Fed Govt struggling to implement National Climate Change Policy

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Jul 26, 2013.

Five months after the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) was officially launched in the federal capital, the policy’s implementation is still to get off the ground.

The NCCP, a document which claimed to provide a “comprehensive framework” for national efforts on climate change adaptation and mitigation, is yet to turn into action plans and implementation projects.

Officials in the climate change division (CCD), who spoke to The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity, said initial delays were mainly due to a post-18th Amendment adversarial attitude from the provinces.

Environment was made a provincial subject after devolution and most efforts by the federal climate change officials to reach out to provincial authorities for policy implementation were met with cold responses, the officials said.

“Our efforts to assist the provinces have repeatedly been made unwelcome by them,” one senior CCD official said. “They would tell us it is not our mandate to help with such issues anymore.”

Perhaps as a consequence, the national-, provincial- and district-level “action plans” have not been formulated yet. The plans were supposed to identify the practical interventions to combat climate change and the agencies responsible for carrying out these interventions. The plans were also expected to spell out the potential funding elements required for implementation.

Pakistan is considered one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change-related events, according to international organizations such as GermanWatch and Maplecroft. The 2010 floods alone killed over 2,000 people and resulted in financial loss worth US$10 million, according to the Federal Flood Commission.

Adaptation costs for the period from 2011 till 2050 are expected to range from US$6-14 billion and mitigation costs over the same period might fall between US$7-18 billion, as per the 2011 National Economic and Environmental Development Study. These attached costs increase the need for action against climate change.

However, national and provincial implementation committees, which were part of the NCCP implementation mechanism, have not been formed yet. The same goes for technical committees for sectors such as water, agriculture, forests, energy, industries and transport, urban planning and biodiversity.

Without the action plans and implementation committees, the policy, which aims to “steer Pakistan towards climate resilient development” and its recommendations are good for nothing.

But all hope is not lost, according to CCD Deputy Secretary Syed Mujtaba Hussain, who is looking after the NCCP affairs.

Hussain said the CCD hosted a meeting of provincial environment secretaries around ten days ago, which was intended to break the lull and start moving towards policy implementation.

“We told the secretaries that we just want to help them get climate change funds which will eventually be spent in the provinces,” he said. “It was a conciliatory message from our side and I think it got across quite well.”

Hussain said the provincial secretaries have been requested to provide any suggestions or concerns about the NCCP to the division within 15 days.

Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, lead author of the NCCP and senior climate change expert, said the general elections and change of governments might have also slowed down the move toward implementation.

“Policy implementation and action plans should be on priority,” Chaudhry said. “The government has had its time to settle down and we expect there will be some progress in the next month hopefully”

Chaudhry, who is currently the Deputy Regional Director for Asia at the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and the Senior Advisor Climate Change at LEAD Pakistan, said the first thing should be building the capacity of provincial level departments to handle climate change issues and to secure finances for combating climate change.

“A lot of funding is available for developing countries to cope with climate change,” he said. “But the provincial authorities need to have the capacity to prepare appropriate (adaptation and mitigation) programmes which could be presented to donor committees through CCD.”

Hussain said the CCD has also floated the idea of a National Coordination Committee to address any concerns the provinces have regarding CCD’s role and Pakistan’s international commitments regarding environment and biodiversity.

“We would like to see the results of the NCCP as soon as possible,” Hussain said. “Policy implementation is a time consuming process but we are moving in the right direction.”

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