mitigation

Pakistan is a small GHG emitter and, like other developing countries, its emissions are bound to increase considerably as the country climbs over the development ladder and strives to provide adequate amount of energy to support its growing socio-economic developmental needs. Still, as a responsible member of the international community, Pakistan would like to contribute to the global GHG mitigation efforts without compromising on its basic minimum energy and food needs consistent with its socio- economic developmental requirements, energy security considerations, and financial and technological constraints.

6.1.1.   Energy

Ongoing and Planned Actions: Energy Security Action Plan 2005-2030 envisages large roles for hydropower, renewable energy technologies (in particular, windmills), nuclear power and imported natural gas in future energy supplies; one windmill of 6 MW capacity made operational while work is underway on 18 wind power projects of 50 MW capacity each; construction of third nuclear power plant is in progress; approval given for construction of 4,500 MW Bhasha dam; agreement finalized with Iran for construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan with capacity to transport 750 million cubic feet of gas per day; effort being made to increase the number of vehicles using CNG as fuel from 380,000 in 2005 to 800,000 by 2010 and to 920,000 by 2015; approval given for construction of a mass transit system (circular railway) for Karachi metropolitan area; a number of projects on energy efficiency improvement, energy conservation and use of decentralized renewable energy technologies being implemented by National Energy Conservation Center (ENERCON), Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) and Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET).

Recommended  MeasuresEnergy  efficiency  improvement  at  all  levels  in  the  energy system chain; energy conservation measures and use of energy-efficient devices; rapid development of hydropower resources; large scale use of various renewable energy technologies; expansion of nuclear power programme; acquisition and adoption of clean coal  technologies  such  as  Coal  Bed  Methane  Capture  (CBMC),  Integrated  coal Gasification Combined Cycle power generation (IGCC), and CO2  Capture and Storage (CCS); development of  mass transit systems in large cities; and greater use of CNG as fuel for urban transportation.

6.1.2.   Agriculture and Livestock

Ongoing and Planned Actions: Not much attention has so far been paid in Pakistan to address the GHG emissions from the Agriculture and Livestock sector.

Recommended  Measures:  Development  and  adoption  of  (i)  new  methods  of  rice cultivation that have lower methane emissions, (ii) new methods for reducing Nitrous oxide releases from agricultural soils, (iii) new breeds of cattle which are more productive in terms of milk and meat but have lower methane production from enteric fermentation, and (iv) new economical feeds that reduce methane production activity of cattle besides providing them with better nutrition.

6.1.3.   Forestry

Ongoing and Planned Actions: It is envisaged to increase forest cover from 4.9% of the total land area in 2005 to 5.2% in 2010 and 6.0% by 2015; several afforestation projects like  Rachna  Doab  Afforestation  Project  underway;  tree-planting  campaigns  being launched each year during spring and monsoon seasons (as many as 541,176 saplings were planted in one day on 15 July 2009, which is a world record for any country).

Recommended Measures: Promotion of afforestation and reforestation activities to the maximum possible extent.

6.2.      Adaptation

6.2.1.   Water Resources

Ongoing and Planned Actions: It is planned to construct a series of large hydropower projects to add 18 MAF of new storage capacity by 2030 to the existing 12.5 MAF capacity (which is decreasing by 0.2 MAF annually due to silting); approval accorded for the construction of 4,500 MW hydropower plant at Bhasha with 6.4 MAF water storage capacity (the construction work will start in 2010); planned to complement the large storages by a comprehensive programme of small and medium dams as well as measures for recharging underground reservoirs; investigations for using groundwater aquifers as

water storage facilities; a major programme underway for lining the water channels; plans to monitor continuously the movement of glaciers in northern Pakistan.

Recommended Measures: Addition of sufficient reservoir capacity on IRS rivers so that even during high flood years no water flows down Kotri in excess of what is necessary for environmental reasons; local rain harvesting and building of surface and sub-surface storages for agriculture and other local needs; adoption of stringent demand management and efficiency improvement measures in all water-use sectors, particularly in the supply, distribution and use of irrigation water; reuse of marginal quality irrigation effluent.

6.2.2.   Agriculture and Livestock

Ongoing and Planned Actions: It is planned to: (i) develop through biotechnology, heat- stress resistant, drought- and flood-tolerant, and water-use efficient high yielding crop varieties, (ii) increase irrigation water availability by reducing losses in the irrigation water supply  network,  (iii)  implement  “More  Crop  per  Drop”  strategy  through  improved irrigation methods and practices, water saving techniques in combination with the use of high  yielding  and  water-efficient  crop  varieties,  and  (iv)  increase  milk  and  meat production by developing animals breeds which are less vulnerable to climatic changes, and by improving animal feedstock.

Recommended Measures: Development of new breeds of crops of high yield, resistant to heat stress, drought tolerant, less vulnerable to heavy spells of rain, and less prone to insects and pests; improvement of crop productivity per unit of land and per unit of water by increasing the efficiency of various agricultural inputs, in particular the input of irrigation water; improvement of farm practices by adopting modern techniques such as laser  land  levelling,  crop  diversification,  proper  cropping  patterns,  optimised  planting dates etc; development and introduction of better varieties of livestock which would have higher productivity of milk and are less prone to heat stress and more drought tolerant.

6.2.3.   Coastal Areas and Indus Deltaic Region

Ongoing and Planned Actions: It is planned to implement the recommendations of a study by local and foreign experts to identify what minimum water escapages below Kotri Barrage are required (a) to check seawater intrusion and (b) to address other environmental concerns; plans formulated to restore the degraded mangroves & marine system; major interventions are planned to boost fisheries; a major intervention underway to use brackish water for aquaculture; a National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) established and made responsible for both disaster preparedness and disaster management in respect of all major disasters including cyclones.

Recommended  Measures:  Provision  of  regulated  flows  down  Kotri  to  conform  to minimum necessary environmental flows; restoration and protection of mangroves; construction of proper engineering structures (like dikes and seawalls) to protect beaches and other facilities along the coast; development of capacity to deal with natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, etc.

6.2.4.   Forests and Other Vulnerable Ecosystems

Ongoing and Planned Actions: Besides the afforestation and reforestation activities, it is planned (a) to improve the rangelands by proper range land management, and (b) to reclaim nearly 6 million hectare of salt affected waste land and large areas of sandy desert

by growing salt tolerant, fast growing grasses, shrubs & trees to be used as fodder; it is envisaged to increase the area protected for conservation of wildlife from 11.3 % of the total land in 2004-05 to 11.6 % by 2009-10 and to 12.0 % by 2015; also planned to develop national database of threatened and endangered species and encourage captive breeding of endangered species to promote ex-situ conservation of biodiversity.

Recommended Measures:  Aggressive afforestation and reforestation  programmes  with plantation suited to the looming climate change; biological control of forest pests by maintaining viable populations of predatory birds and insects through restricted use of chemical insecticide; preservation of rangelands through proper rangeland management; increase of grasslands using appropriate varieties of grass in saline and waterlogged zones to prevent their degradation; assisting genetically impoverished species or those that have important ecosystem functions by providing natural migration corridors as well as assisted migration; use of gene banks, seed banks, zoos and botanical gardens for preserving genetic diversity and conserving species out of their natural environment.


Author: Ali Hassan Shabbir

M.Sc. (Hons.) Agricultural Economics

UAF, Faisalabad, Pakistan.


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