Being a negligible producer of greenhouse gases, Pakistan has always been on the fringes of the climate change debate. This coupled with the fact that there have always been much more pressing national security concerns to contend with, leaving climate at the bottom of successive government’s agendas. The Nawaz Sharif government even demoted the climate change ministry to a division and slashed its already meagre budget by 60% in its austerity drive. The damage of this established short-sightedness is coming to bear; with recent years bringing erratic weather patterns leading to a whole array of natural disasters. After a string of devastating floods, which are fast becoming an annual feature, the government has been forced to consider climate change, yet its attentions are too cursory in nature to provide any tangible change.

The government knows the facts and the danger; the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) for 2015-2030 clearly outlines the impeding difficulties; the reduction of the glaciers that feed the Indus River, a lack of drinking water, unpredictable precipitation patterns leading to floods, especially in the monsoon, an inflow of salt water in the Indus delta, and droughts in various parts of southern Punjab. Yet none of this is alarming the government as it is supposed to. Pakistan’s agriculture, and the collateral economy hinges on the Indus River and its tributaries – changes in this single system can completely upset our agrian society. Terrorism may be a much more immediate danger, but only climate change can wreak havoc on such a grand scale so as to bring the economy crashing down. Our government needs to think ahead and act while we still can.

The government must be given credit for initiating a response. It has elevated the climate change division to a ministry again, and the new minister, Mushaidullah Khan, seems to be diligently raising awareness and coordinating provinces. Yet this response does not go far enough. The elevation to a ministry is not coupled with an increase in the budget, which currently stands at around $600,000. Compare this to the economic loss in the 2014 floods, which is estimated to be between $14 – 15 million. The Climate Change Ministry lacks teeth, it has a miniature budget and its policies are rarely implemented; a fact that the authors of NCCP themselves admit. Furthermore, all efforts towards preventing disaster are only aimed at risk prevention, whereas improving farming methods and increasing adaptability to changing weather can go a long way in mitigating the harms of a changing climate. Having resolved to combat climate change, the monsoons of 2015, not that far away, will be the true test for this government’s competence.