Interview with Hammad Naqi Khan, Managing Director, WWF-Pakistan – BR Research

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Hammad Naqi Khan is the Managing Director of WWF-Pakistan. He has over 30 years of professional experience in the areas of environment, climate change adaptation, water management, resource mobilization and partnership building, transformation of the market and greening supply chains, and sustainable agriculture, with a focus on improving farmers’ livelihoods and food security. As the Global Cotton Leader (August 2011 to July 2014) under WWF-International’s Market Transformation Initiative (MTI), Hammad led advocacy approaches, representing WWF in multilateral forums and d other policy dialogues. He was a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SET) for WWF’s Asia-Pacific Growth Strategy (APGS) and also represented the Asia-Pacific region on the Network Leadership Team (NET) of WWF. WWF-international from early 2015 to July 2018; in addition to being a member of the SWG and the WWF GEF Steering Committee. Hammad is an unofficial member of the Pakistan Climate Change Committee chaired by the Prime Minister, a member of the Pakistan National Committee for IUCN (PNC) and a LEAD member.

Here are edited excerpts from a recent conversation BR Research had with Hammad regarding Earth Hour and what the country needs to do to meet the challenge of climate change:

BR Research: What is the significance of Earth Hour?

Hammad Naqi Khan: Earth Hour began in 2007 and was run by the WWF Australia office. It all started with a focus on advocacy around the impact of fossil fuel consumption, power generation, energy conservation and their link to climate change. Turning off lights and electricity for an hour was a symbolic gesture to send a message to the masses.

This small localized initiative is now a global campaign. Hundreds of countries are now celebrating Earth Hour. The campaign also extended beyond the WWF. Many educational institutes and private sector companies as well as governments around the world – independently of WWF’s impetus – celebrate Earth Hour. There are restaurants that offer candlelit dinners; universities, companies and other stakeholders who organize seminars, discussions, clean-up campaigns, etc.

BRR: How is Earth Hour celebrated in Pakistan?

HNK: Earth Hour is celebrated very actively in Pakistan. The scale of the campaign has diminished over the past two years due to COVID-19. The few activities that took place during this period mainly included extinguishing the lights in the main buildings of the provincial capitals, starting from the Parliament, up to the house of Punjab, Minar-e-Pakistan, Mazar-e-Quaid, the Wapda house, etc. Universities and educational institutes participate and take initiatives themselves through debates and poster competitions, etc. Celebrities and sportspeople are also actively participating in the campaign using their social media platforms to spread the message. I would say things happen – maybe not on the scale they should have, but they still do.

BR Research: Did you see global expectations come true at COP26?

HNK: When we last spoke, I shared my concern that INDCs lacked ambition and showed no commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) represent countries’ efforts to reduce domestic emissions and adapt to climate change. These have not been aggressive despite commitments made after the Paris Agreement that each country will strengthen them. But I also shared that COP26 will be about updating and upgrading these NDCs. At the beginning of the year, we participated in COP26 with a large delegation, and the INDC document is quite impressive because it now talks about reducing methane, greenhouse gases, bringing in more renewable energies , to focus more on adaptation, etc. In this regard, things are moving. apparently promising.

But there is still a long way to go. Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is less than 1%, but Pakistan is the recipient; ranking among the seven countries most vulnerable to climate change. For us, it is related to our economy, our livelihoods and our survival. In this regard, much remains to be done. However, as far as the commitments made by the world are concerned, we are satisfied with them.

BRR: Amid seemingly promising international commitments, what is urgently needed at the national level to address Pakistan’s climate change problem?

HNK: I normally refer to what my friend once said: what carbon is for mitigation, water is for adaptation. This is so true for Pakistan. For Pakistan, climate change is a matter of water change, because we have a water-based economy. Most of the available water is used for agriculture, as we have an agrarian economy, most agriculture is irrigated agriculture.

The two main sources of water in Pakistan come from melting snow and glaciers, and precipitation mainly from monsoon rains. Both are affected by the climate crisis. Most glaciers are melting at a faster rate, and the science is clear that monsoon patterns are changing too.

With all of this in mind, what should we do? Are we managing our water resources correctly and efficiently?

With a growing population, the demand for water continues to increase, as does the demand for food and industry. Even if we ignore the water needed by the environment and continue with the same unsustainable agronomic practices and cultivation methods, the solutions become obvious. We have to make tough decisions like reviewing cropping patterns; and how we treat and value water. People take water for granted, whether on an individual, community or organizational basis. We must be prepared to value water in its literal sense.

Second, we need to get rid of the misconception that water not used for agriculture, storage or by industry is waste. Wetlands, aquatic life and the delta all need a certain quality and quantity of water that we are unable to supply.

Obtaining water for the basic needs of poor sections of society is a fundamental constitutional right, and therefore water should be fully subsidized for them – there is no doubt about that. But what about the upper middle class, the elite, the industry, the big farmers? Water pricing is a sensitive issue, but these consumers should pay for the water they use. Is it worth draining a wetland to grow a very low value crop? These are the discussions policy makers should be having.

It is not that there will be no water at all by 2025. What we mean is that there will be friction and conflict between different consumers and departments due of physical water scarcity, and that is what we want to avoid. This mainly alludes to the issue of governance in water management. This is why we say there should be a coordinated and integrated approach by all departments, including agriculture, irrigation, public health, wildlife, forestry, fisheries, etc. We need to think beyond our ridings and the future of the country. and our generations to come.

BRR: Do you think that somehow this debate about water pricing and water conservation died down after the water policy was announced? Could you tell how successful the government has been in meeting the challenge of climate change in Pakistan?

HNK: Pakistan is very good at highlighting issues and writing policies. Where we are lacking is execution, implementation and evaluation. We were also very happy that this government showed a keen interest in climate change; that the PM is a nature lover and is very knowledgeable in this regard. It is a fact, but the problem is that for every environmental problem, the solution that the government has presented is its 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative. Planting trees and vegetation are essential, but our challenges are also related to water, as I explained earlier. We need to find other solutions to solve problems such as water management, water quality, ambient air quality in urban centers, solid waste and hazardous waste management, irrigated productivity, fuel quality, etc. Yes, we need to improve our water storage capacity, but not all of our water problems can be solved by these upcoming big dams. While we need to improve our water storage capacity, we need to improve other important areas as well as how we irrigate our crops, harvest rainwater, deal with natural disasters like floods and droughts, improve water efficiency and productivity, etc.

BRR: This shows the breadth and diversity of stakeholders. How do you recommend bringing them together on one page and one agenda?

HNK: You can either wait for the perfect conditions where everything is ideal; or do with the resources you have and what they allow and use them to their fullest potential – and that’s what I believe in. For example, it took us years to develop a national water policy and the climate change policy, and vigorous stakeholder mapping was done. It should be mandatory for these stakeholder bodies to meet regularly and discuss.

BRR: What are WWF-Pakistan’s projects in the coming years to fight against climate change?

HNK: We are strengthening our presence on the ground. We believe that we must demonstrate good environmental practices. We have huge water and agriculture programs and we work with 200,000 farmers. We also work with industries such as textiles, leather, food and beverages to reduce their water footprint and promote the concept of water stewardship. We are also working on the plastic campaign on collection and recycling; push and influence private sector parties to come up with innovative products.

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