The government’s announcement of a green stimulus package is a welcome development, as it would not only enhance the green cover of the country and provide jobs to thousands of people, but also drive resources towards the green industry. Pakistan could not do this sooner, as it is the 5th most vulnerable country to climate change. According to UN FAO, only 2.2% of Pakistan is forested; it lost an alarming 33.2% of its forest cover between 1990 and 2010. The impact of this rampant deforestation has been devastating in terms of extreme weather events, resulting economic loss and endangerment of several species. While plantation campaigns are a good and necessary initiative, they will not suffice unless a transition is made from bolstering extractive industries to investment into creating a green economy. Easier said than done, yes, but it must start somewhere.

Extractive industries such as fossil fuels not only take a massive toll on the environment, the workers affiliated with them are also most vulnerable during health crises owing to their poor working conditions. In fact, the impact of such industries makes the entire populace more susceptible to diseases. The coronavirus pandemic has created a wonderful opportunity to drive investment towards low-carbon and environmentally sustainable technologies. While the government’s stimulus packages rightly aim to restart the economy, it would be prudent incorporate environmental goals in each of them to protect the country from climate change. Economic recovery should not come at the expense of the environment.

While the primary focus of the government at this time should be containment of the virus, there is no reason why relevant departments and private entities cannot collaborate to complete preparatory work. This way green projects can begin as soon as the immediate threat subsides. Pakistan should participate in the ongoing global debate over the Green New Deal, and take concrete steps towards a necessary transition for its own sake.