Seventy five years after independence, is Pakistan ready for a new social contract that is rooted in climate justice.
That is the question posed by a recent national roundtable on climate justice held by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). The roundtable called for “building a new social contract rooted in climate justice – the concept that climate change is an ethical, legal and political issue rather than solely environmental.”
The participants “discussed how integral environmental rights are to the realisation of fundamental freedoms, such as the rights to life, livelihood, housing, sanitation, health, food, water and clean air. Former chair of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and national advisor at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre Lieutenant General (R) Nadeem Ahmad emphasised that the provision of food, shelter, water, sanitation and healthcare must take priority during emergency responses. Seemee Ezdi, the chairperson of the senate’s standing committee on climate change, noted that local governance is essential to affect change at a grassroots level. Shahid Sayeed Khan, the CEO of Indus Earth Trust, highlighted the importance of short-term solutions to address the psychological trauma of affected persons. Academic Brigadier (R) Dr Fiaz Hussain Shah said that strategies for climate change adaptation is needed at every level, with close coordination between the NDMA, the climate change ministry and the planning ministry.”
Others who spoke at the round table were “Environmental journalist Afia Salam noted the state’s lack of preparedness when the 2022 floods took place, underscoring that the state must work towards disaster risk reduction, not just disaster management. The state must also conduct a vulnerability mapping exercise from a human rights lens and bridge both the gender gap and the youth gap in disaster mitigation efforts. Academic Zaigham Abbas said that indigenous knowledge systems on ecological resilience must be considered, and Saif Jamali from the Jinnah Institute highlighted the need to build on community responses to disasters so that vernacular wisdom is at the forefront.”
The roundtable concluded by noting that “every crisis affects the vulnerable the most, such as women and children in the recent floods. Science-based expertise must take the lead with policies that connect to on-ground realities, and a national climate adaptation plan must be developed.”