15 January 2009

South Asia Climate Change Conference

Moot to assist in policy planning for danger zones

By Muhammad Qasim, The News, Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A two-day regional conference on ‘Climate Change: Challenges & Opportunities for South Asia’ will start here today (Tuesday) as one of the major events of the National Year of Environment 2009.

The objectives of the conference, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, are to assist in policy planning for the sectors most susceptible to climate change and facilitate a dialogue on climate change between Pakistan and other countries.

Secretary Ministry of Environment Khushnud Akhtar Lashari announced this at a press conference here Monday. Additional Secretary Imtiaz Inayat Elahi was also present on the occasion.

The environment secretary said at this time, Pakistan faces serious environmental problems brought on by the cumulative effect of a host of factors, from unregulated development to population growth to the over-exploitation of natural resources. “So severe are the effects already that environmental degradation today is estimated to cause economic losses to the tune of Rs365 billion annually, or six per cent of the GDP,” he said and added that the figure is likely to rise in the near future unless steps are taken to address the environmental threats on an emergency footing.

He said that keeping in view the urgency to respond to the challenge of climate change as well as other pressing ecological concerns, the government of Pakistan has declared 2009 to be the National Year of Environment. As one step in a series of measures that would address the country’s environmental issues, Ministry of Environment and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Pakistan are jointly organising the regional conference.

The conference will bring together experts from the South Asian region to share their knowledge and experience of the impact of climate change, and to explore mitigation measures. Dr Rajendra K Pachauri, Chairman Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will be the keynote speaker at the inaugural session. The technical sessions will focus on responses, developed by Asian countries to specific climate-related problems in agriculture, water resource management and disaster management.

Apprising about the threats of climate change, the secretary said the issue is seriously affecting the country’s economy by effecting biological diversity, desertification, agricultural productivity, water availability, food security and human health.

He said under the Climate Change Regime of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the rising global temperature compels the member states for two essential and mutually exclusive options. One is the mitigation option to reduce the quantum of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), while the other is the adaptation option to neutralise and reduce the harmful impacts of the rising global temperature, he added. While the mitigation option might take decades to reverse the trend of climate change, the adaptation option is a much handy tool to neutralise the harmful effects.

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