Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people,” said Nelson Mandela. His message is loud and clear; that sincere leaders should give their utmost for the betterment of the societies they govern.

Unfortunately, this ethos does not exist amongst our ruling classes who aim solely to expand their businesses at the cost of the poor. Despite being freed from the British era almost seven decades ago, we still struggle for basic facilities and for our rights, and the government does nothing about it, carrying on out of sync.

Does the government realise, for example, the pressing need for a greener environment? As environmental degradation affects our lives and properties, it results in losses of billions of dollars. Devastating floods have displaced millions of people causing mass-scale migration. Air and water pollution causes severe health problems every year. Environmental degradation, climate change, global warming, pollution and deforestation have devastated scores of lives.

Today, the global community has joined hands to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reductions in carbon emissions, by increasing forest cover and making huge investments in renewable energy. In India, environmentally friendly policies have helped them seek enormous investments in the renewable energy sector mounting billions of dollars. This enabled them to add thousands of megawatts of clean energy to their national grid station. Today, India proudly claims to become the fifth largest installed wind power capacity in the world.

Unfortunately, nothing much is happening in Pakistan as we have been able to add only 100 megawatts (mw) from one solar power project in Bahawalpur. This project aims to produce 1000 mw by the next two years.

This initiative should have been taken years ago when Pakistan started to face its energy crisis, but political developments and inertia overshadowed the energy and environment needs of the country. Even the Ministry of Climate Change formed in 2012, was downgraded to a mere division with a reduction of funds in the budget this year. Only Rs. 25 million has been allocated this year as compared to Rs. 58 million in the previous budget highlighting the de-prioritisation of environmental issues.

Today, every nation considers climate change a major threat to its survival and has begun taking actions to mitigate it. Earlier this year, President Obama stated in a weekly address, “Climate change has moved firmly into the present, its cost can be measured by lost lives and livelihood, lost homes and businesses and higher prices for food.”

As Pakistan witnesses an increased frequency in natural disasters and calamities, it is important that our leadership understand that such damage will only increase our dependence on IMF loans. Unfortunately, the common man does not know the disastrous impacts of climate change. The German Watch Institute in Global Climate Risk 2014, highlighted that the floods in Pakistan were the result of climate change, which means that people should be aware about shifts in climatic patterns so that deforestation, sea intrusion and flash floods can be prevented.

A heavy responsibility rests on our leaders to increase the awareness of climate change and urge their supporters, party workers and sympathizers to adopt environmentally friendly practices and reduce carbon emissions.

The 2013 elections witnessed a high turnout with more than 55% of registered voters casting their vote. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) noted that that amounted to over 45 million people. This reveals that a sizeable population of our country is politically motivated. Irrespective of which political party a leader belongs to; PML(N), PTI, PPP or MQM, if they utilize the enormous potential of the public they can deal with the awareness and mitigation of climate change, deforestation, global warming and pollution. Hence, political affiliations can be come one way to protect the environment from further degradation.

“If Altaf Bhai asks us to plant mangroves along the coastal belt, we definitely will,” says Asif Ahmed, an MQM enthusiast told me. Similar views were received from one Rahimullah Shah Yousafzai, a PTI supporter from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He said, “Imran Khan is our leader and if he urges the people to control deforestation and pollution, we’ll put in our best efforts.”

If our leaders broaden their vision, they can mobilize the public to deal with environmental issues. People will be mobilized at the grassroots level to protect the environment by reducing carbon emissions, by promoting renewable energy and increasing forest cover. If the government vows to increase investments in the renewable energy sector; discourages dirty energy produced from coal-fired power plants and mainstream sustainable development in its plans, there is hope for major improvement. It is now up to our leaders to deal with the current environmental scenario - the environment must be included in their manifesto and they must mobilize the public to follow suit. It may be a quiet revolution for now, but loud, honest revolutionaries are needed to push for this change.

The writer is a Communications Officer at WWF Pakistan, and a freelance contributor.