As part of efforts to increase awareness and address the problem of climate change, Pakistan held World Environment Day last year in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program. Last year’s topic was ecosystem restoration, which coincided with the launch of the United Nations Decade of Restoration. On the occasion, Pakistan asked wealthy countries to support the world’s poorest countries by establishing a Green Fund. Through increased collaboration, the international community has reached an agreement to take concentrated steps at the domestic, regional, and international levels to avoid additional climate instability and address the numerous harmful impacts of global warming. Climate change poses severe challenges to Pakistan’s national security because of an amalgamation of geophysical and topographical factors that expose the state to recurring severe weather events that are likely to increase due to climate change. Moreover, the crucial reliance of Pakistan’s economy on significant natural resources exposed to the adverse effects of climate change is a matter of serious concern. Apart from participating in international and national discussions, Pakistan has adopted a variety of measures to mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change on its economic sectors. However, as a global issue, climate change necessitates concerted actions by world leaders.
The fact that more than 70 percent of Pakistan’s surface water flows, supplied by the Indus Basin, originate beyond its boundaries emphasizes the importance of climate change implications in the context of Pakistan’s security policy. The Indus River, together with its major tributaries, rises on the Tibetan plateau and flows through Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. Another significant source of the Indus, the Kabul River, reaches Pakistan from Afghanistan and meets the Indus, providing about a third of its water. Reduced river flows on the western side of the border due to climate change are a possible cause of strain in India-Pakistan relations. Moreover, climate change has resulted in a decrease in the flow of the Kabul River, which creates a security threat.
Likewise, sluggish economic growth, exacerbated by severe energy shortages caused by electricity theft, non-recovery of dues, mismanagement; bribery; and losses incurred by large public sector companies led by ineffective people, have a negative impact on Pakistan’s ability to maintain adequate military preparedness. Natural catastrophes caused by climate change, as well as domestic law and order disturbances, unavoidably entail the deployment of military forces for relief operations and peacekeeping at the expense of military contingencies. Natural catastrophes, particularly floods, storms, and hurricanes, as well as rising sea levels, wreak havoc on military assets as well as vital energy and transportation infrastructure, posing severe national security risks.
Climate change may also exacerbate conflict over limited resources, posing a challenge to Pakistan’s national security. Tensions between provinces over resource distribution, disparities between ethnic groups, population relocation, uneven and disordered urbanization, food insecurity, and poverty may all contribute to a conflict-prone environment that threatens to reverse Pakistan’s accomplishments in defeating terrorism. Food, for example, is one of the scarcest resources, and climate change poses a danger to food security. Despite the fact that Pakistan’s agriculture is very sensitive to climate change, it employs over 40 percent of the workforce and contributes 19 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of Pakistan’s economy. The country’s most prevalent agricultural practices are old, inefficient, and waste a large portion of the country’s freshwater resources. They are also overburdened owing to poor priorities in terms of crop kinds farmed.
Lt. Gen. Tariq Waseem Ghazi, a member of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change, argued that the topic of climate change cannot be debated without discussing the issues of the military. Climate change is posing an increasing risk to world security and prosperity, especially in Pakistan. Pakistan was ranked 10th in the 2014 Climate Risk Index of Vulnerable States list but is now ranked 7th. Climate change is now a national security concern for more than 68 percent of the governments in the world, together with Pakistan, according to Ghazi. Climate change and global warming are major challenges that need to be tackled in a careful manner that takes security disruptions into account.
Climate Change: Existential Threat to Pakistan
Pakistan, under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership, has made climate change a policy priority to mitigate and overcome the crippling effects of climate change. The government’s policies and efforts reflect its motive to make Pakistan clean and green. The various programs undertaken, including the world’s first Ten Billion Tree Tsunami, have received widespread praise, particularly from the World Economic Forum.
However, Pakistan’s recently announced National Security Policy fails to recognize the impact of climate change and Islamabad’s ability to deal with non-traditional security challenges, despite its mission. The NSP does not reflect the belief that it is vital to develop the country’s institutional capacity in order to address the complex and diverse threats and challenges posed by climate change. Although the NSP recognizes Pakistan’s significant susceptibility to the negative consequences of climate change, including extreme weather events that have multiplied and endangered our water supplies as a result of the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers and climate-sensitive monsoon winds, it fails to address it. Unfortunately, the NSP ignores the landmark Climate Change Act of 2017, which established an elaborate institutional structure for climate action, including a National Climate Change Council for policymaking, a Climate Change Authority for project development and implementation, and a Climate Change Fund to mobilize and expend funds for climate initiatives. The National Water Policy, which was adopted in April 2018 with the consent of all provinces, was also ignored by the NSP.
Pakistan is experiencing environmental threats to its national security; yet, Pakistan is doing its best to adapt. It has successfully launched the Ten Billion Trees Tsunami Program, which is aimed at reviving the country’s forests. However, Pakistan’s efforts will be in vain since climate change is not a national or regional issue; instead, it is an international concern that needs an immediate global response to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The author is a graduate in International Relations from the University of Sindh, Jamshoro. He is fascinated by the constantly changing world and wants to explore the causes and ramifications of contemporary state interactions.