AAMIR QURESHI / Contributor

Pakistan: Climate measures must uphold human rights as country hosts World Environment Day

Pakistani authorities must ensure that human rights are placed at the centre of ambitious new plans to mitigate the impact of climate change, said Amnesty International, ahead of the country’s hosting of World Environment Day on 5 June. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan will preside over the virtual World Environment Day Conference, which brings together governments, businesses and citizens from around the world to address pressing environmental issues. A spate of new adaptation measures has been announced by authorities in the past weeks, including the continuation of a mass tree plantation drive (popularly known as the Billion Tree Tsunami), protection of wetlands, expanding mangrove forest cover, electronic vehicular policy and a “green Eurobond” to finance the construction of two dams. 

Make no mistake, the climate crisis is also a human rights crisis that people in Pakistan are already experiencing daily

Rimmel Mohydin, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner

Pakistan is projected to be among the countries worst-affected by rising temperatures over the coming decades, with recent joint findings by the Asian Development Bank and World Bankhighlighting its increased risk of extreme climate events and food insecurity.  

“Make no mistake, the climate crisis is also a human rights crisis that people in Pakistan are already experiencing daily. Even now we are seeing how climate change is affecting the right to life, water, food, housing, health, sanitation, and adequate standards of living and work,” said Rimmel Mohydin, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner.

“Prime Minister Khan is right to make this issue a top priority, but it’s essential that the measures announced embed human rights as a guiding principle. Without this, the rights of some of Pakistan’s most marginalized people including daily wage earners, Indigenous peoples and women facing intersecting forms of discrimination risk being undermined, with existing inequalities further entrenched.” 

Women who face discrimination, daily wage earners and Indigenous peoples disproportionately suffer from climate change due to their lack of access to finance and technical resources and greater exposure to the elements while working outdoors. Pakistan’s climate mitigation plans must take on a participatory approach. Authorities must make efforts to ensure that women, Indigenous peoples and members of other marginalized communities are included in decision-making processes and are provided the necessary support to participate meaningfully. 

Under the Paris Agreement, state parties were due to submit new, more ambitious plans for 2030 (Nationally Determined Contributions – NDCs) and long-term strategies by 31 December 2020.While Pakistan’s pursuit of ecosystem restoration is commendable, the country has still not made its submission. 

In January 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that new coal power plants would be disallowed in Pakistan. This must not only be followed through with robust implementation, but also facilitate access to energy for all, ensuring that already disadvantaged communities do not lose access to power supplies.   

It’s essential that the measures announced embed human rights as a guiding principle

Rimmel Mohydin

Continued support for fossil fuels is incompatible with human rights protection and more information should also be shared with the public about when the phaseout will begin and how communities will be affected.  

“As Pakistan begins to transition its economy away from fossil fuels and towards a decarbonized economy and resilient society, it must ensure that the move is fair for everybody and contributes to enhancing human rights for all – a truly just transition.” 

Background 

World Environment Day, which Pakistan is co-hosting with the UN Environment Programme, takes place on 5 June.