It is clear that climate change is a threat to our planet and well- being. Climate change impacts everyone’s life across the globe regardless of how much they contribute to this crisis.
Pakistan is no exception in this context and has been consistently ranked among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It has been ranked as the 38th ‘most vulnerable’ and 32nd ‘least ready’ country in the world to address climate change impacts. In 2021, the UK Met office reported that in Pakistan, approximately one million people will be vulnerable to coastal flooding annually by 2070 to 2100 if adaptation measures are not taken.
To tackle climate change and protect the planet, protecting coastal ecosystems and blue carbon solutions will be critical.
The country has recorded evidence of climate-induced floods, droughts, heatwaves, and rising cases of infections over the past years. Evidence shows that 40% of households in Pakistan have suffered from moderate to severe food insecurity during 2020 mainly caused by climate change.
Blue carbon is carbon captured by the ocean and coastal ecosystems, and normally covers mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass, which play an important role in minimizing coastal erosion and sea level rising, combating the global climate crisis by absorbing carbon, nurturing land and marine biodiversity, and supporting human well-being.
Pakistan is endowed with unique coastal ecosystems. There are two coastal states in Pakistan—Sindh and Balochistan, with Sindh being the seventh largest arid mangrove ecosystem in the world.
These ecosystems have enormous potential to capture and store large amounts of CO2, thereby providing cost-effective ‘blue carbon’ solutions to the country. At the global level, blue carbon is increasingly being recognized as an important element in the transition to a blue economy.
Pakistan's coastal ecosystems have enormous potential to capture & store large amounts of CO2, thereby providing cost-effective 'blue carbon' solutions.
Pakistan’s status of climate action
Pakistan recognizes the impacts of climate change and the importance of protecting the coastal ecosystem.
Funded by PROBLUE, the rapid blue carbon assessment highlights that mangrove forests of Pakistan have the potential of storing approximately 20 million tons of organic carbon. They also have the potential to remove an additional 25 million tons of carbon dioxide emission by 2050, if efforts by the coastal provinces to achieve the goal of restoring 350,000 hectares of mangrove forest, which Pakistan is committed to restoring under the REDD+ project (Reduce Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation + conservation, mgmt., carbon), which aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Encouraged by findings of the assessment, the government of Pakistan included blue carbon commitments in its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, which was unveiled at COP 26 in Glasgow last November 2021.
Opportunities and challenges ahead
Since blue carbon can be a great resource for Pakistan’s green, resilient, and inclusive development, the rapid assessment puts forward two sets of main recommendations to boost the blue carbon ecosystem and help the country achieve its climate action goals and develop its economy.
The first set of recommendations are for research and outreach, including strengthening blue carbon related data and information collection and compiling systems to mainstream climate and disaster resilience in all planning decisions. It will also help to understand better where and how to reduce flood and erosion risks, improve water and air quality, and bolster livelihood opportunities by creating fish spawning ground, aquaculture, and ecotourism opportunities. It is also critical for Pakistan to focus on mapping and monitoring its blue carbon ecosystems through time, updating national greenhouse gas inventory to include blue carbon ecosystems, and preparing for NDC accounting systems, collecting primary data, and evaluating key pressures on blue carbon ecosystems and others.
The second set of recommendations are for proceeding towards blue carbon implementation in Pakistan, including reviewing and improving institutional arrangement, working further on capacity building, advancing climate change adaptation and mitigation options, and seeking different sources and modalities of financial resources options.
Protecting and enhancing these ecosystems are fundamental to reach the mitigation objectives of the Paris Agreement. The rapid assessment lays out a roadmap for Pakistan to protect its blue carbon ecosystems so that current and future generations will benefit.
Pakistan's blue carbon ecosystems are vital, when it comes to combatting climate change, securing food and livelihoods, and protecting coastal communities from rising sea levels, storms, and flooding.