Turning Up The 'Heat' On Manifestos Of Political Parties

While political parties included sections on climate change in their manifestos, they did not address heat-related challenges. By incorporating measures to tackle 'heat' in their manifestos, parties can demonstrate their responsiveness to public concerns

Turning Up The 'Heat' On Manifestos Of Political Parties

Climate activists, environmentalists and communities at large critically examined the manifestos presented by political parties ahead of the February 8 general elections. They hoped the contesting parties would have spared a thought for the impacts of climate change and interlinked aspects which have been witnessed to devastating effect in Pakistan over the past decade and whether they had incorporated specific plans in their climate change strategies should they get elected.

By now, it is obvious that the manifestos of various political parties for the 2024 elections address climate change to varying degrees. However, it appears that the specific mention of the critical element of 'heat', including heat waves and chronic heat impacts, has not been prominently featured in their manifestos. What is particularly worrying is that the elections came within six weeks from the end of 2023, which was one of the warmest years ever for Pakistan on record. 

It is essential to note that addressing heat-related challenges, including heat waves and their chronic impacts, should be an integral component of any comprehensive climate change strategy, particularly in a country like Pakistan, where extreme heat events are becoming increasingly frequent and severe.

Given the significant implications of rising temperatures and heat waves on public health, agriculture, water resources, and overall socio-economic well-being, political parties should indeed prioritise measures to mitigate and adapt to these heat-related challenges. This could include initiatives such as heat wave early warning systems, improved urban planning to mitigate the urban 'heat island effect', promoting heat-resilient agricultural practices, ensuring access to cooling centres and adequate healthcare during heat waves, and implementing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming.

Boiling era and intensifying heat waves

The 'boiling era' symbolises escalating temperatures and the urgency with which climate action must be taken to mitigate the adverse impacts of global warming. Heat waves, characterised by prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, pose serious threats to human health, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, the children, and those with pre-existing health conditions. These extreme heat events can lead to heat-related illnesses, heat strokes, and even fatalities — as witnessed in June 2015, underscoring the immediate need for effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. Moreover, the chronic impacts of heat, such as prolonged periods of elevated temperatures, can exacerbate existing health conditions, and increase heat-related illnesses and mortality rates, all the while putting our crumbling healthcare systems under tremendous strain, particularly in low-income communities.

Political parties should prioritise initiatives aimed at enhancing resilience to heat stress and improve access to cooling centres and healthcare services during heat waves. Moreover, they need to implement urban planning strategies which mitigate the urban heat island effect. Furthermore, the chronic impacts of sustained exposure to heat on human health highlight the long-term consequences of rising temperatures, including exacerbating existing health disparities and increasing the burden on healthcare systems. Addressing these challenges requires comprehensive policies prioritising public health, equitable access to cooling infrastructure, and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate future warming.

Gaps and opportunities in political parties' manifestos for 'heat crisis'

PPP manifesto

The election manifesto of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) admirably outlines a robust strategy for climate resilience, with a commendable focus on health, irrigation, and agriculture. However, a notable absence lies in its oversight of heat and heat waves, along with chronic heat impacts — this oversight is glaring when you see that the PPP has historically won from some of the hottest regions in Pakistan. As we witness a surge in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, it becomes imperative to confront these challenges head-on. 

While the manifesto rightly emphasises regional cooperation, clean energy transition, biodiversity conservation, and infrastructure resilience, it falls short in explicitly addressing the ramifications of extreme heat events while neglecting the critical nexus between climate change, health, environmental degradation, and economic stability. 

To fortify Pakistan's communities against the ravages of heat waves, it is imperative to incorporate targeted measures. This includes efforts to mitigate urban heat island effects, safeguard vulnerable populations from heat stress, and implement strategies to counter the adverse effects on agriculture and water resources. Integrating initiatives to combat heat-related challenges, the PPP can elevate its climate resilience strategy to new heights, ensuring the well-being and sustainability of Pakistan's populace.

PML-N manifesto

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) manifesto highlights initiatives for sustainable, renewable energy and tax reforms for affordable electricity but -like the PPP- overlooks the pressing issue of chronic heat impacts. These omissions are critical given the escalating threat to vulnerable communities. Heat adversely affects health, food security, productivity, and infrastructure.

While the PML-N manifesto indirectly addresses heat impacts through its focus on renewable energy, climate-resilient infrastructure, and sustainable water management, explicit attention to heat-related challenges is necessary for building a more resilient and sustainable Pakistan. Political parties must prioritise how to address heat-related challenges in their climate change agendas to safeguard citizens' well-being and promote resilience. Specifically, they need to develop strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of heat by promoting cooling technologies, green infrastructure, and public health campaigns. 

PTI manifesto

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) manifesto lays out a strong plan to tackle climate change in Pakistan's industrial sector. While it addresses reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainability, the manifesto overlooks the critical issue of heat, heat waves, and chronic heat impacts. It lacks specific strategies to tackle the escalating threat of heat waves. PTI's focus on renewable energy and cleaner technologies indirectly contributes to mitigating their effects by reducing greenhouse gas emissions overall.

The PTI should include targeted policies like enhancing infrastructure resilience and implementing early warning systems to fill this gap. By doing so, they can demonstrate a more holistic approach to climate change adaptation and ensure citizens' protection from the increasing risks of extreme heat. 

MQM-P manifesto

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan's (MQM-P) manifesto adopts a holistic approach to environmental sustainability, recognising the significance of addressing heat-related challenges in Pakistan. While it does not explicitly mention heat, heat waves, or chronic heat impacts like its peers, the manifesto delineates initiatives that indirectly contribute to alleviating these issues.

Prioritising water conservation and promoting alternative water sources can address chronic heat impacts linked to water scarcity and pollution. Advocating for vehicle fitness certificates and energy-efficient transportation options indirectly addresses heat emissions from vehicles, which exacerbate urban heat islands and intensify heat waves. 

Additionally, the emphasis on green engineering practices like halting deforestation and creating urban green spaces aligns with efforts to mitigate heat impacts by providing cooling effects. Although specific policies targeting heat-related challenges are not delineated, MQM-P's focus on environmental conservation, sustainable transport, and renewable energy reflects a broader commitment to addressing these pressing issues effectively.

JI manifesto

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) manifesto outlines key initiatives addressing environmental and social challenges, encompassing aspects such as alternative energy sources, pollution control, healthcare, housing, and agricultural development. However, it notably lacks specific measures to tackle heat. While emphasising alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, it overlooks the pressing issue of heat waves, particularly in urban areas like Karachi, where they pose significant risks to public health and well-being.

Despite highlighting environmental conservation and afforestation as solutions, the manifesto fails to detail strategies for combating heat wave effects or promoting heat resilience in communities. Given Karachi's vulnerability to heat waves and their adverse impacts on health and infrastructure, integrating targeted initiatives to mitigate heat-related risks would strengthen the manifesto's effectiveness in addressing the city's complex environmental and social challenges.

Critical role of heat in shaping climate action agendas

Acknowledging the implications of rising temperatures and heat waves in the manifestos of political parties can help these parties garner public support for climate action. As public awareness surrounding the climate change threat increases, voters can increasingly prioritise policies that address climate change's immediate and tangible impacts, including heat-related challenges. By incorporating measures to tackle heat waves and chronic heat impacts into their manifestos, political parties can demonstrate their responsiveness to public concerns and enhance their credibility on climate issues. 

In the political arena, acknowledging and addressing the 'heat' element in the context of climate change is crucial for policymakers to formulate effective strategies and garner public support for climate action.

As public awareness of the climate crisis grows and the impacts of extreme heat become more visible, there is increasing pressure on politicians to prioritise climate-friendly policies and incorporate measures to combat heat-related challenges into their agendas. Furthermore, considering the 'heat' element in political manifestos aligns with growing global momentum for climate action, embracing strategies to mitigate heat-related risks and promoting climate resilience, political parties can contribute to broader efforts to build a sustainable and resilient future for all.

Therefore, addressing heat-related challenges in political manifestos is not only essential for protecting public health and well-being but also for advancing the broader goals of climate action and sustainable development.

While the specific mention of heat-related challenges may not have been highlighted in the manifestos provided, it remains crucial for political parties to recognise and address these issues comprehensively within their climate change agendas. As the impacts of climate change continue to manifest in various forms, including extreme heat events, proactive and holistic approaches are essential to safeguard the public's well-being and build resilience to the changing climate.

The author is an urban planner and geographer who is also Associate Director of the Karachi Urban Lab at IBA.