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FEATURE: Priority CCD actions for Pakistan

By Deborah Murphy, Jo-Ellen Parry and Marius Keller, IISD

Pakistan is one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world: it accounts for just 0.8% of total global emissions, and ranks 135th in terms of per capita emissions.  Unfortunately, Pakistan is also one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world.  Over the past 20 years, 141 extreme events have killed on average over 500 people a year, and led to annual economic losses of more than US$ 2 billion.  According to Mujtaba Hussain, Deputy Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistanis are ‘victims of climate injustice’.   The knock-on effects of climate change threaten food security, water security and energy security – and ultimately, national security.

CDKN has a project supporting the Government of Pakistan to address climate change adaptation and mitigation.  This complements the work being done by the firm Vivid Economics on climate finance options for Pakistan.

The project is being undertaken by the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD) and partner Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN).  Based on a short situation analysis (drawing extensively on stakeholder consultations), the team will identify priority actions in relation to adaptation and mitigation.  These actions will increase readiness for adaptation and mitigation and help ensure that the Government of Pakistan has plans and policies in place to access climate change funding.

A two-week mission by the IISD team to Islamabad in April kicked off with a workshop organised by the MoCC, which provided useful insights into adaptation and mitigation options for Pakistan.   Participants included representatives from government, research institutes and international development agencies.

Pakistan Context

Pakistan launched its National Climate Change Policy in February 2013, and has been an active participant in global discourse on climate change.  The process of NAMA and NAP development (see below) is already underway.  There is thus a strong foundation to move forward on adaptation and mitigation.  While Pakistan’s priority focus is adaptation to climate change, it is cognisant of its international responsibilities under the UNFCCC and realises it must move to low carbon development pathways.


Adaptation is growing in importance in international climate change negotiations, largely encouraged by developing countries.  A number of different processes are related to adaptation in the UNFCCC negotiations:

  • National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) – launched in 2001, this is only available to least developed countries (LDCs) (thereby excluding Pakistan) and helps them identify urgent adaptation needs, develop NAPAs and secure funding through the LDC Fund.  To date, 47 countries have developed NAPAs and approximately 40 projects have been approved for implementation;
  • National Adaptation Plan (NAP) – The UN Climate Summit at Cancun in 2010 agreed to initiate a process for the development of guidelines and modalities for the preparation of NAPs, in particular, but not exclusively for the LDCs.  Preparation of a NAP entails the following steps: i) laying the groundwork, e.g. through strengthening national and provincial institutions; ii) putting in place preparatory elements – governance, technical aspects, and capacity building; iii) implementation strategies, and finally, iv) reporting, monitoring and review.  Modalities to fund countries like Pakistan are being created by the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee and should be available in 2014;
  • Loss and Damage – Loss and Damage negotiations look at the impacts of climate change that cannot be avoided either by adaptation or mitigation.  At COP 18 in Doha in 2012, there was agreement to explore potential institutional arrangements (including for funding) that could help vulnerable countries such as Pakistan.

The implications of the above adaptation options for Pakistan are, one, it could position itself to access guidance and financial support for NAP development under the UNFCCC, but not in the near future.  Two, in relation to Loss and Damage, Pakistan can learn from emerging research from the UNFCCC and influence any emerging international mechanism.

Other countries’ experience in adaptation planning offers important lessons for Pakistan.  The experiences in Kenya and the Dominican Republic highlight the need for an inclusive stakeholder process from the onset, and the importance of aligning the process with national development plans.  Each context is different and requires different research tools, so these should be adapted to different contexts; at the same time local research capacity should be built up.  A final key lesson is that wish lists will not lead to action: it is critical to prioritise so as to develop detailed proposals that are implementable – and thus fundable.

In the ensuing workshop discussion on adaptation options for Pakistan, participants stressed the need to align adaptation planning with development plans; they saw this as vital for winning support from policy makers, and in particular the Planning Commission.  Given the limited resources available to the government, a number of participants urged involvement of the private sector to fund the requisite measures – this in turn would need awareness raising within the private sector about the climate change challenge facing Pakistan.

Various participants pointed to different issues that had to be addressed: building local research capacity and bridging the gap between research and policy; establishing ecosystem-specific vulnerability assessments; building implementation capacities, particularly at the provincial level; raising awareness of climate change among policy makers; prioritising needs and defining clearly who would do what; and, measuring the results of adaptation measures – and differentiating these from the results of ‘ordinary’ development initiatives.


As seen, Pakistan is one of lowest emitters of GHG in the world: 51% of the country’s emissions come from the energy sector, and 39% from agriculture and livestock.  However, a significant growth in emissions is expected, particularly in the energy and transport sectors as Pakistan develops.

A number of mechanisms and concepts in the UNFCCC negotiations potentially impact mitigation action:

  • Low Carbon Development Strategies (LCDS);
  • Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs);
  • Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV);
  • Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, plus the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+);
  • Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM);
  • Technology.

Low Carbon Development Strategiesset out the priority actions needed to reduce emissions by sector and across the economy; they can also provide the evidence bases for NAMAs.  In simple terms NAMAs refer to a set of policies and actions that countries undertake as part of their commitment to reduce GHG emissions.  Developing countries will undertake NAMAs so as to cut their emissions.  NAMAs are of three types: i) unilateral – undertaken and funded by the host country, ii) supported – receive international capacity building, technology transfer or financial support; or iii) credited – supported by market mechanisms.  No action has yet received official NAMA support because NAMAs are still being defined in the international negotiations.

NAMAs are to be undertaken in a ‘measureable, reportable and verifiable manner’.  For MRV, Pakistan requires support to meet more comprehensive reporting requirements; the support should focus on building domestic capacity.  An updated GHG inventory is an important element of reporting that is also needed for development of LCDS, NAMAs, REDD+ and MRV processes.  REDD+ involves payments to developing countries that will prevent deforestation or degradation that would otherwise have taken place. Pakistan’s REDD+ readiness roadmap and implementation actions should build the evidence base for REDD+ actions; and readiness for NAMAs can help Pakistan act on the significant potential for emission reductions.

With regard to the clean development mechanism, Pakistan has approved 67 CDM projects and gained considerable experience that could be used to inform low carbon planning and the development of NAMAs. However, reduced demand for credits from the CDM means that Pakistan will require new strategies to stay engaged in the carbon market.  Finally, in relation to technology, the new Technology Mechanism established by the Cancun Agreements in 2010 promotes use of technology through, for example, public-private partnerships and joint research activities.  Pakistan could position itself as an early collaborator with the Climate Technology Centre and Network that has been established to implement the Technology Mechanism.

As with adaptation, there are lessons to be learned from the experiences with mitigation in other countries, in this case Kenya and Indonesia.  The Kenyan experience points to the need to take national development plans as the starting point; and that prioritisation is not easy and can be political.  Other lessons are that high level buy-in and support, along with stakeholder engagement, are critical for success.  Finally, the process and results should be locally owned.  Indonesia offers useful parallels because it too has a federal structure, in which considerable responsibilities were devolved to sub-national governments.  As well as endorsing the need for high level buy-in, the Indonesian experience points to the need to assign clear roles and responsibilities, build sub-national capacity, and establish a strong evidence base.

Options for mitigation readiness in Pakistan are multiple, and include preparing a NAMA Framework, updating the GHG inventory and establishing sector emission baselines, carrying out a study of renewable energy resources, building capacity at national and provincial levels, and designing specific NAMA proposals.

In the ensuing discussion participants suggested that Pakistan could get high-level buy-in if NAMAs were packaged as part of a development plan leading to economic growth and poverty reduction.  On similar lines, presenting the impact of climate change and the savings from mitigation measures in financial (monetary) terms could generate support.

With regard to the private sector, it was noted that profit is the bottom line driving force for involvement.  Keeping this in mind, the private sector will need to be made aware of opportunities for involvement in adaptation and mitigation actions.  Profit-making opportunities are more apparent for mitigation actions: already a number of private sector companies are trying to promote solar power in Pakistan.

IISD is a Canadian non-profit research institution with associates and partners all over the world.  It has extensive experience of working on both adaptation and mitigation in diverse countries.  For the CDKN project in Pakistan, IISD is partnering with the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN).  For more details contact the team at,, and, or visit the website

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