The Federal Minister for Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, has declared that “climate change is a matter of national security”.
She stated this at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change that was chaired by Senator Seemi Ezdi.
The meeting commenced with a briefing by the National Project Manager of the GLOF2 in Pakistan who stated that the mandate of the project was to install Early Warning Systems in all the 24 project valleys, strengthen the capacity of the communities exposed to climate risks, establish mitigating structures, and strengthen sub-national institutional capacities through policy-level interventions.
The other issues discussed at the meeting included Hunza’s Shispher Glacier tragedy, the ensuing climate change threats, and preparedness to tackle the latest spate of heatwaves in the country.
Speaking about climate change, Senator Rehman said that “it acts as a threat multiplier, potentially amplifying existing risks of extreme vulnerability and exposure to intense competition over depleting resources. The scarcity of water is a real and present danger, particularly to lower riparian areas like Sindh, where the river is almost bone dry by the time it reaches the upper Sindh. This not only impacts crops but the soil as well as the ecosystem that subsists in the delta”.
“Reports are coming in from all over the country of extreme weather patterns and unseasonably high temperatures. The heatwave spanning the whole country is now registering its ferocity in multiple trend lines that pose risks for the population, particularly communities on subsistence daily wages in the cities or farmland populations,” she continued.
Senator Rehman also spoke mentioned the impact the climate change on the crops and explained that they stretch from the “rice plants that have attained maturity but don’t have grains, and they’re concerns that wheat will follow suit. Pakistan is now importing wheat, sugar, and rice in large proportions and many are at risk of growing food insecurity”.
She highlighted that “climate stress is also impacting Pakistan economically in a calculus of losses which are predicted at six-eight percent of Pakistan’s GDP. The ADB already predicts a $3.8 billion annual loss. This is a matter of survival for the country, not just for one province but for the whole of Pakistan”.
The senator told the Standing Committee about the impending GLOF events and said that “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan have 3,044 glacial lakes, with 33 such lakes being at a high risk. Pakistan is currently experiencing a series of heatwaves as a result of global climate inaction and the lack of global commitments to pledges made to reduce greenhouse gases”.
She mentioned that Pakistan has not been educated on the scale of the climate emergency that it faces, and opined that mass media campaigns need to be run across multiple channels to inform the masses about the risks and impacts of climate change”.
Regarding the major challenges linked to the recent heatwave incidents, the committee was informed that deforestation, the lack of greenery and open spaces, and unplanned urbanization have accelerated the climate change effects associated with the heatwaves. It also stressed the need to curtail methane gas losses that contribute to the heat in the environment.
The meeting was attended by Senators Khalida Ateeb, Keshoo Bai, and Taj Haider, and senior officers from the Ministry of Climate Change and its attached departments and agencies.