Climate Change and Its Impact in Pakistan

Adil is joined in discussion in discussion by Anum Zaib and Kashmala on topic of climate change and its impact on Pakistan. Anum Zaib have been working on climate change for the past 9 years in Pakistan. She is associated with the envirnmental group, ClimateActionPK and also writes about climate change issues. Kashmala have worked in a climate change centre for the past 11 years. She is interested in understanding where we generate the finances from, so we can address the climate change issues we face.


RJ Adil: Hello Pakistan. I'm your host, RJ Adil. The show is called SpotLight TALK SHOW. You can catch me live every Thursday between 8 and 10 pm. Today we have a very important show for you with some guests whom we will talk to a lot about the topic. The topic is very special and something that requires our attention, this is why we've selected it. We will also be taking your participation in the show. My name is Adil, and you are listening to SpotLight TALKSHOW.

Let me make a quick introduction to our guests. We have Anum Zaib, and then we have Miss Kashmala. A lot of our listeners and viewers all across Pakistan can listen to you and watch you. The topic has been selected after deliberating with our audience. The topic is climate change and its impact on Pakistan. I would like for you to introduce yourselves to our audience and give a little background about yourself and your work related to climate change if you can do that for our listeners and viewers.

Anum Zaib: Thank you, Adil, I am Anum. I have been working on climate change for the past 9 years in Pakistan. This includes different projects, research and a lot of work in about all the provinces of Pakistan. I've worked with governmental and non-governmental bodies as well as universities to raise awareness. I also dabble in journalism regarding climate change and am associated with the environmental group, ClimateActionPK. 

RJ Adil: OK, that was Anum Zaib. And now we have Ms Kashmala; I would like for you to introduce yourself to our listeners as well.

Kashmala Kakakhel: Hello, my name is Kashmala Kakakhel. I have worked in a climate change centre for the past 11 years. When you talk about climate change, generally, you think it's a problem. It's a big issue that needs to be solved. So when we talk about solutions, we always talk about money. I am more interested in understanding where we generate the finances from, so we can address the climate change issues we face. For this, we have to see the international climate policy and see how we can own link that to our nationwide climate change policy in Pakistan and work on translating that into our projects on the ground. 

RJ: Very good. This was a brief introduction to our guests. These are our guests. And we will not tell you what the issue is and the various solutions to this issue. These guests are capable of answering such questions and giving us practical solutions. It's our habit as a nation to keep discussing issues and not discuss any solutions. So this is going to be a productive podcast, hopefully. First, we will direct the discussion towards the problems related to climate change, which Anum Zaib will walk us through and Kashmala will keep on adding to. Then towards the second part of this podcast, we will shift towards talking about solutions for this worldwide issue of climate, which is gradually getting worse. Other than this, I would also like for us to talk about some elements of environmental effects that are native to Pakistan like smog and Pollution. So starting from Kashmala, first and foremost, I would like for you to define and describe what exactly climate change is for our listeners and Anum can follow. 

Kashmala: Sure, Thank you. 10 or 20 years ago, when this question would pop up, 9 out of 10 people had no idea what climate change was, but today, its impacts have become so obvious in our daily lives that when you ask this question today, fortunately, or unfortunately, 9 out of 10 people are already aware of this phenomenon. Simply put, it occurs due to various ways we produce carbon emissions, and that happens when we increase our production or aim for economic growth and development and how we use our resources to generate energy. Carbon emission should not be more than what nature can take. Due to this, extreme natural disasters can occur, e.g. floods, while there are some effects that are called slow onset events, which means its impacts will start to show gradually over time. Sea-level rise is one example. In short, some of its effects show up instantly, while other impacts hit us over the decades because of the amount of carbon that's in the air. Science has been trying to create awareness for the last 30 to 40 years that its adverse impacts were coming and that the more carbon we emit, the greater its negative effects will be. However, due to economic growth being our priority, we are more inclined towards convenient and cheaper solutions, which unfortunately pollute our Environment way too much. Maybe that's why we didn't pay much heed to the scientific warnings. Now 20-30 years down the line, we are looking at its impacts, not just in Pakistan but in Europe and Australia as well. You can see the wildfires everywhere.

RJ: So these wildfires, you are saying that climate change can be the reason behind it?

Kashmala: Yes.

RJ: Right. So this problem here is a global problem, not just limited to Pakistan. So when I was talking to the guests' off-air, they informed me how big the issue had become. Predictions by old scientists are coming true. Anum, my question for you is, when we talk about climate change. For example, Kashmala just told us about how we can only see the adverse effects over a large period of time, and it doesn't happen immediately. So generally in the world, do you think there is more awareness about it now? How seriously are people taking this?

Anum: Thank you, Adil, that's a very good question. I think Climate Change is acknowledged more by the world nowadays. According to an affiliated body of the UN, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), of which 119 countries are signatories, I think. They have been getting together every year for the last 15 years, to discuss number one, the causes of climate change, who is responsible for it, how much responsibility are you giving to developed and whether the developing countries have any role in it and who has to pay. As Kashmala mentioned as well, who is financially responsible for this and what are the solutions. So, I'll tell you simply, there's a scientific consensus every year on the actual impacts of climate change. You can't put the blame on climate change for every flood, wildfire and drought. Instead, the scientific parameters account for certain factors. Like the amount of these events that are caused by humans and whether there are any non-anthropogenic causes. Secondly, where are the emissions coming from? So when you talk about carbon emissions, there are a lot of greenhouse gases. Whenever we talk about climate change, greenhouse gas is a very important term. So basically, how is global warming caused? Because of these greenhouse gases, carbon is the most important one because it has the highest quantity, the highest ratio, but there's also methane, which is a by-product of the agricultural sector. Basically, your hydrofluorocarbons are also included in greenhouse gases. There are many such greenhouse gases in which hydrogen and oxygen combine chemically to trap hot air, and this causes global warming. So, where are these emissions coming from? We will always say that it's due to fossil fuel burning, but that's not the only reason. The agriculture sector is also responsible for a large amount of these emissions. For example, if you talk about livestock in the agriculture. If you're talking about cows and cattle farming. So more than two-thirds of the world's methane emissions are coming from livestock. This includes cows and sheep because it's being done on such a big scale. Obviously, because the world's population has grown so much and the food systems have expanded as a result. A lot of forest lands have been converted into agricultural land. On top of this, farming practices have changed a lot. So to me, there's a rising demand for agricultural products. Due to globalization, we are eating Australian beef and drinking Australian milk. So to meet these demands, there are a lot of emissions that take place. So apportioning responsibility for where these emissions are coming from. Is it even countries, or is it corporations? It's an emerging fact that 3-5 companies are responsible for 70 per cent of the world's emissions. So can you apportion responsibility to countries now or are we apportioning responsibility to these large organizations and where they are based. So it's a very important thing, in terms of awareness, we're seeing a lot of awareness in the world? This is the 26th time that the world leaders are meeting to discuss climate change. There are also representatives from Pakistan, from Pakistan's Ministry of Climate Change. You guys must have heard about Greta Thunberg. She is one of the youth activists on climate change. She's always on BBC or CNN. She travels from America to Europe to raise awareness and make a statement. So a lot of people are talking about it. But when we started our careers, there wasn't much awareness in Pakistan about climate change at that time. Now I'm saying that everyone knows about it and everyone wants to talk about it.


RJ: Right. So do you think, for instance, in Pakistan, apart from the awareness that climate change is happening, are we actually doing something about it? I mean do you see an increasing amount of people involved in taking actions against climate change? Or at least improve the current situation?


Anum: I want to give this question to Kashmala after one comment. I know that some of my colleagues working in the sector would not like it, but the ten billion trees tsunami and the billion tree Tsunami before that which the government had successfully carried out. Definitely, there are certain issues, but it has made climate change a household name. Whether they are talking about it in a positive way or negatively, at least they're still talking about it. Whether we should be planting trees or not, so people are talking about it. So I do give some of the credit to these initiatives for initiating a debate on climate change. People are talking about it in their houses, at their offices, and they're discussing, What should we do about it?.


RJ: All right, listeners and viewers, as you already know we're talking about climate change, your participation is also very important. We have Anum Zaib and Kashmala with us here who are doing a lot of work in the field of climate change in Pakistan. And I believe, Kashmala has worked internationally as well. So how will you be able to relate, you have travelled around the world, and Anum is also working along those lines. She's working on global issues arising as a result of climate change. So is there a difference for Pakistan? So can you tell us if Pakistan is doing a good job in the fight against climate change? I feel like hearing good things about our country that Pakistan is doing something. So can you share from your experience, you've been to many countries, how awareness do you see about climate change, and I have another question that I would like to ask you both. To what degree is climate change dangerous, and maybe we do not realize it as a nation yet?


Kashmala: I'll take the second question first because, as you said, the show is about climate change. It's no more about change. It's about the climate crisis now. Internationally, if you see the news or start reading articles about it, the word 'Climate Change' has been replaced by 'Climate Crisis' for the obvious nature of the situation that we find ourselves in, take COVID for instance, did you ever think the world would stop that too from a virus that we had not even fathomed. It would have such long-lasting effects. And we're being told over and over again about Climate change, the scientists are warning us, and still, the level of our preparation is not good enough, which we should be. Internationally, as well as domestically. So that's definitely a factor. As mankind, we have the habit of not doing something about a crisis until it's too late. Although there were scientists who warned us about COVID as well. Yet nobody prepared in advance for it. There were no funds given to research, and nobody saw a reason to work on it. So people are connecting the two and saying that we can see climate change is happening, and we're still not taking it seriously as we should. So that's one. Number two, as we were talking about before the show, climate change is an issue that does not have any geographical boundaries. It's not like if we do something wrong in Pakistan, that's causing climate change, its effects will only be seen within the boundary of Pakistan similarly, for another country. We're living in a global world regardless of which countries, which areas are emitting more harmful gases, methane or whichever sector you're looking into, which is actually the culprit. Everyone faces the adverse effects of climate change. So I think it is something that we need to look at from that lens. It's important for Pakistan to come across as a responsible player in this situation. Where we talk about the fact that emissions in Pakistan aren't that many compared to the rest of the world, Pakistan has only 0.2% of the total emissions. But at the same time as you said we have to move forward as a responsible country. And it's important that we don't wait for the situation to get worse, but if we look at ourselves and the economic trends of the time and realize where we can bring further improvements. So in that way, this government has put climate change as one of the key priority agendas on the front foot wherever you look. Whenever Pakistan talks about their foreign policy internationally, climate change is one of the key agendas over there. Definitely, one is the force creating the level of noise, the right level of awareness about the issue. The second is actually doing something about it. Anum just referred to the Billion tree tsunami. Definitely, the more trees you plant it will help you reduce the emissions. So the net effect is reduced through trees, that's very good. On top of this, Pakistan's new renewable energy policy, which is internationally appreciated, in which we say that by 2030 Pakistan's energy mix will have 60% of the energy from renewable sources. Then we're aware that Pakistan has introduced an E-vehicle policy which states that by 2030 a portion of our cars will move towards electric.

In the same way, our fuel quality has improved to Euro 5, which is environmentally friendly. A couple of fuel agencies have started it, and it will eventually roll out to the rest of the country in terms of fuel consumption. A lot of things are happening, and Pakistan is being appreciated a lot for its efforts internationally, but this is just the beginning, and we need to do more as we go along.


RJ: OK, so Anum and Kashmala, I have a question for both of you, as you talked about fuel and various elements of policy that our government is taking the issue of climate change very seriously and along with this also doing something about, obviously not directly related, the problem of Pollution, smog. Would you like to add on more elements of policy? What else is happening in Pakistan in terms of policy?


Anum: Pakistan is actually one of the few countries that have a dedicated Ministry of Climate Change. A lot of countries don't have it. Our National Climate Change policy is also made, and currently, it's being updated. Cop26, your listeners might already know that an agreement was signed in 2015. It was a landmark agreement signed in Paris and is called the Paris Agreement. Many countries came together to sign this agreement where they decided that they would reduce their emissions, and every country will give their commitments. Each country will submit a document, and every 5 years, they will improve that document by further reducing their emissions. At the same time, they want to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, this year's report states that we have crossed that point. It basically means that, since the 1950s, the industrial era began, we call the time before that pre-industrial time. We are actually aiming that the average global temperatures must not increase more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial time. The scientists, in their upcoming recent report, the report hasn't actually been released yet, but its summary has been released for policymakers, are saying that if we reach 1.5, we are on 1.2 currently, but we're going to reach 1.5 very soon, there are so many species that will go extinct, coral reefs will die, our ice caps will melt further considerably. There are various other similar effects, a lot of tree species are there that will not survive.

Along with that of course, there are effects on humans. Natural disasters will increase. Some places will experience droughts, rainfall will increase in some areas and decrease in others. So it will have an effect all over the world. People think 1.5 is such an insignificant number like you'll set your AC thermostat 1.5 cooler. What worse could happen? Actually, it's the average, and when you talk about average, it's a big number. Our climate system is susceptible. It gets affected by a change of even 0.1 degrees. So the countries agreed that they will submit their determined national contributions, which states how much emission will they reduce on their country level. Pakistan submitted its document at the end of 2015 or maybe later in 2016 and just 2-3 days back actually our revised document came in which states a lot of goals, as Kashmala just mentioned, for example, renewable energy, our forest cover targets, our smog targets and how we are going to handle that, all this is covered in that document. As well as some new areas like the Blue Economy. Which is about how we will use our marine areas as a carbon sink and also as a means to generate income. So quite a few things are going on. What we want to see further is not so much about policy. What we actually want to look for now is to strengthen our institutions and capacity such that all these great plans that we have made on paper can be implemented too. So we are getting there.


RJ: Okay. So it's great to know that so much work is going on in Pakistan on this level and there's a lot more that still needs to be done as mentioned by guests who have shared their in-depth knowledge and research about the subject and most of all in what regard they have been working in Pakistan. So let's continue our course of questions with our guests. Coming back to you, Kashmala, just like she talked about policy, you also shed some light on it. Let's look at it more scientifically in Pakistan's context. You earlier mentioned that our fuel Euro 5 has been introduced, correct me if I'm wrong, but Euro 5 is banned in some countries. Currently, the prevailing fuel technology is called Euro 7, and its emissions are considered comparatively friendlier to the Environment. Euro 5 technology is somewhat obsolete in the world now. What other elements are there that, in your opinion that needs more work or requires more discussion or anything that we're not aware of at all yet? According to your personal experiences and knowledge, what do you think are the elements that Pakistan and the rest of the world need to work on more to control climate change?


Kashmala: When you talk about climate change, 'to address the impacts of climate change and 'to reduce climate change' are two different discussions.' To address the impacts of climate change is called Adaptation. It means that climate change has occurred and as a result of it you have been affected by some extreme impact, and now you're addressing it. Be it flood or drought. You know that every year there will be a flood because of climate change. And because of the impacts of climate change every year, the frequency and magnitude will be greater. By frequency, we mean it will be recurring, and by the magnitude, we mean if it affected a range of 10 feet, it might affect a region of 15-20 feet now. So now you'll. This is called Adaptation. To address the impacts of climate change, people, the world, will have to adapt. Because we are at the receiving end, we face flooding, Pakistan has been working on it for a long time, whereas more needs to be done, but there are still a lot of areas where we are improving. The second aspect is 'reducing the climate change', which means controlling our emissions which in turn means we need to move towards such technology and such solutions that will reduce the emissions whether it's in the agriculture sector, energy generation sector or any other sector due to which our emissions are high. Let me give you a raw example, solar energy used to be so expensive, nobody had thought it would grow this much in a country like Pakistan, but because the technology has advanced so much in the last 7-8 years, China has become the largest exporter of solar panels. We could start using this. This is a technology that everybody is using. We didn't have wind or solar earlier. People only knew of fossil fuel, or people thought the efficiency of wind and solar was lesser. They didn't know how the transmission would take place. So many questions were being raised about the new technology when they'd talk about renewable sources. However, now it's a norm. Solar energy is something that is very normal in Pakistan, and people are talking very normally about it. Now to answer your question in terms of what else can Pakistan do? There are other technologies, there are other areas, there are other alternative solutions that we need to look at. A path has been paved now in terms of how you can reduce it and how you actually use technology to improve these solutions. So this was one aspect of it. The second important aspect I always talk about that we often treat like our stepchild is Energy Efficiency. We keep talking about generation and that it should be clean and should come from renewable sources like air or wind or water etc. But we don't talk about the way that we are using our energy. If we had conserved it, maybe we wouldn't have to generate so much energy. You can take the example of a simple bulb or how we design our rooms or structures; if we climate-proof our spaces, we could optimize our inside temperatures. The concept of energy efficiency used to be discussed initially, not just in Pakistan but also globally. However, for the last 15-20 years, Energy Efficiency is not being discussed as a solution. Many of our youth, upcoming entrepreneurs, are currently working in this area where they are coming up with very good solutions that are energy efficient and can be used in the housing sector. Some very interesting concepts around bricks, some very interesting concepts around how you can use the exhaust systems in your housing etc., so yes, there are solutions, there are areas that we can tap into, and definitely the more we talk about it, it will create more room to come up with more solutions. 


RJ: Alright. Anum, my question for you is which areas or countries in the world are the most affected by climate change? Although I do understand that it's a global issue and that it's a big issue. But can you give us examples of some areas that are badly affected by climate change the most? 


Anum: That's a very interesting question, Adil. Like Kashmala said that when we talk about climate change, we talk about Adaptation and mitigation. Apart from those, there are two other very important factors. One is resilience, and the second is vulnerability. Resilience means how capable are you to cope with an issue if it arises. The better you are at coping, the more resilient you are. Plus, the more you are exposed to a risk, the more vulnerable you are. So if we talk about resilience. Of course, if you look at things globally. The 10% of the world, who are the richest 10%. They're probably the least vulnerable because they have because they have more options. They have diversified streams of income, I mean, they are not dependent on one stream of income. They are not dependent on natural resources. So their lives are not dependent on the amount of annual crop yield from their wheat fields or whether the wheat would even grow. If there's a flood or if the rain does not come on time, they will starve. So I mean the poorer countries, by default, the least developed or mid developed countries at this age, have a lot of inequalities. For instance, the three of us sitting here, me, you and Kashmala, maybe we are not that vulnerable because we do not generate our incomes from natural resources. We have other sources of income. But the people who are being directly dependent on natural resources. The women in the villages mostly have the job of taking care of the livestock, getting water from the well, and household use. If the source of that water starts to dry up, then these women would have to go further away to get it, due to which they have to face even more risks. Similarly, if there's a farmer who has a single source of income like wheat crop or sugarcane or whichever crop he is trying to grow. It just takes one failed yield to make them more vulnerable. Because they work in a sector that is really affected by climate change. That's one way of looking at it between countries that are least developed. But the way that I like to look at it is more even within countries if you observe it, there are a lot of inequalities. By default, the people who don't have a lot of services, people who don't have healthcare for instance. Their healthcare systems are weak. They might have weak infrastructures systems. They have smaller income streams and large families with just a single breadwinner. Such are the kind of people who are more vulnerable and who can feel the impact of climate change the most.


RJ Adil: I would like to ask you now Kashmala, about the changing weather. In winters, the weather gets too cold and maybe even stay cold longer? The summers also see changing temperatures. Mostly what I have noticed is that the winters are harsh, temperatures go really low, and the duration of winters has also increased. Is this also linked with climate change somehow?


Kashmala: There is research that RPCC study that I was referring to before. the one that I was referring to before. It's called the assessment report, this is the sixth assessment report which has contributions from some Pakistani scientists as well. So the evidence presented in that research states a few factual observations. One of them is that the precipitation patterns are experiencing a change in frequency and intensity, as Kashmala rightfully pointed out previously when she was talking about floods and extreme events. We also see the sea levels rising. We are also experiencing extreme weather. Actually, winters are becoming shorter but more intense. Summer months are getting longer and the number of hot days is increasing, and all this is backed by research. In Pakistan, GCISC (Global Change Impact Studies Center) also does research on this issue. There are independent bodies that are doing this kind of research as well, and they all back this. That there is a definite change in rainfall, temperature, precipitation etc. 


RJ: So scientifically speaking, the glaciers are melting due to high temperatures which are causing more intense winters. When the glaciers will completely melt away, there will be a rise in temperatures.


Kashmala: Yes. That's a very interesting question. It's called the albedo effect. So basically the surface mass of glaciers is white. So those, to some extent reflect the sun rays back. Black absorbs heat and white reflects it. So yes in a way, glaciers protect you from climate change. There are two things causing the glaciers to melt. One is the large quantity of smog that turns into black carbon which covers the glaciers. The second thing is water availability. The amount of water in our rivers and seas will be more for about ten to fifteen years and then there will be a dire shortage and that's when we'll experience droughts and rainfall patterns. 


RJ: So can the glacier recover? We must be observing them pretty closely. Do you think there's being any work done on a global scale to preserve the glaciers or to extend their lifetime? I'm asking you, as a layman. 


Kashmala: Actually, at an individual level, there's not much you can do. You can't stop the glaciers from melting at an individual level. This is why you have conferences like COP26 are so important. Recently a lot of different countries have submitted NDCs, you can see that a lot of countries have under committed to their emission reductions. (32:44 at 8:06) They have under committed on the finances as well as their emission reductions. So such conferences are a good place for countries like Pakistan or other vulnerable countries in the region. It gives them the opportunity to hold them accountable for their lack of commitment to reduced emissions, financing, and it's part of the issue that we are facing. We need you to step up. We need you to ramp up your ambition. 


RJ: Does this approach work?


Kashmala: We have seen success stories in the past. I always give an example of the Ozone layer. As you know in the 90s, we saw that there was a hole forming in the ozone layer. If you remember, when we were in school and studying Environment, this always used to be in the science books. 


RJ: Yes. It was such a scary thing, it felt like the world was getting destroyed. 


Anum: Yeah and it used to be a big deal.


Kashmala: Then the whole world decided that they were going to stop emitting CFCs. It was banned in the entire world, and we saw the success rate of that. We saw the ozone layer start to close up. So you know, it's not impossible. That's why we keep trying. If we only keep saying that climate change is happening and everything will be destroyed then what's the point? Why are we having these meetings? Why are we working on this? The fact is, there is hope that something can happen. This is why world leaders get together and why we are working in this sector. 


RJ: The conference that you mentioned happens for the same reason this issue is being vigilantly looked after on a global level. 


Kashmala: On a very detailed level. 


RJ: Alright you guys, you're listening to RJ Adil live. The show is called SpotLight TALK SHOW. I have with me here, Ms Anum Zaib, and we have Kashmala with us. They are working on the issue of climate change in Pakistan. We have talked about policymaking on climate change as well. About what we need in terms of policymaking and its implementation. We also discussed the current climate change policies that Pakistan has. I would like to remind you again that climate change is not just an issue that Pakistan is facing. It's a global issue. It's a very issue that affects the entire world and representatives from countries around the globe, get together to meet, discuss policies and take actions against climate change. It's no longer just a matter of awareness, things are progressing pretty fast. The situation has got worse and there are a lot of problems. Like Kashmala just pointed out, there are some repairs and there are some preventions that we can take to stop this destructive phenomenon. We have already begun to face some issues in the world, and they are being addressed already, but we need to address them more aggressively and vigilantly. We have talked about climate change in a lot of detail. I would like to ask you both a few last questions before wrapping up the topic. It's about the element of youth and their activism in terms of climate change. For example, if we just take Pakistan, 65% of the population is youth. Now if we start from Pakistan and then talk on a global scale, how much engagement do you see from the youth and do they take it seriously? Any example that you would like to share about any youth groups or areas that engage in action against climate change. Let's ask Kashmala first. 


Kashmala: Absolutely. If we talk about climate solutions. It has three components. The first is the government, which provides a regulatory environment according to which we will take action. The second is the businesses which have to be shown the sound and environmentally friendly way by the government. They need subsidies. What do businesses need? They need certainty in their investments that are government-backed and secure. The third most important component in this solution space is the citizen. If the citizens don't have any awareness, it's of no use. Right now, if we have to buy an eco-friendly product, it comes at a premium cost. Or if you have to do sustainable construction or want to get renewable energy sources, it all comes at a premium cost. Now the costs are reducing a little, we've seen some improvement in that with the help of new technology. From the perspective of youth, the amount of awareness in private schools is pretty good, but it has to spread to public schools as well. If we teach our youth to be climate-responsive because when they get older, it's not going to be great climate-wise unless they work on it today. So the youth has to make better consumer choices than their parents. They can influence their parents' consumer patterns in a lot of ways as well. At the same time, I don't want to sound pessimistic. Climate change is a much bigger game. Like Anum said, one can't really do much at the individual level. I'll give you another example about carbon footprint. A lot of people talk about it. They tell us to not travel by plane or this and that. They say that it should be reduced and decreased as much as possible. Do you know who started this? It was a campaign initiated by British Petroleum back in the early 2000s. As Anum mentioned, there's a total of five or six companies that are responsible for most of the emissions. So they did this to divert attention from themselves and their businesses and instead started putting the responsibility on the individual and asked them to measure and reduce their carbon footprints instead. Such solutions don't solve the actual problem. So what the youth can do is raise awareness, push for climate change, and come out to support eco-friendly initiatives. In the past three, four years, there were these Fridays for Future campaigns. Although their momentum slowed down a little due to Covid. So the idea was, children wouldn't go to school on Fridays. All across Europe, they refused to go to school to build pressure. They said why should we go to school when the world is going down, and there will be no school in the future. The pressure helped in achieving a lot of different milestones in climate change agreements. A lot of youth came out and asked tough questions from the politicians and held them accountable for their lack of action on climate change. The youth believes it is time for action, unlike the last 30 years when it was just talking. Where are the answers? Where are the solutions? So the youth has and can help a lot in terms of building pressure and getting things done. Pakistani youth now have higher levels of awareness about climate change as they all have access to information at this point due to globalization. Even if the youth cannot contribute much on the individual level, but they can definitely push for change on a larger scale. The voice that you raise can have an actual impact, and if you focus on the actual problem, then you will be able to bring out a massive change.


RJ: Right. So Anum, what do you think about this? What action should the youth be taking? Any such examples about the youth and their work towards climate change. 


Anum: Yes. It's actually very interesting. Kashmala has touched on a lot of points. I would also like to highlight that there's also a group in Pakistan that's part of Fridays for Future. They are very active. They try every Friday, to do some kind of protest or some kind of thing that highlights climate change. At the same time, our group, which is called ClimateActionPK, is also very active. Before Covid, in September 2019, we held protests about Climate Change throughout Pakistan, and they turned out pretty successful. In Islamabad, for example, there were at least between 1500 and 2000 people, we walked to D-Chowk. 


RJ: Were they from all over Pakistan? 


Anum: No, we did a separate protest for each city. We held it in Islamabad, Sukkur, Gilgit-Baltistan throughout Pakistan. We held it in 17 cities in Pakistan and there were school-going children, tourists, and older people. There were people from all walks of life. 


RJ: 17 cities in Pakistan is a big number. 


Kashmala: Yes. It was something that they wanted to do themselves. We're literally three to four people who work in this sector. From very different backgrounds, from different cities even. Half of the people were from Lahore and there were some from Karachi. We were five to six people. People were coming to us themselves. They said they wanted to do it in their cities and asked for our help. We just guided them a little about the kind of posters they needed to make and the kind of social media engagement they needed. So the youth of today have a lot of tools. They have Twitter, they have Instagram they also have Facebook. They do a lot of social media activism, and we have seen that Pakistani youth are engaged. But I'm going to come back to something that Kashmala touched upon earlier. First of all, we are being made to believe that we can do something on the individual level. If you close the tap while brushing your teeth, there will be a lot less wastage of water. Or if you use wooden toothbrushes instead of plastic, it would be good for the Environment. These are all good things. We should do these. You can help your Environment in this way. You can help your Environment. You can actually reduce your plastic footprint, but the actual issue, climate change or the actual five to six companies that are causing it, will not be affected much on the individual level. Until they change their modus operandi, there is nothing we can do. They are responsible for 70% of emissions that are not going anywhere. So, we have to, so the role of youth is actually to raise their voice. For example, the Fridays for Future movement mentioned earlier. UN also has a constituency on climate change. They are also very active in negotiations. They are very capable children including Greta. So I mean they are much more aggressive sometimes because they take it very seriously. Let me highlight another issue. It's also another issue of inequality. In developing countries, the English speaking, privately educated youth concentrated in the city. Even if you look at Greta, she is from a European country, and she is leading this. She is the face of youth in climate change. If you think about it, the people who are being impacted by this. Our youth's voice is not being amplified. Maybe the former from Bhakkar, their children, who are actually facing the impacts of climate change, are not being amplified. So the whole conversation is being led by a certain group which includes about 10% of privileged people. The same is the case here, that there are just a few people from a certain number of countries, mostly from English-speaking countries. 


RJ: Alright Anum, let me cut you there for a second. We're a bit short on time right now. I would like to bring you back to the question. The people who are listening to us right now, and if they want to become a part of this change. How can they get involved in the struggle against climate change in Pakistan?


Anum: I tell people that the most important thing is that, this is the era of Google, this is the era of the internet. The people who have this facility that can educate themselves. They should be doing that. There are a lot of resources available. You can use social media to follow the Ministry of Climate Change in Pakistan. There are a lot of such resources that are particularly in Urdu and also in local languages. So I mean, the most important thing is to educate yourself. The second thing is that once you've educated yourself, you then identify where you can raise your voice or talk to people in your surroundings. Get more voices raised. More voices together are stronger than one. So you know, getting together and making groups and creating pressure is one of the things that we can do most effectively at this point. 


RJ: Kashmala did you want to add something?


Kashmala: Yes I think I would like to add something over here. I was at an event where there was a competition. Where youth from different countries presented climate solutions and everyone who came in said that Pakistan does not contribute anything towards climate change, and they said that our contribution was minimal. Whenever they showed their product, it was related to mitigation. The focus of products and development were things that were mitigation centric. Which is a great thing. As I said before, some of them came up with every exciting brick that was energy efficient. In our case, we don't look at Adaptation as an area where you can actually come up with solutions. A lot of things are there which we need to think about. We need to clearly re-evaluate the direction we can take with the youth to achieve the maximum outcome. Because the climate crisis is here to stay. If Pakistan and every country in the world can use 100% renewable and 0% fossil fuel. I think the carbon emissions will still be in the air for the next three or four or five decades. So the problem is not going to be solved in a day. It's here to stay. Youth has to start engaging in solutions that actually help with the Adaptation to climate change as well. So definitely raise your voice and talk about it. But the solutions that you need to create, it also has to address the adaptation challenges. 


RJ: OK. Alright, so we have Kashmala and Anum Zaib here, and we are talking in detail about climate change. Now we will try to discuss issues relating to Pollution and smog. I have with me here Anum Zaib and Kashmala. I want to ask you some questions about smog and Pollution. Anum, why don't you tell us about smog and take the lead here and tell us about it on a policy level? Also, tell us how serious this issue really is?


Anum: Yeah. In the past, Pakistan used to have regular seasons like summer, winter, autumn and spring. Now we have a Smog season as well. It happens every year, especially in Punjab. The areas of Punjab that touch India especially, are areas where the smog season originates. Referring again to what Kashmala said earlier that climate change knows no borders.

Similarly, air pollution knows no borders. Whatever impacts that India experiences in some seasons, we experience them as well. The impacts of air pollution over there cross over the border to Pakistan, and then we experience them here. While sometimes, the impacts travel from Pakistan to India depending on the wind and air patterns. So basically, smog is experienced due to the Punjabi belt in Pakistan. Some of it involves environmental factors. For example burning the crop stubble that is left after a harvest is very bad for the Environment, but farmers do this because it's cheaper for them than getting a tractor to dispose of it.


RJ: So there is no proper way to dispose of it?


Anum: There are a few machines designed by environmental entrepreneurs that are being used right now. One is called a mulcher, which gets rid of the stubble. It also adds new seeds to the field and mulches it together but its use has not become that common yet.


RJ: What about policymaking with regard to air pollution?


Anum: The policy framework for air pollution is just being formulated. The Ministry of Climate Change has taken some consultations in this regard from international bodies. Some international donors are also involved. I was also reading a report recently that said that not a very large amount of smog or air pollution is coming through burning crop stubble. It's actually coming from our transport sector. We were talking about raising our fuel standards, which have been raised on paper but are still in need of being implemented. Of course, the vehicles need to be updated along with ensuring improved fuel standards. Then making sure that people are buying the fuel that they are supposed to because alternate fuels are still available in the market because supposedly they are more cost-effective for communities. They are cheaper at this point. So I mean, these are some of the issues that need to be ironed out and some of the factors leading to smog. 


RJ: If we talk about air pollution. An expert told me that air pollution is always there, and maybe we experience it more during winters because the air density increases during winters. I believe all of us on the show are from Islamabad, so you'll relate. I remember that when we were children, you used to be able to see the Margalla Hills clearly, and now you just can't see the mountains clearly, which is also due to air pollution. So this expert told me that one of the major causes of air pollution is vehicular and due to traffic and this is why even Islamabad's air is polluted. It's present in both summers and winters, but we can just see it more in the winters due to a higher air density. This doesn't mean that cars are not being driven in the summers, it just means that we can't see the Pollution as much. So air pollution is one of the major problems that we are facing in Pakistan, as well. Talking about the youth in Pakistan as Kashmala pointed out in the discussion that the youth of Pakistan is very much engaged in plantation drives in Islamabad and there are a lot of these youth-led plantation drives throughout Pakistan now. Then there are certain groups in Pakistan as well which work on plantations and especially on the preservation of greenery on an individual and collective level. There are many times like I've seen in Islamabad that people are giving out free plants and this awareness movement is working through that. Kashmala would you like to add to this? In terms of the effects, air pollution has had on wildlife and trees. What kind of action is required for their preservation?


Kashmala: Exactly like we were talking about our childhood, and we talked about the ozone layer. Similarly, our focus back then was mainly on three to four different types of Pollution. Including air pollution, water pollution and in fact, we also used to study noise pollution. So in the early 90s, a lot of people talked about environmental challenges. The youth were also being mobilized. Now obviously when climate change has become a much more serious issue, in terms of the impacts that it is having on our daily lives. There's air pollution and there is the smog that's affecting the quality of our lives. But the way that the impacts of climate change have increased, that people have started talking about it, raising their voices and creating more awareness on the issue. The issue has now moved towards climate change, according to the group that mainly talks about it. Again as Anum explained how smog is made and how it impacts the lives of people. We can't stop still addressing those issues just because a bigger issue has come along the way. It's important to keep a balance. We still have to be aware of the fact that bigger problems don't mean we no longer have to pay attention to the smaller ones. Because they re-manifest themselves in other ways. So it's necessary that we consider all of these issues together. 


RJ: You are completely right. Anum, our show is about to end so what would you like to say to our listeners. Any short parting advice to give?


Anum: I would just like to say that no one should underestimate themselves. Even a single voice can be really powerful. Maybe I am contradicting myself here because we have previously said that climate change is not affected by individual action. But if you raise your voice, you would be surprised at the number of people who think like you and would want to work with you on this issue. This is what my experience has taught me. That whenever I have raised an issue, I have always found ten to fifteen people who agree with me and would want to work with me on it. Our ClimateActionPK group was also formed in the same way and that is an informal group. We are all volunteers. So I mean, we have to think about the future generations and one should raise their voice. That's the thing that I tell everyone. That if you see a problem, raise your voice. The biggest crime in the world is to witness a big issue that you can help resolve, yet choosing to stay quiet about it. So if you ever see something happening that is wrong, you should always raise a voice against it.


RJ: Kashmala, what message would you like to give our listeners as we bid them goodbye?


Kashmala: I think Anum summed it up very well. If we don't start talking about the problem, we will never be able to move towards a solution. One should educate themselves about what's happening. Be aware of what's happening in the world. Educate yourself about what's happening in the world. What are the solutions other countries apply? How are we addressing all these different kinds of issues? We need to use our own indigenous knowledge in Pakistan and our local understanding of things to move towards finding solutions. We should support each other during this entire process as well. It will only happen with teamwork. It's not the work of an individual. The government, the businesses and the citizens have to join hands to move this issue along. 


RJ: Alright. Thank you very much for joining us. We have here with us Kashmala Kakakhel and Anum Zaib. My name is RJ Adil, and the show is called SpotLight TALK SHOW, and we talked about climate change today. We have spoken about Pollution, we have spoken about smog. Again if we try to conclude the discussion quickly, I would only like to say that it's not important that you get to reap the benefits of your efforts and hard work in this lifetime. Climate change is a similar issue that is going to affect the lives of our coming generations as a result of carelessness. When you came into this world then you had everything set up, the landscape was set from greenery to trees and wildlife. So now it's on you to maintain and preserve these resources as much as you can, so the coming generations can have a better lifestyle. Give them land that can be cultivated. Leave them a place that does not have too many issues, earth that does not have air pollution. A place that does not have so many issues that we only leave the next generation with problems that cannot be solved. That's my short message to all of you with which RJ Adil would like to bid you all goodbye. Take care of yourselves. Till the next time, take care of yourself and your loved ones and take care of the planet. Goodbye!