Climate Resilience: Standalone Measure Won't Work
Executive Director Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change, CEO Mountain and Glacier Organization
From occasional to frequent and mild to intense, hydro meteorological disasters will be the new normal for Pakistan, with the floods of 2022 offering a preview of future likely events. Recurring disasters cause an exponential increase in economic losses and simultaneously result in an exponential decrease in coping capacity. Together they accelerate decline and push the country faster towards inflexion points beyond which recovery becomes difficult. To avoid landing in a deep dark hole, we must agree on a common strategy for coping with disasters.
Financial resources and capacity are two key inadequacies that are routinely cited as reasons for delay in post disaster recovery and rehabilitation. Yet after facing so many hydrometeorological disasters, the lessons learnt are few and far in between. There is little attention paid to addressing issues of social inequity, aligning disaster risk reduction strategies with emerging threats and co-creating policies that meet local needs, and reflect community aspirations for growth and development. On the other hand, far too much reliance is put on external financial support and philanthropic help from citizens and diaspora to build back better.
In every situation there is a time for making mistakes, learning from the past and embracing new ways to address recurring challenges. Our biggest tragedy is that we do not walk our ambitious talk. Countries that are serious about strengthening resilience and improving life quality indicators walk in step with the times they are living in. Climate change is no longer a slow onset event. It is out-pacing commitments made in Paris in 2015 to keep emissions below 2°C and its impacts are becoming more uncertain and catastrophic with every passing day.
The price tag of $40 billion needed for recovery and rehabilitation from floods of 2022 is an indicator of future losses. With economic challenges, extreme social polarisation and intense political strife, the situation is going to get worse unless we put our house in order.
Repeating data about submerged land, dislocated people, health crisis, food shortages and deaths from deprivation is not going to solve the problem. The issues are chronic and need aggressive remedial actions. As a first step, Pakistan needs to develop a locus based, people-centred adaptation plan that takes into account the prevailing social and cultural practices, and uses the plan as a vehicle for transformative change. The intent should be to shift from business as usual to new ways of dealing with disasters, making policies that get a buy-in from the people and are subsequently implemented with due diligence. District level disaster management and empowered local bodies are the missing links in the resilience chain.
We need to shift from rhetorical aspirations to realistic choices and dovetail ambition with development in ways that consolidate gains for the people and the country. Resilience cannot be achieved in isolation. It requires a constellation of factors to withstand shocks. Pakistan needs an overhaul in governance to survive in a fast-changing world.