Climate and Nature

Beyond climate mitigation: the Pakistan floods showed there's no turning back

This image shows how Pakistan was devastated by floods

Floods in Pakistan caused widespread devastation Image: Balochistan Youth Action Committee

Sikander Bizenjo
Manager - External Engagements, Engro
Ayla Majid
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Planetive
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  • 33 million people were affected by the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2022.
  • Pakistan has learnt several lessons from its recent floods and the impact of floods on other countries, which it is now looking to implement.
  • Climate adaptation and mitigation is not a fight for Pakistan alone, the unprecedented impact of climate change worldwide calls for a high degree of multi-stakeholder collaboration.

33 million people were affected by the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2022, but this was just one of many recent climate tragedies. Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change in the world. Yet, while the country remains one of the most vulnerable, its impact on global emissions accounts for less than 1%. Climate mitigation alone will not get Pakistan out of the water, it’s time for the country to focus on climate adaptation, along with mitigation efforts.

3 things Pakistan got right since the 2022 floods

1. Making a global case for loss and damage

Soon after the floods in Pakistan, world leaders met in Sharm el Shaikh for COP27. Pakistan's horrific climate-related devastation and its unwavering efforts during the COP led to 'loss and damage' being at the top of the agenda. The country was making a case for climate justice and rightly so. The unprecedented floods in Pakistan resulted in over 1,500 deaths and $30 billion in losses. After three decades of deadlock, developed countries in the Egption town on the Red Sea agreed and committed to paying 'loss and damage' funds to the poorer nations. An estimated $300 billion is required by 2030.

2. Developing Pakistan’s 4RF plan

While this is one of the deadliest floods in Pakistan’s history, monsoon floods are not a new phenomenon in the country and, as unfortunate as it is, it certainly won't be the last. The government has worked on a plan, termed the 4RF Plan. Under this plan, the country will divert resources into a resilient recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction framework. A key area in this framework is to restore the flood-affected households that will be climate resilient in nature. Pakistan’s Planning Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, termed this as the roadmap to “make Pakistan resilient.”

3. Garnering international support

In the aftermath of the floods, the Government of Pakistan formed an International Partners Support Group (IPSG). Launched in January 2023 at the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva, this group was designed to bring bilateral and multilateral partners to one platform and facilitate coordinated implementation of the 4RF. Through such prompt action, the Government raised over $10.8 billion received in flood assistance. The IPSG was also set in place to facilitate coordination and strategise upon the execution and implementation of climate-resilient projects. While the floods proved catastrophic, the Government’s swift response and call for immediate support from donors and partners proved to be promising.

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Image: Balochistan Youth Action Committee

Learn, adapt and replicate: lessons from the world

Floods and other climate-related disasters are a regular occurrence in a number of countries all over the world. Many have developed systems over the years that have prepared them to adapt to such changes resulting in limiting loss and damage. There are many examples of phenomenal development in this regard. Bangladesh, the Netherlands and India are all some examples that the world must look towards when it comes to best practices for adapting to climate change.

Bangladesh’s life-saving early-warning system

Bangladesh has been a pioneer in using innovative and grassroots power as early-warning systems for floods. Using human capital coupled with smartphone technology, the country collects data down to the village level to predict potential floods. In addition, Bangladesh uses text messages as awareness and warnings to those living on the path of a flood. This has significantly reduced the magnitude of damage in the country.

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Dutch water management

The North Sea floods of 1953, which killed over 1,800 people, was a wake-up call for the Netherlands to up its game regarding water management. One of the prominent approaches that the Dutch took was widening and deepening its river channels, calling it the Room for the Rivers policy. The project focused on protecting the habitat adjoining the rivers from regular floods, primarily in the delta regions. It’s no wonder the world wants to replicate these highly effective, yet non-environmental threatening solutions. The Indian city of Kerela is the latest one to follow suit post its ‘century’s worst floods’ in 2018.

India’s climate resilient housing model

In Gorakhpur, India, where floods during the monsoon season affect over one million people, a community-based micro-climate resilience model has been implemented to help communities adapt to climate change. This uses climate-friendly construction techniques to build low-cost, sustainable houses with brick walls that require much less energy and resources than brick walls in conventional houses. In addition to being low-cost, local beneficiaries are involved in the construction process and are trained to help others who want to adopt the design in their respective communities.

Call to Action

While Pakistan has made significant progress since last year’s floods, it’s nowhere near enough to safeguard people from future floods in the country. Focusing on climate adaptation, along with mitigation is not a fight Pakistan should take alone. The unprecedented impacts of climate change across the world call for a high degree of multi-stakeholder collaboration in designing systems that serve as blueprints for countries that are most vulnerable to climate catastrophes.

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