Training workshop for Journalists in Islamabad on “Pakistan’s Commitments on Climate Change"

The Series: Heinrich Boell Stiftung initiated a series of workshops for the Journalists in Pakistan under the title “Journalist on Climate Change”. The purpose of the workshops is to orient journalist community with the latest updates on climate change, bring the journalists together at one platform, and enable them to influence public discourse on climate change at all levels.

Workshop 4

The Federal Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid, addressed a group of journalists at the 4th media training workshop on December 22nd in Islamabad organized by the Heinrich Boll Foundation on the outcomes of COP21 which recently took place in Paris. According to the Minister, “We are in the process of ratifying the Paris agreement. We will take it to the cabinet for approval. We have held internal meetings in the ministry and we are preparing a plan of action to implement the agreement”. The Minister said they are looking into establishing a climate change authority or commission and there are plans to strengthen the Ministry of Climate Change, which is now an extremely important ministry for the future. “We have also commissioned a detailed study on our green house gas emissions and after the Pak China Economic Corridor is finalized we intend to study the projections of green house gas emissions and that will enable us to indicate our Intended Nationally Determined Contributions accurately in the coming months”. Other speakers at the workshop included Bilal Anwar from the Centre for Climate Research and Development (CCRD) at COMSATS University who explained the principles of the Paris Agreement and Shakeel Ramay from the Sustainable Policy Development Institute (SDPI) who spoke about the role of civil society at the COP. The IG Forests, Syed Mahmood Nasir, also spoke at the workshop about the inclusion of safeguarding forests in the agreement. This was the last workshop in the series began earlier in 2015 to spread awareness about COP21 and climate change in general.
Paris agreement compromise between conflicting positions: minister (DAWN)
From Paris to Pakistan (DAWN)
Climate change Pakistan's emissions are just 0.8 percent in global trajectory: (Business Recorder)

Workshop 3

The third training workshop for journalists on “Pakistan Gets Ready for Paris” took place on November 14th at the HBS office in Islamabad. HBS Programme Coordinator, Mome Saleem, made the welcome address noting that “it is a question of now or never” in regards to the upcoming COP21 to be held in Paris. The core value of HBS is climate justice and the phasing out of fossil fuels. The Paris agreement should focus on equity, loss and damage and energy transition.

Shafqat Kakakhel, a former ambassador and Chairperson of the Board of Governors of SDPI spoke next about “what is at stake in Paris?”. He gave a short history of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the lead up to COP21. He noted that in 2010 in Durban a new road map was agreed upon and developing countries found themselves compelled to carry out cuts provided they were given financial and technological support. The whole discussion in Paris will be about arriving at a new agreement; a new international, legally binding agreement which will cater to all needs. In Paris, governments will have just two weeks to agree on a draft. He noted that Pakistan had submitted a weak Intended Nationally Determined Contributions document for COP21 and that “Pakistan squandered an opportunity to share its challenges with the world”.

Bilal Anwar, who currently works for the Centre for Climate Research and Development at COMSATS University spoke next about the “status of the current negotiations”. He said he felt “disappointed” with the submitted INDC as the last version of the document he had been working on had been an important document for Pakistan but policy makers could not understand is importance. In his view, “we have missed the boat… the Ministry of Climate Change worked hard to put the document together and then the INDC went to the PM and we lost control of it. Now we are in a state of controlling damage. We need a mitigation reduction commitment no matter how low, we must have a number as that is the global trend”.

Rina Saeed Khan, an environmental journalist based in Islamabad, spoke next about reporting on the global negotiations as a journalist based on her experience of covering the Copenhagen and Bonn climate change negotiations. The Ministry of Climate Change was represented by Nisar Chatta, section officer and Syed Mahmood Nasir, the IG Forests. Nisar Chatta explained that they would be “updating the INDC document with proper figures at the appropriate forum”. The INDC was changed at the last minute because “after the 18th Amendment it is the provinces that need to implement it and we needed all stakeholders on board before making any commitments”. He admitted that there was always room for improvement.

Workshop 2

With a little over a month to go, to the decisive UN Climate Change Conference 2015 is held in Paris, the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Islamabad organized a second workshop for journalists on “Pakistan’s Commitments on Climate Change”. It brought together experts from various environmental NGOs; Leadership in Environment and Development-Pakistan (LEAD) and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and government officials from the pioneering Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in the Punjab and the innovative Billion Tree Tsunami project in Khyber Pukhtunkwa, to discuss the Intended Nationally Declared Commitments (INDCs) in the lead up to the Paris conference. The document also outlines Pakistan’s commitment on cutting its emissions in the future. Around 25 journalists from both the print and electronic media, representing the major media houses in Pakistan, attended the workshop. Later they filed stories and TV reports about what they learnt at the workshop.

Marion Mueller, the country director of HBS in Pakistan, opened the workshop with an explanation of what the European Union expects from COP21. “We would like a legally binding document, which would be an adequate reaction to climate change with fairness of commitments”. Nathalie Dupont, the political officer from the French Embassy, spoke next about the importance of the upcoming Paris conference. “All the international frameworks are coming to end and we need a new framework after 2020 – if it is not done in Paris, it will be too late”.

Pakistan already ranks amongst the top 10 countries in the world that are most affected by climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index. Pakistan is now continuously suffering from monsoon flooding, along with the recession of glacial and snow reserves, heatwaves in urban centers and droughts. Vice President of the World Meteorological Organisation Dr Qamar uz Zaman Chaudry explained at the workshop: “Climate change is considered a threat multiplier that will aggravate all the other challenges the country is facing and will result in increased hunger, poverty and conflict”.

The global carbon budget has largely been consumed and the window of opportunity to find solutions is narrowing. Countries across the globe have committed to create a new international climate agreement by the conclusion of COP21. In preparation, they have agreed to publicly outline what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take known as INDCs. Paris is where each country’s commitments (which will be synthesized into a document) will lay the basis for negotiations. Unfortunately, Pakistan failed to submit its INDCs on time; the deadline was October 1st. The document was not approved by its PM in time; in fact, it still has not been submitted. Other countries like Turkey and India managed to meet the October 1st deadline according to the more detailed presentations on the INDCs by Nadeem Ahmed from LEAD-Pakistan and Bilal Anwar, a researcher from the US who helped guide Pakistan’s INDCs.

Pakistan is promising either a 10% reduction from business as usual or 20% reduction from business as usual (in emissions) if it is given the required funding. According to Nadeem Ahmed, “What Pakistan needs is an accurate greenhouse gas inventory – that is at the heart of everything”. Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change, which prepared the INDCs document, however is underfunded and does not have many resources at its disposal. “The time was too short and there was a lack of date and lack of understanding” he explained further. In Bilal Anwar’s view, however, “All the countries did it in a rush… this bottom up approach might be voluntary now but it will become binding”. The consensus was that Pakistan’s INDCs, which include the new 100 MW solar park in Punjab (presentation given by Dr Rana Jabbar Khan) and the ambitious tree plantation activities of Khyber PakhtunkhwaK’s government(presentation given by Dr Faizul Bari, Conservator Forests) , should be approved and submitted as soon as possible before the Paris conference starts on November 29th 2015

COP21 journalist workshop: Experts concerned over Pakistan not submitting INDCs (South Asian Media Net)

COP21 journalist workshop: Experts concerned over Pakistan not submitting INDCs  (The Express Tribune)

Workshop 1

While the media in regional countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have a good understanding of the global climate change negotiations and are well aware of climate change and its impact on their countries, Pakistan is lagging behind in its coverage of climate change issues. The Pakistani media is too focused on extremism and governance issues and is largely not aware of what is happening at the global level; most have no clue about the importance of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris. To increase the understanding of climate change issues in the media in Pakistan, the Heinrich Boell Stiftung office in Islamabad is planning a series of workshops for journalists to discus climate change and COP21 in particular in the lead up to the Paris conference in December.

The first workshop on "Introduction to COP21" took place on August 29th in Islamabad at the hbs office and was facilitated by Rina Saeed Khan, an environmental journalist based in Islamabad who attended the Copenhagen Summit as a reporter from Pakistan. Marion Regina Mueller, the country director of hbs in Pakistan, welcomed the participants, around 2 dozen journalists from both the electronic and print media based in Islamabad. She highlighted the importance of Climate Justice as intrinsic aspect of the discussion on climate change requiring fundamental changes in the economic systems, in cultural beliefs and in power relations. Nathalie Dupont from the French Embassy spoke next about the importance of COP21 where 195 countries will be deciding the framework for a climate treaty aimed at avoiding catastrophic climate change. She explained that it would be a huge task for the French government to host the 40,000 people expected to come to Paris and that they would try to include civil society as much as possible. She emphasized the role of the media who could focus on solutions to climate change. Other experts on climate change in Pakistan, like Malik Amin Aslam, the vice-president of IUCN and Shahid Kamal, a retired ambassador who has represented Pakistan in the global climate negotiations in the past and is currently advising the Centre for Climate Research and Development at COMSATS University in Islamabad, spoke about the importance of COP21. They all agreed that climate change is a complex challenge that would need a complex solution. This year will decide how much emissions each country will try to reduce. Every country has to put forward its own steps to reduce emissions in the form of the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), which should be synthesized in one document in Paris by November this year. However, these are flexible and voluntary INDCs; how will they be synthesized and given legal cover in the form of a climate treaty?

These are some of the important issues that will be resolved at the Paris conference.

To highlight the important role of civil society (NGOs), Shakeel Ramay from the Sustainable Development Policy Institute spoke next about how civil society is there to strengthen the hands of the government, which in Pakistan is limited by resources/capacity. Bilal Anwar, who is an expert on the climate negotiations and is based in the US, explained the intricacies of the climate talks and different groupings. He explained that it was not an easy task as it is a “highly complex animal we are treating”. The federal Ministry of Climate of Change in Islamabad sent their representative, the Inspector General Forests Syed Mahmood Nasir, to the workshop and he showed a film on REDD+ in Pakistan and spoke to the journalists about the crucial importance of saving Pakistan’s remaining forests. The feedback from the journalists was that they learnt valuable information from the workshop and that their knowledge of climate change issues had increased ten fold.

The next workshop will be held in the first week of October and will focus on Pakistan’s INDCs, which should be announced in September.

Covering Climate Change why the Paris Conference is Important (Dawn News)