By: Wajiha Imtiaz
“Has COP26 been successful in highlighting the ground realities and in provoking a solution-oriented approach to the climate issues”? Such was the discourse at the Commonwealth Round Table Climate Change Conference 2023, organized by the British Council Pakistan at Serena Hotel Islamabad on 12 March 2023. The session was inaugurated by the Senior Manager of Higher Education British Council Pakistan Mr. Usman Khalid and the Manager of the Education Program British Council Mr. Haroon Rashid, with an outlook on Climate hurdles in the path of a resilient Pakistan. The session was broadcasted live on Teams Meeting, after the Welcome message by the British Council, there was a panel discussion on the topic “Climate Change – Building a Resilient Pakistan”. The panel comprised: Dr. Muhammad Khalid Rafiq, Principal Scientific Officer (Rangeland Management Program) at the National Agricultural Research Center, Islamabad Pakistan, previously a Commonwealth Rutherford Fellow at the UK Biochar Research Center (UKBRC), School of Geosciences, the University of Edinburgh from 2018-2020. Dr. Hifza Rasheed, serving as Director General at the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources for 21 years and is a Ph.D. alum (2018) from the University of Leeds. Ms. Sana Rasool. Deputy Director at Ministry of Climate Change. An environmental engineer, specializing in climate change science and policy, with an interest in disaster management. The session was moderated by Humairah Jabeen, whereby Dr. Hifza emphasized that since problems of the water, energy, and the climate sector are interlinked, our management planning should also be based on a ‘nexus approach’. Dr. Rafiq talked about the lack of rangeland strategy at the national level but highlighted that KPK province is in process of formulating a range of land policies at the provincial level. Ms. Sana stated that today climate change has morphed into a ‘climate crisis’, in mentioning floods she described how our unique topography made us vulnerable to the disaster, and still 40 billion USD is estimated to be needed for the rehabilitation process in the flood-affected regions of Pakistan.
Later on, the Guest Speaker Lecture Miss Durr-e-Shehwar Mehmood presented her expertise on Climate Adaption for Growth and Socio-Economic Development in Pakistan. “Adaptation doesn’t require a policy, it has to be multi-sectorial”, said Durr-e-Shehwar. Also securing funding is competitive in the South Asian region and there are losses due to non-accreditation by the leading businesses, in terms of adaptation financing. She emphasized the need for an adaptation, and integration plan in all existing policies, even in the water sector in preventing the climate crisis. “Adaptation and Mitigation are separate measures and must be understood separately”. Adaptation comes first, for the protection of the area; then come to the mitigation measures being followed globally. Among adaptation policy measures and projects in Pakistan, she highlighted Strengthening Adaptation and Resilience SAR (BMZ & GIZ) for health, agriculture, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene); Vertical farming/drip irrigation powered by mini grid-Punjab, Organic Cotton Project by Sapphire Group, Bagasse to Tableware- Waste to Value and Resilient health system studies (WHO, WBG-by OPM). She provided the capacities to integrate climate risk and adaptation planning into National policy, Sectorial policies, Fiscal processes, and Community initiatives (such as adaption measures in WASH, Health, Water, Agriculture, Aquaculture, Urban planning, etc). The cherry on the top was ‘Project Showcasing’ by Mr. Muneeb Ahsan, the project lead with PARIS 21 and OECD on climate adaptation and climate change verticals. He shared the methodology he is currently developing on climate adaptation typology for the Climate Change Data Ecosystem (CCDE) framework for a Hewlett grant project. The topic of the presentation was climate data for adaptation and resilience typology (Climate DART). He emphasized the review of the global frameworks and identifying top focus areas for adaptation via data sources and reference databases such as UNSD Global Set, Open Data for Resilience Initiative (Open DRI), and Climate Resilience Framework (ISET international).
His project outcomes include a cross-national typology of global climate data requirements, Assessment of data availability and access policies, Prototyping of the assessment framework, and raising awareness on an integrated approach to data systems for climate action. Mr. Muneeb also stressed the importance of practical tools, implementation of policies, and the need to incorporate the tools into policy, not just in theory but in practical implementation, just as India has used the GIS framework for a centralized information repository on hydro metrological information. He affirmed we can reach there! Where data can reach databases. The session ended with closing remarks by the British Council, with a promise to keep on highlighting the national issues of utmost significance, and a networking dinner.