A climate-informed manifesto


With the general election on the horizon on February 8, mainstream political parties seem to have been diligently crafting their manifestoes in a consultative manner, unfamiliar to the people of this country.

The inclusive exercise appears to be aimed at demonstrating bold and meaningful commitments by the parties to deliver during the upcoming five-year term in government. Some have even gone so far as to seek input through their web portals to gather public opinions on various development agendas.

Witnessing an unprecedented move, perhaps the first ever by the mainstream political parties, it is essential for everyone to communicate their expectations to the manifesto committees regarding what we want to see from the new government in terms of laying out a sustainable and resilient developmental agenda – an agenda that should encompass all areas and address all strata of society, as well as the diverse demographics of the country.

At this juncture in history, when most citizens have dwindling hope in the system, this action has sparked some optimism for the future. This necessitates the active participation of all sectors of society – academia, medical professionals, engineers, legal professionals, artists, religious leaders, businesspeople, and students – to exhibit enthusiasm, intelligence, and idealism and play a constructive role in bringing about the essential transformation of our nation. As the generational shift in leadership occurs, the younger generation represents our best hope and must take charge of their future instead of lamenting the state of our political system.

It is particularly crucial when a significant portion of the country is experiencing the severe consequences of the climate crisis, which has already impacted all regions with its devastating effects. It is crucial for political parties to recognize the climate crisis as a priority and to incorporate it into their multi-sectoral development agenda as a cross-cutting imperative.

We are directly experiencing the most catastrophic climate impacts as firsthand recipients. The situation is worsening with each passing year. In 2022, we experienced cataclysmic floods and an epic level of catastrophe because of that. In 2023, we experienced what was likely the hottest summer in thousands of years, and many more severe summers are ahead with an anticipated rise in extreme events.

In these challenging circumstances, the people of this country should not simply be spectators in the process of manifesto development; instead, they need to encourage politicians to include specific plans for resilient development.

Currently, it is evident that the leadership across the political spectrum does not fully grasp the complexity of climate impacts. This is the reason why our leaders are failing us in terms of development. It is time for the leaders of this country, from the local to the national levels, to comprehend the severity, complexity, and enormity of the challenges faced by the impoverished citizens of this nation.

The urgency of this unprecedented crisis means we cannot afford any more delays or deceptive manoeuvres. The communities affected by these disasters, through no fault of their own, deserve genuine commitment and action, not betrayal.

While parties’ manifestoes should reflect the long-term approach that politicians from across the political spectrum have already committed to, they must also include tangible deliverables with specific key performance indicators to gauge this commitment at mid-term and at the end of the five-year term. They need to establish a clear framework for action by outlining small changes to existing legislation and introducing impactful new bills, as well as designing rules of business to implement laws and policies in both letter and spirit.

This is the ideal time for political leaders to promote local initiatives and find ways to ensure coordinated approaches. This includes vertical coordination from grassroots to provincial and federal departments, as well as horizontal coordination among service delivery and policy-making institutions. Only an integrated, cohesive, and coordinated governance system can address roadblocks in critical sectors such as education, health, employment, housing, and the economy.

It is a sine qua non for the incoming government to prioritize planning for adaptation and resilience across all sectors. We need to enhance our understanding and achieve scientific breakthroughs in various fields, including technological solutions, and services for adaptation in areas such as climate resilience in food and agricultural, drought-resistant crops, conserving biodiversity and water resource technologies, advancements in satellite technology for environmental observations, resilient urban planning, resilient public health and education systems, critical infrastructure, and clean energy.

To achieve these milestones, we need a scientific knowledge base, cutting-edge technology and digital tools to cultivate the essential adaptive capabilities and resilience. This will require societal transformation and widespread behavioural change to promote climate-friendly lifestyles. All of this is only possible with more adaptation finance flows into public-sector development programmes to prepare for and cope with the consequences of climate change.

The collaborative approach post-election, by both the ruling party and the opposition, can prove to be the most effective strategy for restoring hope for a brighter future and confidence in the democratic system among people. It can also help them realize that their chosen representatives can overcome the daunting challenges of the current times.

However intriguing the different perspectives may be, it is essential to recognize that there should be no disagreements among opposing parties about the urgency. The nation is facing enormous challenges that demand a unified, harmonized, and integrated approach, as well as the highest levels of political commitment. This will serve as a panacea to address national ills whether they are related to climate change, polarization, conflict or the economy.

Perhaps this is an important message to embrace in the 2024 election: vote for leaders who prioritize a climate-resilient and sustainable development model, support those with a clear plan of action on climate challenges and consider those eligible for your vote who can contribute to a better future for our youth and children.

A better 2024 begins with each individual rejecting despondency and starting to believe in the power of democracy. It is high time for every citizen to realize the power of their vote and to believe in their democratic right to transform the world around them, as it can bring about change.

This is the time for our political leaders to rise to the occasion and fulfil all their promises. Through their party manifestoes in the upcoming election, it is the right time for political parties to come up with practical solutions for the impoverished in this country. The manifestoes must not be treated merely as documents, but as strategic pathways to support holistic development by addressing the most daunting challenges of our times such as climate change.

The writer is a climategovernance expert who works for global development organizations in the fields ofresearch, advisory, policy analysis, and legislative reforms. He tweets/posts @razashafqat

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