Dr. Tariq Banuri, distinguished members of the audience. It is my great pleasure to welcome you, especially Dr. Tariq Banuri, to this opening session of the conference on the existential challenge faced by Pakistan from climate change. I am thankful to Dr. Tariq Banuri for taking the trouble to travel to Karachi to join us this afternoon. As some of you would know, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs is the oldest think tank in our country. It was established in 1947 and was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. In his augural speech, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan recognised the need for an institution which should act as a bridge between policy makers and public opinion. For 72 years, our institution has fulfilled this purpose. We have given space to statesmen, scholars, diplomats, jurists and specialists in their fields from all over the world and have, on the other hand, provided a platform for informed debate on international politics and foreign policy challenges.
Our research output is disseminated through our publications and our quarterly journal, Pakistan Horizon, which has appeared without a break since 1948. It is the oldest scholarly journal in Pakistan. It is significant, perhaps, that we are holding this Conference in the sizzling heat outside ― and the electricity can go off at any minute. We have convened this Conference because climate change is considered to be the greatest threat to our planet in the 21st century. While some governments may have dragged their feet, the people have mobilised against it in many countries. Young people have gone on school strikes and taken to the streets to draw attention to the disastrous affects of climate change on the environment. We have all heard about the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, whose activism has led her to address the highest forums on this issue ― the World Economic Forum, the European Parliament and the United Nations.
We have watched on television screens the demonstrations organised by Extinction Rebellion in the streets of London ― of which, I believe, Extinction Rebellion Pakistan is a partner. Many organisations in Pakistan have held events on climate change and we want to add our voice to their endeavours so that, in whatever limited way, the message is conveyed both to the government and the people. Climate change is a universal threat and concern but this Conference will focus on Pakistan which is considered as one of the countries most vulnerable to its effects. Pakistan faces water shortages, melting glaciers, droughts, floods, sea intrusions, heat waves, deforestation and displaced populations which pose great challenges to life in our rural and urban areas.
I am grateful to the specialists and professionals from Islamabad, Karachi and Boston who have joined us and will speak at the Conference. I have two concerns. My first concern is about women. Just as women are the major victims in zones of conflict and war, so women are the most effected by the impacts of climate change. Traditionally, they have been the procurers of water and gatherers of fuel. They are carers at home and sustainers of livelihoods, and their unique perspectives and experience must be integrated with all strategies in a national climate policy. My second concern is that, I hope, our deliberations here will not be elitist in nature and that in the conclusions of the Conference we can suggest strategies to take the message not only to citizens in general but also to grassroots communities, who must, after all, bear the brunt of climate change.
I can think of nobody better than Dr. Tariq Banuri to address the issue of the climate emergency in our country. Presently Chairman of the Higher Education Commission, he has been closely associated with policy and research on climate change. He was Professor of Economics at Utah University, formerly a civil servant in Pakistan, founder and first Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad and Executive Director of the Global Impact Studies Centre in Islamabad from which some scholars will be speaking at the Conference. He has been associated with the highest forums on climate change at the international level, as Coordinating Lead Author on the Nobel Prize Winning Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change and member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. He was also member of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Council.
It is with the greatest pleasure, therefore, that I invite Dr. Tariq Banuri to address us.
Full news reports on our conference are available here.