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General Elections 2024: Why Climate Change is Missing from Campaigns?

By: Syed Hilal Shah

The world is facing observable and direct multifaceted climate change in the form of extreme weather conditions, glacial melt, irregular precipitation, sea-level rise, changing temperature trends, and a rise in oceanic temperature, which are damaging natural ecosystems and biodiversity. Economically developing nations face tremendous tasks in combating climate change, and Pakistan, with a population of more than 220 million and increasing trends, is also facing climate hazards, although its contribution to Greenhouse Gas (GHGs) emissions is less than 1 percent. According to Kreft (2016), it is the world’s fifth most climate-change-impacted country, with 40 percent of its population exposed to disasters resulting from extreme weather conditions.

The majority of Pakistan’s population, over 200 million people, depends on the Indus River, making the country vulnerable to floods and droughts. This vulnerability is projected to increase with more intense rains in the northern regions, glacial melt, flooding along the Indus River floodplain, and drought in the south. Pakistan experienced super floods in 2010 and 2022, causing significant deaths, homelessness, structural destruction, and economic losses exceeding $10 billion.

Water resources in Pakistan are shrinking due to climate change, increasing population, and new lifestyles, putting pressure on water demand. Industries like cloth, marble, and paper, along with agriculture, consume large portions of fresh water. The country lacks effective water management and regulations, leading to water wastage. There is a need for updated laws and policies on water security and storage in light of the current climate change situation.

Pakistan adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2016, with SDG13 emphasizing actions to combat climate change. The government launched initiatives like ‘Clean and Green Pakistan,’ ‘Ten Billion Tsunami,’ ‘Protected Areas Initiative,’ and ‘Recharge Pakistan’ to improve the environment and address climate change. Despite these efforts, Pakistan remains extremely vulnerable, ranking as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change.

Climate change is not only linked to extreme weather but also affects the economy, agriculture, food, and water, and raises serious concerns for border security. Despite being a crucial issue, the current national political debate, including media and public gatherings, focuses on corruption and political cases, while climate change missing from public discourse.

In the current scenario ‘green’ from the public discourse is missing and worldwide green political parties have an important role in election campaigns and major political parties have their extensive environment plans but unfortunately it’s missing from Pakistan General Elections 2024 election campaigns at street level. Political parties’ leaders must address the climate change issues at the mass level and individual candidates must educate their voters at the constituency level which will help the Parliament to legislate and formulate climate change policies with acceptability in the public and business communities. Political leaders have the skills to spread awareness among the public regarding an issue and climate change is a global issue that badly affects every sector of the country. Climate change is affecting our economy, snatching our jobs, damaging our crops, and raising our food prices but not making space in our Elections campaigns.

There is a need to include climate change in public discourse and address the issue at a technical level which is beyond the plantation campaigns and needs a lifestyle change. The most demanding and needed legislation is about underground water usage at an individual as well as industry level, water pricing, conservation of water, climate-friendly and sustainable agriculture, food security, environment-friendly construction, improvement of water channels, and adoption of new technology to combat the impacts of climate change.

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