The world is presently home to around 7.7 billion people and (as per UN World Population Prospects 2019) by 2030, almost 8.5 Billion people will be living on this planet. In order to support governments to align their policies for a sustainable future, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were devised to address the global challenges including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice
As per the published report on SDGs in 2019, “The most urgent area for action is climate change. If we do not cut record-high greenhouse gas emissions now, global warming is projected to reach 1.5°C in the coming decades. As we are already seeing, the compounded effects will be catastrophic and irreversible: increasing ocean acidification, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions, the frequency and severity of natural disasters, continuing land degradation, loss of vital species and the collapse of ecosystems. These effects, which will render many parts of the globe uninhabitable, will affect the poor the most. They will put food production at risk, leading to widespread food shortages and hunger, and potentially displace up to 140 million people by 2050. The clock for taking decisive actions on climate change is ticking.”
As per another UNO report, Global average temperatures have been increasing sharply and since 1880 till 2009 average temperature has risen from 13.72 degrees Celsius to 14.57 degrees Celsius. [i]The five hottest years during the period 1880–2019 happened to be since 2015, while nine of the ten hottest years have occurred since 2005[ii]. This shows that climate is changing rapidly and average global temperatures are rising.
This additional heat created is causing temperature extremes, causing a reduction in snow cover and sea ice, scaling up heavy rainfall. As per the Global Long Term Risk Index published by Germ Watch 2017 Pakistan is the 7th most-affected Country by climate change due to its geographical location. Combating climate change effects is one of the TOP priorities for this Country; as it has deep interlinkages with the socio-economic development of the Country. As per the Stern model (2006) developed by global environmental scientists, if mitigation measures are not developed; the cost of climate change will substantially increase about Country’s GDP.
The frequent erratic weather change and other natural calamities are directly associated with climate change. The recent unprecedented rains at Karachi which broke 89-year record is a prime example; which led to a loss up to a tune of Rs 12 Billion in a matter of few days. If the situation of climate change is not addressed immediately, it can have a critical and irrevocable impact on the socio-economic situation of the Country in the near future.
In order to mitigate the impact of climate change and its adverse effects on life in general, it is imperative to strictly curtail unauthorized cutting of trees, ensure planting of trees where trees have been cut and afforestation. Pakistan only has 5% of forest landcover as opposed to an internationally set standard of 25%. During the period 1992-2011, the Country’s forest area was increased by 0.979 million hectares only.
This previously neglected area has now been given full attention by the Govt under ‘Clean Green Pakistan’; which has received worldwide acclaim and appreciation. The implementation of one billion Tsunami Tree plantation project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2014-2019) brought an additional 6.3% forest area under afforestation in this province. The Govt is also encouraging the participation of citizens voluntarily for keeping the cities/ towns clean, improving civic amenities. The use of technology is being implemented where city/tehsil and the neighbourhood-level index would be ranked according to their cleanliness and greenery.
By adopting such measures, Pakistan has set the right course & made significant progress towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal for protecting the environment and holding off climate change. However, true success would be achieved once every individual would play his/her role towards and aim at reducing the carbon footprint and offsetting the same by planting more trees.