The changing climate pattern around the globe poses a formidable threat to dwellers of the earth and though there is a growing consciousness about this potential weapon of mass destruction, very little has been done in concrete terms to prevent this disaster. Not only small and developing countries like Pakistan are the worst sufferers in view of their inability to cope with the weather related disasters like flash floods, it is also adversely affecting the affluent countries as well, in the shape of freak weather, hurricanes and severe flooding of the settled areas.

According to the minister for Climate Change Mashahid Ullah Khan Pakistan is seventh in the list of ten countries which have been badly affected by the climate change. Memories of the devastating flash floods of 2010 still haunt those who suffered due to that cataclysmic phenomenon.

In fact the industrialised nations who are responsible for emission of heat-trapping gases also known as greenhouse gases into the atmosphere leading to global warming and consequent climate changes, must not only address this issue seriously but also help the developing nations in coping with the consequences of global warming. Environment scientist believe that if these emissions are not reduced or controlled the global temperature might register a rise between 1.1 to 6.5 centigrade by the end of the twenty first century with all the accompanying cataclysmic consequences for the entire humanity. The major contributors to the global warming are US, China, Russia, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, Japan and Korea.

In view of the dangers posed by global warming and the consequent climate change, the countries of the world joined a treaty known as United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 committing themselves to work collectively to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change and to cope with whatever impacts were inevitable. Realising the inadequacy of the emission reduction provision in the convention, another agreement known as Koyoto Protocol which legally bound the developed countries to observe emission reduction targets, was concluded in 1997. The first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The second commitment period began on 1st January 2013 and will end in 2020. Regrettably US did not ratify the protocol and Canada withdrew from it in 2012. The second commitment period has also not been given legal cover as a growing number of countries including Australia, US Japan, Newzealand, Belarus, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Norway, Switzerland and Russia remained reluctant to commit to these targets. The developing countries have not been given any binding targets but they are still under the obligation to reduce their emissions. The proposed action to be taken by the developed and developing countries under the treaty include support for renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and reducing deforestation.

Some of the actions proposed at the international moots can be undertaken by the respective governments by changing the energy production mix and also putting in place policies to prevent deforestation but it is an issue which requires the involvement of the entire society. That necessitates efforts to create awareness about the seriousness of the issue among the masses and motivating them to refrain from cutting trees and joining the national effort to plant trees where ever it was feasible to do.

It is encouraging to note that the government of Pakistan is also taking this challenge very seriously and a full-fledged ministry of climate change has been established to deal with the issue. Though the subject has been devolved to the provinces through eighteenth amendment but the federal government has taken upon the responsibility of providing a policy framework in line with the global commitments and obligations.

Pakistan is the 5th country in the world to have created a separate ministry of Climate Change and having done legislation for the establishment of Climate Change Council and Climate Change Authority. It has formulated new Forest and Wildlife Policies besides setting up Global Change Impact Study Centre, the research arm of the ministry. The ministry has also been organising international conferences on climate change in Pakistan and its representatives including the minister have also been attending similar conference at the global level. Green Pakistan is the initiative taken at the federal level under which 100 million trees would be planted around the country in the next five years. The minister for climate has revealed that a botanical garden was also going to be set up in Islamabad on an area of 570 acres. The ministry also succeeded in getting approval of $37 million for Glaciers Lakes Outbursts Funding projects in Gilgit-Baltistan from GCF (Global climate funding) in spite of strong opposition by India in 2016

The remedy to mitigate the impact of climate change undoubtedly lies in planting more and more trees. Unfortunately the area under forests in Pakistan is only 5% of the total land mass whereas as per the global standards it should be more than 20%. There is therefore an imperative need to run a persistent awareness campaign to educate the masses about the impact of climate change and their contribution to the national effort including refraining from cutting trees. Since the subject now relates to the provinces they also need to extend full cooperation to the federal government by taking appropriate steps in line with the policy framework enunciated by it.

The emphasis must be on creating more forests and planting of trees which provide the best protection to dilute the impact of climate change. In this regard services of the Army can also be sought for plating as many trees as possible where ever the Army units are located. Other steps that can be taken might include making it obligatory on all the federal and provincial departments concerned with development of infrastructure such as roads to ensure tree plantation on both sides of the roads. The Housing Societies and private land developers engaged in developing housing must also be made to plant trees along all the streets of their housing projects. Similarly the district and union councils can also be given specific targets for tree planting and creating awareness among the people of their respective areas

The media has a very vital role in creating awareness and motivating the people to plant trees on voluntary basis. For this purpose all the media outlets including the print media must try to dilate on the subject on regular basis. Unfortunately the subject has remained on low priority of media which has focused more on the emerging political landscape. Being a fourth pillar of the state media is under obligation to promote the national causes like the climate change. For Pakistan there is no escape from this either with or without the assistance of the international organisations and funds created for the purpose.

It is encouraging to note that the government of Pakistan is also taking this challenge very seriously and a full-fledged ministry of climate change has been established to deal with the issue.