During her 17 months as the federal minister for climate change and environmental coordination in Pakistan, Sherry Rehman oversaw several ambitious projects aimed at increasing the country’s resilience to climate change. Her tenure, which ran from April 2022 until August 2023, coincided with climate summit COP27 at which, as a member of the G77 and China bloc, Rehman lobbied for the establishment of an international loss and damage fund.
It was also during Rehman’s incumbency that Pakistan faced one of the deadliest floods in its history, bringing the country’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change to the fore. Now with an interim caretaker government holding the reins of power until the next elected government takes over, Pakistan’s ability to steer ambitious climate resilience projects is being eyed cautiously by experts.
The Third Pole: Pakistan seems to be in the grip of consecutive crises – is the country ready to meet the challenges of climate change?
Sherry Rehman: Climate change has been one of the most under-resourced and under-powered issues in Pakistan, even though the country has become a poster child for cross-sectoral climate, pollution and environmental vulnerabilities. Pakistan is going through a climate polycrisis, so there is no one issue and no silver bullet that will fix things overnight.
However, we all know that Pakistan faces a challenging decade of climate stressors in more ways than one. Given the level of impacts we are facing due to global warming, building resilience is going to be a priority for our growing population. Adaptation needs to be taken out of its stepchild slot both in Pakistan, and in global policy-making. It needs active financing and capacity resourcing as a national emergency if the country is to survive growing heat and related shocks.
Upon being asked about 'a pressing environmental issue', Rehman identified two crises, food and water. She further identified that these problems were 'underplayed' due to "climate solutions, particularly at the federal level, are too fragmented and under-leveraged to make the transformational shift that is needed."
"Firstly, the Water Resources Ministry needs to actually start implementing its Water Policy and modernise its capacity, outreach and coordination for doing far more than prioritising long-gestation infrastructure projects... Secondly, the Planning Ministry for its part needs to embed water adaptation into the framework it uses for development and resource allocation, and move past colonial-era infrastructure as the only road to storing water or preventing flooding," added Rehman.
Disclaimer: This is part of an interview that was originally published here.