Pakistan introduces REDD+ initiative to slow down climate change
By Sana Jamal
Pakistan was once home to beautiful and endless stretches of lush green trees but now most of the regions have a deserted look and the country has one of the highest deforestation rates in Asia. The forest cover of Pakistan has diminished to 5% per cent (according to local data) as against the expected minimum of 25 per cent.
To restore the green cover and minimize the effects of climate change, Pakistan joined REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) in 2015 which has 47 developing countries in its pool.
The new initiative will discourage deforestation and increase the green cover, says Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan who has called forests “our precious natural resources.”
“REDD+ is a long term evolutionary process that required a long term planning. However, it has been in placed finally” Climate Change Minister announced in Islamabad. The new mechanism will not only improve the forest monitoring but also incentivize the forest owners and forest communities to reduce pressure on our precious natural forests.
REDD+ is a valuable tool for both minimizing climate change and conserving forests. Kamran Hussain, Pakistan’s National Forest Inventory expert explains how: “Forests and trees store carbon. When these trees are cut or burned, the carbon is released back into the air which contributes to climate change”.
This is a global initiative to reduce carbon emissions from forests which is one of the leading cause of global warming. This mechanism pays the communities which depend on wood from forests for sparing the trees to curb deforestation, Kamran describes.
“Every year 27000-hectare land is deforested and degraded in Pakistan” according to data by Government of Pakistan which calls for serious and timely measures, Muhammad Afrasiyab, GIS Expert at Pakistan REDD+ office informed.
In Pakistan’s current situation of fast depleting forests and severe threats by climate change, “REDD+ is the best option” as it offers modern techniques to monitor forests and restore them, Afrasiyab maintains. “By providing a compensation value for not cutting down the trees, REDD+ provides a way out to save the forest resources without disturbing the livelihoods of the local communities and their rights.”
Pakistan is currently in Phase-I of REDD+ which is called Readiness Phase. The next two phases are demonstration and implementation, he said.
This is just one initiative to restore the country’s green cover. Pakistan needs to invest more in green projects and promote plantation at all levels, experts say. Afrasiyab believes “Billion Tree Tsunami and Green Pakistan Program are excellent initiatives” that would help Pakistan tap international climate funds and curb climate change effects.
Pakistan’s Billion Tree Tsunami campaign – under which one billion trees were planted in two years – is a huge success story of reforestation which will benefit not only present but future generations.
“The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has successfully demonstrated a model of development which is both climate compatible as well as environment friendly” claims Malik Amin Aslam, Chair of Green Growth Initiative of KP. The province was globally acknowledged for successfully achieving its pledge for forest restoration under the “Bonn Challenge” by surpassing 350000 hectare of forests. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) termed the achievement a “momentous milestone”.
“KP aims to achieve over 600000 hectares of forest restoration under the Green Growth Initiative which will increase the forest cover to 25% of its land area”, Aslam who is also Global Vice President of IUCN claimed.
The initiatives such as Green Growth and REDD+ intend to increase Pakistan’s depleting forest cover and slow down climate change. Small initiatives can bring big changes. “Some countries like China have made tree planting mandatory for graduating students. If Pakistan also initiates such activities, it will indeed help increase the forest cover and offer a healthier environment for future generations.”