Each year Pakistan loses 465 Billion PKR to Environmental Degradation. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has begun to proactively address climate change impacts and meet obligations under international Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). As a front runner, KP has both the advantages and challenges of the first mover action planning for MEAs. The precedent it has set will trickle down into the initiatives of other provinces, thereby facilitating an integrated response. This would help provide a clear understanding of the national situation on climate action and international obligations under MEAs.

MEAs are legally binding agreements between several states and other subjects of international law, such as international organizations. MEAs address specific global environmental concerns and are part of the integrated efforts to address these concerns. They play a key role in the implementation of international environmental laws and conventions in different countries and ensure global participation. MEAs facilitate global efforts to address environmental issues and are complimentary to national and regional agreements.

With the dissolution of the MEAs Secretariat (Federal Institution), as a result of post 18th amendment, the responsibility of provincial governments in the implementation of MEAs has entered unknown territories. Action planning for MEAs is a stepping stone towards de-mystifying these responsibilities at the provincial level, in this case for KP. Pakistan is signatory to 14 MEAs, which according to the Division of Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC), belong to three clusters: Biodiversity and Land (7 MEAs); Atmosphere and Climate (4 MEAs); and Chemicals and Hazardous Waste (3 MEAs) related conventions. Thirteen of these MEAs apply to KP.

MEA Action Plans, even if initiated in only one province, can help in articulating national efforts towards meeting international obligations. A strong intent in meeting international obligations for MEAs can help governments, federal and provincial, secure funding from international bodies and donors. This can help channelize resources in a way, which is linked to global efforts and can enhance climate action, and protect, and conserve the environment. The MEAs Action Plans report for the province is a pioneering document, which, among others, provides an overview of the background, development, and uptake of MEAs in Pakistan, along with the knowledge synthesis of these agreements carrying a strong technical component.

The MEA Action Plans developed by Leadership for Environment and development (LEAD) Pakistan for KP prescribe sets of activities, prioritized over a five year timeline, selected according to the convention recommendations. Activities, such as research studies, training and capacity building, mass awareness campaigns, monitoring, evaluation, and verification, risk assessment and management, and incorporation into relevant curricula are part of the action plans. A generic action plan based on convention recommendations from the 14 MEAs has been developed, in order to facilitate replication of this process in other provinces of the country. These activities have been modularized in order to ensure cost effectiveness and ease of implementation. Resource requirements for each module of the activities have also been indicated in the action plans. Factors such as lack of knowledge of ground realities towards implementation, resource limitations, call for the need of an integrated approach (inter-provincial and intra-provincial).

The report extensively specifies responsibilities and obligations towards implementation and development of MEAs, at provincial and federal levels. The federal government is responsible for development of MEA (negotiation, adoption, and enforcement). However, MEA implementation (issue identification, project development and design, capacity building, MRV, and funding) is divided among the federal and provincial (national and sub-national) levels. The modularity of the developed actions steps is another distinctive feature of MEAs.

The 14 MEAs signed by Pakistan are, directly or indirectly, linked to the targets set out by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs and MEAs are both geared towards sustainability, sound environmental management, protecting biodiversity (flora, and fauna), conserving water bodies, climate action, and human health. Some MEAs can be directly linked to SDGs goals, as they promote development in harmony with nature, sustainable ecosystem management, and economically sound environmental technologies. Increased sustainability, reduction in environment degradation, and mitigating the drivers of climate change can result in indirect benefits, which can help increase food security and enhance social well-being.

Provincial Climate Change Policy of KP is a subset of MEA Action Plans. Therefore implementation of the plans will also ensure effective implementation of the policy. Implementation of the action plans, supplemented by capacity building and awareness raising will hope to develop skills. This will expedite development of proposals and projects in this regard. It is hoped that the action plans will help the implementers secure funding from national and international donors. This will increase donor interest and link the activities of the government departments to global discourse. It will facilitate technology transfer, capacity building, and increase access to international finance. This ripple created by KP will help create waves in the other provinces of Pakistan and provide momentum to national efforts towards meeting obligations under MEAs and SDGs.