ISLAMABAD (AlertNet) – Pakistan’s government has boosted the funding of a state institution that researches the impacts of climate change, and granted it autonomy, in an effort to increase the quality of its recommendations on climate resilience for government policy and programmes.
The Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) will focus on research aimed at helping sectors such as water, agriculture, forestry and health become more resilient to climate change. The centre will collaborate with countries in South Asia, the Asia Pacific region and other developed nations to exchange scientific know-how, research and technology, said Syed Muhammad Ali Gardezi, secretary of the federal Ministry of Climate Change.
Founded in 2002, GCISC has been administered by the federal Ministry of Science and Technology and more recently the Ministry of Climate Change. But inadequate financing caused administrative difficulties.
Now the centre is likely to receive an increase of 20 to 30 percent in its budget, which is currently 55 million Pakistani rupees ($560,000), said Arshad M. Khan, GCISC’s executive director.
CLOSING RESEARCH GAP
Abdul Waheed Jamali, head of SEARCH, a Pakistani nongovernmental organisation, said the reorganisation of GCISC was long overdue, and that a yawning gap remained to be plugged in climate change research in Pakistan.
“Pakistan is way behind in research and technology that can help improve its ability to cope with climate change impacts on water, agriculture, ecosystem (and) health,” he said.
Khan said that legislation passed in late February would “revamp the GCISC into an independent entity capable of making data available for precise, accurate decision-making and policy-making.”
Khan said that lack of research into the causes of climate change and its impacts on an array of socio-economic sectors had been a major roadblock to planning or carrying out projects to curb climate-changing emissions and adapt to changes brought by climate change.
Now, “the Centre is poised to bridge the research gap,” he added.
NEW EQUIPMENT, CENTRES
GCISC’s increased funding will enable it to establish climate change impact study centres in all five of the country’s provinces and install the latest equipment to help make long-term scientific predictions of climate and weather systems, Khan said.
The director said watersheds, rainfall variability, weather monitoring, disaster preparedness and creation of climate-resilient infrastructure would be further areas of research for the centre.
GCISC’s work includes “theoretical and applied research, (and) simulation modelling techniques to analyse the vagaries of climate change so that viable mitigation and adaptation plans are chalked out and their successful implementation ensured,” Khan said.
The centre aims to make recommendations to government departments and agencies, as well as generating public awareness of the phenomena of climate change and its impacts through conferences, workshops, training courses and research papers.
Recently, GCISC signed a research agreement with Ev-K2-CNR, an Italian research organisation with long experience working in Pakistan’s northern mountain areas, where the impacts of climate change have become evident in the increased rate of glacier melt.
The two organisations will work on a pair of research projects in northern Pakistan, said Jawaid Ali Khan, director-general of the federal climate change ministry.
“GCISC will benefit from the expertise of Ev-K2-CNR in high-altitude studies on impacts of climate change on glaciers and water resources,” Khan said.
“The collaborative work will help the Centre come up with measures to boost climate-resilient water management and food security in Pakistan by identifying water-intensive farming practices.”
The federal minister for climate change, Rana Farooq Saeed Khan, said that glacial melt contributes 50 percent of the total flow into the Indus basin, which is a lifeline for Pakistan’s farmers. According to the government, agriculture accounts for 23 percent of Pakistan’s GDP and 44 percent of overall employment.
Adapting to and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change on glacial melt and water resources will only be possible if the impacts and causes are investigated in depth, the minister said.
Jamali, the head of SEARCH, said that climate research, and science and technology, can build the country’s climate resilience by increasing knowledge of how to best prepare for natural hazards, and how to protect vulnerable communities.
But climate resilience cannot be built on scientific and technological advances alone, he cautioned.
“Their effectiveness hinges on better, sustained coordination between people and organisations,” he said.
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan