ADAPTATION by definition means the process of change through which integration into an emerging new order is facilitated via actions that make transition possible. In the climate world, this refers to strengthening resilience to absorb shocks and recover from crises. In politics, it means marching in step with the times you live in and course correcting to stay ahead of the curve. In science, it means discovery, in research innovative thinking, in media effective communication and at the people’s level, embracing change and willingness to transform.

You can look at adaptation through any lens but the end response will yield the same sequential process … anticipatory planning, thinking strategic and maximising co-benefits.

Climate change is not a stand-alone subject and therefore cannot be addressed in isolation. It changes demography, alters social dynamics and has a direct impact on the growth indicators of countries most affected and least prepared to cope with change.

The sectoral impacts of climate change are well researched and policies and plans in place to highlight implementation intent through action frameworks. However, the missing piece in the puzzle is who, when and how. This stumbling block has prevented us from achieving policy objectives and making the required progress in our climate journey. There can be no progress without investing in enabling agencies responsible for structural adjustments and making the necessary changes at different levels. In every society, the enablers are the people, government and policymakers who together work on, and support strategies for enabling critical actions to push the change agenda forward.

Climate change cannot be addressed in isolation.

In Pakistan the climate crisis is a cause that is championed by all political parties and experienced by people at all levels. But despite national consensus on being a vulnerable and hard-hit country, not enough has been done to make a difference on ground. This places a high responsibility on the interim government to own the climate agenda and use the momentum for raising the level of engagement to a higher equilibrium. This is a time to go beyond rhetoric and take a more reflective view of the challenge. There is a growing tendency to attribute everything to external finance and resort to inaction. However, not all paradigm shifts cost money. Finance is only a byproduct of good policy. A little soul-searching may help us to understand that investment in people, shift in policy, and indirect approaches can enhance productivity, boost the economy and incentivise family planning.

There is no country in the world that has prospered without giving women equal access to opportunities and resources. Giving women equal space in society and freedom to make life choices needs no money and will serve as a powerful enabler.

Investing in human capital with a focus on science and technology has been the foundational building block for developed countries to become resilient societies. We need to deliver quality education to all citizens to build a resource pool for functions needed by the state to optimise opportunities for growth.

It is not a coincidence that countries with high human capital and empowered women have sustainable populations. Advocacy alone on family planning has not shown the desired results in Pakistan. The latest census is a strong signal for the need to adopt an indirect management approach for long-term dividends.

Twinning human capital with gender empowerment may well provide the answer to the population conundrum.

There is global recognition that climate change knows no borders. It is also pertinent to note that the relevance of impact is more powerful when disruptive changes take place in your neighbourhood. This makes regional integration an imperative and an essential part of adaptation, not just in the climate domain but also at the political, and people’s level. As part of one South Asia, no country can forge its future trajectory without taking cognisance of climate-triggered upheavals in the region. Moving beyond past barriers to find common ground is also a part of adaptation that can no longer be ignored.

As political parties prepare for the next elections, it is important that clarity is provided to the people on actions that will be part of their electoral manifestos on climate change. The vision for a resilient Pakistan needs to go beyond going green to transformative changes in the social landscape and demonstration of political will to shift from status quo to new and dynamic equations for internal and external cohesion. An enabling environment is the product of actions set in motion by enablers. It is time to adapt and move forward recognizing constraints and building an evolving narrative for a safe future.