Malik Amin Aslam Khan

The global growth model is clearly on an unsustainable pathway. An exponentially expanding population, extravagant consumption patterns, rising greenhouse gases triggering catastrophic climate changes, dwindling biodiversity reserves, rapid and unregulated urbanization - these are just some of the environmentally alarming trends delivered by the existing model for economic growth. Thus, it is no surprise that while the global GDP has more than doubled in the past three decades the planet has paid a very heavy price with more than 60% of its natural ecosystems being degraded.

It was these concerns that gave birth to the idea of a global green economy. The aim was to revisit, revise, rethink and improve the clearly unsustainable growth model and come up with a viable solution. Within this context, over the past few years, many countries have been trying to firstly define what “green” actually means and secondly endeavor to implement and translate it into practical action on the ground. The second implementation part of this green challenge has, in particular, remained neglected in most countries especially in the developing world. The lack of strong and unflinching political commitment has oft been cited as the most important barrier to implementation.

In this context, the “Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaaf” took upon it the challenge of not only clearly defining but also politically conceptualizing the notion of a green economy in Pakistan. This was based upon a philosophical premise that the key to implementation lay in a mainstream political party defining, owning and politically mainstreaming this concept.

Subsequently, the “Green Growth Vision” was unveiled by the party prior to the elections in 2013 and laid out a four-step strategy for the “greening” of growth in Pakistan.

The first step focused on stating the obvious. There is no doubt that environmental degradation remains a serious, but politically unrecognized, challenge for Pakistan. Issues such as widespread air and water pollution which plague the country are costing its, already stressed economy, almost 6% of its GDP and draining away more than Rs1 billion per day (WB report). Pakistan’s high vulnerability to climate change is now threatening to further add on to these costs.

However, the local environmental challenges plaguing the country are neither new nor unstated. However, for a political party aiming to address this challenge, the first starting point still has to be to clearly restate these challenges as well as the solutions within the context of various impacted sectors such as energy, water, forestry, transport, air pollution, waster generation, agriculture, biodiversity protection, ecosystem valuation as well as overall environmental governance. PTI did just that by not only enlisting but also focusing the solutions into action oriented targets in its pre-election green vision.

The second step of the PTI strategy was to accord full political ownership to the “green” growth vision. This was done by clearly articulating the party policy on environment while also making environmental conservation a part of the core objectives of the PTI party constitution as well as keeping this in focus during the 2013election manifesto.

The third step pertained to creating the political “buy-in” for this vision. This aspect of translating “green” into terms understood by the common man as a means to creating mass public and political appeal has remained largely unaddressed by most policy initiatives in Pakistan and even globally. In a country plagued by extremely high rates of unemployment and joblessness, the obvious key was to transform this vision of an alternate and “green” economy into any new green jobs that could be generated. PTI did that by carrying out an indicative exercise to translate the vision into green jobs. The promise of a new economy was directly linked with abundant green job opportunities.

With the elections of 2013 saw the PTI emerge as the second largest political party in Pakistan and the party that managed to form the Government in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Having clearly defined targeted environmental objectives and politically owned up to them in policy, party constitution as well as election manifesto documents there remains an unflinching obligation upon PTI to fully implement and deliver on the promise of a green economy and green jobs for the province ofKPK.

Being a party advocating reform and change, it was imperative for the party to deliver on what it had promised. Unimplemented manifestos and hollow sloganeering have been the unfortunate hallmarks of Pakistan politics. PTI aims to change that and the “Green Growth Initiative”, launched in the province of KPK earlier this week, is a step in that direction.

This initiative has been shaped by the party’s “green vision” which has been tailored to meet the economic needs, social demands and political aspirations in KPK where PTI is in government along with its coalition partners. The institutionalized put in place to make this happen included the setting up of an Inter-Ministerial committee on Green Growth that was supported by an Expert Task Force on Green Growth. The important aspects of this two-layered institutional setup were the fact that the Chief Minister himself chairs the ICGG, a clear signal of strong political commitment, while the Expert task force was challenged to tailor the vision for KP within a restricted time frame.

Once developed and implemented it can prove to be a showcase of a “Green Economy” not just for Pakistan but also for the world. It will do so by syncing the development in the province with global and national commitments such as the Rio+20 global targets, the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) and be a path blazer for the developing SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). In particular, being the most climate vulnerable province of Pakistan, KPK would be focusing on building resilience as well as adapting to climate triggered natural disasters and ensuring that its future development is climate compatible

Driven by strong political commitment and supported by an institutionalized structure, this initiative would focus on six sectors including the Forestry, Protected Area/National Parks, Clean Energy, Climate Resilience, Water/Sanitation and Waste Management sectors.

After expert deliberations and stakeholders input the 5-year targets for the first three sectors were announced in the initiative launch while the other sector targets will soon follow. These quantifiable and measurable targets, to which the KP Government has now publicly committed, will drive the implementation through a clear project stream.

The province of KPK houses 40% of Pakistan’s dwindling forests and is also the storehouse of its natural biodiversity. It was, thus logical, for forestry and national parks to be primary focal areas for the GGI. Within the forestry sector,through a number of revolutionary measures, the KPK Government has committed to not only reverse the high rate of deforestation but also shift the current philosophy of treating forests as a “revenue” machine towards preserving them as a valued “natural capital”.

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the forest area in KPK would be targeted for a majorenhancement from 20% to 22% by 2018, which would entail converting, at least, 30000 hectares of additional land every year into forests through massive afforestation drive.In addition, through enrichment planting, the tree cover in existing forests would be increased from 20% to 30% by 2018 and this would entail gap plantations in, at least, 27000 hectares each year.The above ambitious targets would be achieved through a massive 5-year “Billion Tree Tsunami” afforestation campaign, which would be launched in end of February and will include a “youth nurseries” program to create decent and green jobs for the youth of KPK.This would be augmented by establishing rules for REDD+, an innovative global financial instrument that aims to reverse deforestation by providingcashable carbon value to standing forests. The Government of KPK would place a complete ban on cutting and felling of trees in the reserved forests of KPK by converting, in a phased manner, all these state owned forests into a protected area.All the above will be monitored through independent and scientific third party monitoring techniques, such as through GIS and google earth, to ensure compliance with what has been committed.

What is also significant is that, the KPK Government also aims to soon table a constitutional bill in the National Assembly to identify, measure and capitalize the natural capital in all provinces. It is time for Pakistan to value its natural capital and also recognize and reward efforts for preserving this national treasure.

As stated, being the custodian of a major portion of Pakistan’s natural biodiversity, the KPK Government has also committed to not only expanding the Protected Areas/National Parks in KPK but also ensuring their professional and proper management and preservation by integrating this with ecotourism. To oversee and manage this transformation, the GGI has announced the formation of a high powered and autonomous “National Parks Authority” through a legislative bill.A specialized “Youth Park Management” force will be professionally trained to act as nature’s guards and create tremendous employment opportunities. KP will endeavor to ensure that the area under protected areas goes from 11% to 15% of its area by 2018. This would surpass the MDG commitment made by Pakistan. In addition, a recreational “Wildlife Park” would be established in each district that will provide awareness and also sensitize the public to this natural heritage.

Climate change remains a pressing challenge for the KP province which, owing to its geography and topography, is the most vulnerable province in Pakistan. The repeated ravaging floods in the past few years have been a stark reminder of the devastation and infrastructure loss this vulnerability can cost to KP. Thus, the GGI logically targets enhancing the climate resilience of the province through vulnerability mapping and climate proofing of its infrastructure. Climate adaptation concerns will be integrated into the planning process through the EIA and PC1 preparation stages.

The fourth important sector of the GGI is also linked with the climate responsibility that KP will voluntarily undertake by committing to “Zero Carbon” growth. This would entail choosing to capitalize on clean energy and carbon sequestration. By 2018, KPK will expand its energy base by adding an additional 3000 to 4000 MW but will remain committed to clean energy by ensuring that by 2018, at least, 80% of its power generation is based on clean renewable energy namely hydro and solar energy. A hallmark of this initiative woiuldbebringing online 356 community driven small hydro projects amounting to 35 MW of clean off-grid energy delivering clean energy and community jobs across the province. A plan is being developed for starting a “Solar Roofs” project in Peshawar as well as a “Solar tube wells” projects for the farmers of KPK. Both will generate green jobs.

The “Green Growth” initiative of KPK aims to be a flag bearer of the clean and green revolution in Pakistan and to ensure that we provide a better quality of life to the citizens of KPK, create decent and clean job opportunities for the youth and also provide a means for social uplift and poverty eradication in the province.

The politics of change demands shifting from sloganeering towards delivery. Hopefully the successful implementation of the GGI will not only catalyze the notion of political ownership of the green agenda in Pakistan, and the world, but also create a paradigm shift in KP’s growth trajectory - leading to prosperity, poverty reduction and a better quality of life for the people while fulfilling the imperatives for a cleaner environment.

The writer is Chairman of Green Growth Task Force, KPK.