The third session of UN Environment Forum took place from 23 to 25 January 2019 in Singapore. The forum brought Asia Pacific member states on a platform with opportunity to discuss Asia Pacific standpoint at the world’s highest level decision making body on the environment, the UN Environment Assembly which will meet in March 2019 at Nairobi. This time UNEA-4 theme focused on Innovative solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable consumption and Production, essentially aimed for a joint effort.

Fortunately, Pakistan was elected as the vice chair at the third UN Environment’s Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities as 41 nations voted for Pakistan to represent them at the forum in Singapore. No doubt, this is something to celebrate. But what is more important is to cherish what we got to do. As one of the 8th most vulnerable nation to Climate Change, it is very critical to understand environmental challenges we are facing today so that we can translate our preserving and rehabilitating measures in right direction.

There are hopes and there are fears. As the saying goes, it is the best of times and the worst of times. We can actually get nothing out of it if we continue to stick to the impulses of our conventional bureaucracy which we have done before at different managerial positions of the UN environment or we can collectively choose to sit together and chart a new path of shared environment characterised by sustainable development as still are very far away from the desired position.

For instance, to increase our pace in managing and extracting Climate Finance, is important to emphasise on its transparency and its channelisation. Here, it is critical because as climate finance flows increase, bringing trust and connection between developed and developing countries will be decisive. Therefore, it’s challenging opportunity for Pakistan to bring Asia Pacific region on the same page which will actually help Pakistan to get much out of this money. Of course this needs consistent and informed leadership which can play its role of tracking progress of $100 billion goal.

In this regard we are lacking to take climate finance as an opportunity. We need to invest on bringing innovative solutions to the country which will automatically create more jobs, stimulate entrepreneurs and research. However, Pakistan has acquired only two projects one for climate change adaptation and one for mitigation although National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) is the only one who got international accreditation through GCF.

As a Vice chair, Pakistan can promote partnerships to take action, both globally and locally. This will include an inclusive multi-sectoral approach to bring together academia, private sector, civil society, inter-governmental organisations and governments of the Asia Pacific region. Besides this, Pakistan can tap further collaboration within science-policy-business nexus, and pay particular attention to digital solutions. To ensure a result focused methods, call for global ideas in Pakistan with innovative solutions to climate challenges and sustainable production and consumption could be a win-win situation bringing people, ideas and money at the same time. Ultimately, these innovative solutions can be scaled up rigorously with wide audience and deeper impacts with new partnerships at the assembly.

Further, to focus on the better implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda, Policy integration is needed at all levels by strengthening the visibility of the international environmental policy agenda. Taking in account Sixth Global Environmental Outlook, GEO-6, which was presented at UNEA-4 and provided detailed outlook of the state and trends of the global environment, we can work on evidence-based decision making in international environmental governance- which will in fact will help us most- as Vice Chair of the UN Environment.

Lastly, our struggles must of course benefit our own people and should be aligned with their interests. Pakistan should attempt to guarantee an outcome from the Assembly that encourages citizens to become more mindful of the challenges and solutions to the health of our planet, and begin more sustainable lifestyles. Effective environmental education also has a core role to play, as essential basis to create higher awareness and motivation to save our environment.

As Vice Chair, Pakistan has been given great role in leading environmental governance initiatives and be effective part of the diplomacy. It surely is an opportunity to remain at the forefront and lead the efforts related to setting global environmental agenda. Pakistan can utilise this opportunity to project its sustainable development and related issues at the highest diplomatic fora and make use of the global synergistic efforts. It surely would also provide opportunity to enhance national capacities, (particularly institutional) to build along the lines, as required to meet the expectations of global efforts. Particularly in terms of enhanced engagement with global community in implementing the obligations under Multi-lateral agreements and channelising necessary resources for the same.

This also poses some associated challenges, like sustained political agenda and fitting the role into administrative priorities of the Government. Since, Environment is a federally devolved subject, aligning in the various coordination issues in holistic implementation mechanism would offer some challenges, which need immediate attention.

 

The writer is an environmentalist with M. Phil degree from LSE works at South Punjab Forest Company.

 ifrahshoukat@gmail.com

@ifrahshaukat28