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I have a Dream"COP 17

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After the successful failures at COP 15 and 16 in Copenhagen and Cancun respectively the Pakistani bandwagon is ready for COP17. In December, Durban hosts the next round of international climate negotiations which they once again claim are VERY critical. Pakistan being a so-called important player in these negotiations has initiated a round of meetings in the capital Islamabad. The agenda: NOT what would be our stance at COP17, no, no, no, but rather WHO will be going this time. So while the climate in our cities, ocean, mountains, rural areas may be fast changing, we can all rest assured and easy that at least there will be no change in the faces and names of people and their of course their stances.

Yes, we will brag about our new climate change policy and the "workshop" for the production of the Second National Communication to UNFCCC. Flashback to 2003 when the first National Communication (INC) was submitted which presented the 1994 GHG inventory!! Since then, no major national-level effort was undertaken to update it except for the Applied Systems Analysis Division of PAEC that prepared a draft GHG Inventory in 2009. Comparing the GHG emissions, one finds that there has been 3.9 % increase in 2008. There are no estimates of the cost of mitigation or adaptation measures at the 2020 and 2050 time horizons. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the only financial and policy instrument used in Pakistan. Only 21 CDMs have been granted host country approval whereas 60 CDM projects are still at various stages of completion. Bravo Bravo, our Planning Commission and the Ministry of Environment!

Needless to say, I am going to beat an ancient drum and say there is huge disconnect between policies in Pakistan as they are developed in isolation and without linking them with other sectors. Case in point: the recent draft Growth Strategy that has been prepared meticulously and oh so openly mentions nothing about climate change.

Energy is strongly correlated with human development but also a major source of carbon emissions. Pakistan is facing an unprecedented energy crisis with a shortage of about 3,500 Megawatt (MW) in electric power. We are also lagging behind in the use of renewable energies. Unlike 10% global use of renewable energy, only 1% of Pakistan's total energy requirement is being materialized through this medium. 99% of the energy requirement is done through the conventional sources like oil, gas, hydro and nuclear. The danger posed by further carbon emissions is now so great that any proposal to expand fossil-fuel production should now be regarded as a crime against humanity.

Climate change intersects with almost every sector of the economy, we have seen the food crisis and hyper inflated prices. According to Paul Krugman "what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production " the current food price surge may be just the beginning." Policy documents published by Pakistani NGOs and think tanks only focus on carbon emissions, but black carbon and methane are also equal culprits. According to 2008 UNEP report Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs) can severely impact human health, water resources and crop yields in "ABC hotspots." The report also states "ABC plumes, measuring 1 - 3 km thick, surround the Hindu Kush-Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers, both from the South Asian and the East Asian sides," and hence declared these regions of India and Pakistan as the Atmospheric Brown Cloud Hot Spots. In fact, it has been reported that these clouds have masked the actual warming impact of climate change between 20 and 80%.  

There is a also visible disconnect between our ministries and ministers at international gatherings like the COP. Since there is no COP "monitor" our representatives go in armed with nothing more than the few brain cells polished after one or two pow-wow sessions with a bunch of environmental NGO people (who incidentally also enjoy a new country each time through donor funding of their travel to such shindigs). These NGOs, on the other hand, portray a picture of Pakistan without factual, macro and even baseline results but who cares as long as their jazzed up, laminated five page "policy papers" attract funding for projects and "advocacy" aka social networking.

Participation in COP 17 is necessary as the country is ailing at political, economic and environmental fronts but all the institutions both government and non- government need to work together and have a sound action plan. Both policy and research are important ingredients for dialogue but publishing one page policy briefs makes the issue trivial and we are placed down below in vulnerability index due to insufficient and at times even poorly conducted research.

Being a small player in emissions- yes, adaptation is possible and necessary for Pakistan until the temperature is not too high but if we face 4 -C to 6 -C of warming, "adaptation funding" would be another capitalist gimmick, like rich passengers on an overcrowded titanic telling the poor that they should happily jump into an icy sea because they have been offered sexy life-jackets. One of the greatest delusions at our planning institutions is trying to deal with climate change without affecting economic growth. GDP worship and indiscriminate growth will not help us. We need climate proof development and growth which is not high but equitable. Time to focus on a sustainable society, rather than just a sustainable economy.

If we want to be a carbon neutral Pakistan, we need policy revamping and its implementation both at local and national level. Strict standards need to be followed: pro poor carbon markets need to be established. To contest for the adaptation fund and adoption of mitigation mechanisms Pakistan needs to have strong stance backed up by solid research and "real" climate experts. Our agenda can no longer afford to be a one minister or one NGO show, especially when no singular institution has the capacity to carry out all the research and policy measures that are needed. Institutions need to be interlinked in order to benefit from each others strengths. And being a professor, I cannot help but say its about time we involved our youngsters who need to know the ground realities of what Pakistan's (and the world's) future climate has in store for them and not just be able to quote Al Gore from An Inconvenient Truth.

The vacuum between the policy gods and the common people needs to be bridged. We need to have more grass root participation that can give our climate change impacts a real face and a true story. The latter might be unaware of the terminologies but they are institutionally strong, closer to the environment and better at coping with what the climate throws at them.

The write is a climate economist and author of "A Coastal Ecosystem and a People in Peril:: The Story of Keti Bunder in Pakistan"

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Aneel Salman, a Fulbright Scholar, holds a PhD in Economics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. His current areas of research include public policy, institutional governance, climate change and the Pak Afghan security nexus. He (more...)
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