FeaturedNationalVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 30-31

Environment day: a call to action

World Environment Day is observed every year on June 5 with the purpose of raising awareness about the formidable climate challenges facing the world, including global warming, deforestation and loss of biodiversity. In 1972, on June 5, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden. Commemorating the day, in 1973, the world celebrated its first World Environment Day. Since then, every year, the special day is observed on the same day.

Led by the UNEP, and held annually since 1973, World Environment Day has developed as the largest global platform for environmental outreach action. It is celebrated by millions of people across the world. Every year, World Environment Day is celebrated with a specific theme targeting the immediate problems – from climate change to global warming to deforestation. This year, the theme of World Environment Day is – Land restoration, desertification and drought resilience. According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, up to 40 per cent of the planet’s land is degraded, directly affecting half of the world’s population. The number and duration of droughts has increased by 29 per cent since 2000. It is said that without urgent remedial action, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population by 2050.

Ecosystems all over the world are threatened. From forests and drylands to farmlands and lakes, natural resources on which humanity’s existence depends are reaching a dead end. In view of the enormity of the challenge, there is a need for collaborative efforts to protect resources, preserve biodiversity, and build resilient ecosystems. Experts also emphasise the importance of sustainable land management, community empowerment, and clean technologies for a better, safer future for mankind.

Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable nation on the Global Climate Risk Index. It is also third on the list of countries most affected by dangerously high air pollution levels. Climate change also poses a serious threat to agriculture and water resources which are depleting fast. This highlights the need for appropriate climate risk management strategies. According to an estimate, Pakistan may encounter a food shortage of 70 million tonnes by 2025. The country has also recorded a 23 per cent decrease in cotton productivity due to flooding in 2022. The agricultural sector is projected to shrink by up to 40pc by 2050 due to climate impacts.

During the last three years, Pakistan has experienced excessive rains, flash floods and unexpected droughts which have ravaged habitats and decades old agriculture production patterns. Also, as the UN warns about increasing desertification, we have seen the Indus River basin, drying up and shrinking. In the last few decades the country has moved from being one of the world’s most water abundant countries to one of the most scarce ones.

At a seminar on the occasion entitled ‘Land Restoration, Desertification and Drought Resilience: Our Land, Our Future’, jointly organized by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, UNEP and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, speakers underlined the urgent need to combat land degradation, which threatens three-quarters of the country’s land due to global warming and environmental degradation.

In recent years Pakistan has taken some positive steps to combat environmental challenges. Initiatives such as the Green Pakistan Programme, Living Indus Initiative, and National Adaptation Plan, are geared towards reforestation and ecosystem restoration, tackling issues of deforestation and biodiversity loss. Pakistan is also actively developing sustainable low-carbon development strategies with support from organizations like GIZ, UNDP, and the World Bank. Other projects under implementation include Recharge Pakistan, GLOF, and Sustainable Land Management Program (SLMP) to promote sustainable agriculture practices and combat land degradation. The government has also set the target of restoring 100,000 hectares of degraded land and achieving a 6 percent forest cover.

A ‘Climate Change Readiness’ study recently conducted by GIZ, a German development agency, and the Pakistan Business Council revealed that although awareness of climate risks is increasing, the requisite action to tackle the situation is not being taken. The study showed that there is a big gap between recognising climate risks and implementing requisite management strategies to mitigate these risks effectively.

It may be added here that the updated International Financial Reporting Standard for Sustainability-related Disclosures (IFRS S2) now mandates companies to report climate-related risks in their financial statements and give details of risk management and mitigation measures taken. In light of this, experts have urged Pakistani companies to map both physical and transitional climate risks such as direct damage from natural disasters, affecting assets, supply chains, and business continuity. There is also a need to make adjustments in a low-carbon economy, where changes in policy, market preferences, and technological advancements can disrupt existing business models. As of now, only 30pc of companies have developed comprehensive strategies to manage these risks, leaving a large proportion struggling with partial or fragmented approaches, which could jeopardise their long-term sustainability.

Pakistani entities will also have to keep in view the global economic landscape and climate policies, evolving market demands, and shifting investor priorities toward sustainability so as to seamlessly align with global green initiatives. All in all, Pakistan needs to develop a comprehensive policy to adapt to climate risks so as to gradually move to a sustainable and resilient future. The environmental threat is real and growing, and there is no time to lose.