By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI (AlertNet) - Disaster-prone Pakistan has launched its first ever national policy on climate change, detailing how it plans to tackle the challenges posed by global warming, mitigate its risks and adapt key sectors of the country's economy to cope with its consequences.
Pakistan is highly vulnerable to weather-related disasters such as cyclones, droughts, floods, landslides and avalanches. Devastating floods in 2010 disrupted the lives of 20 million people – many more than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – and cost $10 billion.
The climate change policy, developed with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), recommends some 120 steps the country could take to slow down the impact of global warming, as well as adapt sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture.
Measures include flood forecasting warning systems, local rainwater harvesting, developing new varieties of resilient crops, promoting renewable energy sources and more efficient public transport.
"The National Climate Change policy takes into account risks and vulnerabilities of various development sectors with specific emphasis on water, food, energy and national security issues," said Rana Mohammad Farooq Saeed Khan, Minister for Climate Change at the launch of the policy in Islamabad on Tuesday.
But the policy needs a concrete action plan to back it up, with details, budgets and timelines first, some newspaper commentators said, adding that only then could there be a chance of effective implementation.
Questions have also arisen about where the money to fund implementation will come from and whether Pakistan's provinces have the capacity and expertise to put it in place.
Last year, a major U.N. report said the world needed to prepare better to deal with extreme weather and rising seas caused by climate change, in order to save lives and limit deepening economic losses.
UNDP's Pakistan Director Marc-André Franche said addressing changing weather patterns would help the country's economic development.
"Pakistan is among the most vulnerable countries facing climate risks and mechanisms need to be devised for greener, more resilient options for growth and sustainable development, said Franche at the launch.
"I hope the policy will help key stakeholders in identifying capacities and skills for the successful implementation of the policy," he added.