By Ghulam Haider
The World Bank has forecast that Pakistan’s agricultural yields are projected to drop 50 per cent by 2050 due to the degradation of land, overuse of chemical inputs and water and lack of research in the top most important sector and contributor to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
The World Bank Group’s recently released “Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) for Pakistan” has further forecast that erratic climate changes coupled with the mayhem instrumented by environmental degradation is set to result in a whopping fall of 18-20 per cent in the GDP by 2050 if the lingering issues pertaining to climate are left unaddressed.
That productivity in the agri-food system – the largest employer, particularly for poor and vulnerable households – has been plummeting due to ill-advised, ill-directed and anti-farmers policies by the successive regimes in the country.
It is estimated that, over the next three decades, about 10 per cent of all irrigation water will need to be reused to meet non-agricultural demand. Freeing up 10 per cent of irrigation water without compromising on food security will be a complex challenge that requires better environmental management, while encouraging water conservation and increasing water use efficiency in agriculture and moving away from water-thirsty crops. would require substantial policy reforms.
The estimated cost of the forced reallocation of water from agriculture to meet non-agriculture demands could, without such steps, reduce GDP by 4.6% in 2047. Thus the losses estimated here are the cost of forced reallocation of water to meet other urgent needs, including allocations for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and immediate environmental flows to maintain critical ecosystem services.
The report noted that in order to bolstering rural incomes and strengthen food and water security, Pakistan needs to repurpose environmentally damaging subsidies, promote climate-smart and regenerative agriculture and livestock systems, and prioritize ecosystem restoration.
The reported underlined that Pakistan needs fundamental shifts in its development path and policies, requiring substantial investments in people-centric climate adaptation and resilience, that will require international support.
The damage induced by climate-related extreme events will likely have economy-wide effects on growth, fiscal space, employment and poverty. Global warming and extreme events affect economic activity through multiple transmission channels: impacts on lives, infrastructure and assets, and on livelihoods, which can result in reduced economic growth, poverty and long-term threats to human capital and productivity. Existing macro models can help estimate the expected scale of such events.
The report has recommended five priority transitions to improve adaptation to climate change and avoid high costs, which included transforming agri food system, building residential and livable cities, accelerating a just transition to sustainable energy and low-carbon transport, strengthening human capital to achieve sustained and equitable development and climate resilience and aligning financing policies, incentives and institutions to support scale-up of climate actions.
Pakistan is not a significant contributor to global warming, but it is on a high-growth trajectory of carbon emissions linked to fossil fuel use. This is also a source of the country’s chronic fiscal stress and worsening air pollution. Therefore, climate actions that bring co-benefits to both adaptation and mitigation and contribute to improving development outcomes should have the highest priority.
This year’s heatwave and devastating floods are a reminder that climate change-induced disasters can significantly set back Pakistan’s development ambitions and its ability to reduce poverty. These disasters have caused more than 1,700 deaths and displaced more than 8 million people. The damage to infrastructure, assets, crops, and livestock has also been massive, with more than $38 billion in damages and economic losses.