Fighting climate change in Pakistan: The case of Karachi

This blog was written by Izzah Sheikh and edited by Sajili Oberoi and Matteo Bizzotto, from ICLEI World Secretariat

Karachi, one of the most populated cities in the world and the financial capital of Pakistan, is strongly committed to accelerated climate action. Like many other industrial cities, Karachi faces problems that are further exacerbated by climate change, such as the catastrophic floods caused by extreme rainfall in 2020 and 2022.  This led to an urgent call to the local government for a comprehensive and integrated climate action plan to ensure low-emission development, with enhanced resilience to reduce its own carbon footprint. 


Addressing Climate Change through the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) in Pakistan

Pakistan is at a crossroads because climate change has wreaked havoc and continues to do so to the country’s people and infrastructure. The country is in a state of jeopardy where immediate implementation of the climate action plan is of ultimate necessity. Even though Pakistan only contributes 0.9% to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the recent flood wave has made the country much more vulnerable to climate change.

In its Updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) 2021, Pakistan has set an ambitious goal to tackle climate challenges by reducing 15% GHGs with the country’s own resources and 35% with support of international grants by 2030. To meet this target, Pakistan aims to shift to 60% renewable energy, 30% electric vehicles by 2030 and completely ban imported coal. The energy transition alone will require USD 101 billion financing.

The country has also reported some progress in the climate action space during the 2018 – 2021 period, especially due to the key role of its cities and other subnational governments. For example, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan, and Karachi have been introduced to the low emission transportation system called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Climate Action in Karachi

Since 2018, the city of Karachi has engaged in several climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, according to Pakistan’s updated NDC of 2021. These strategies include improving the public transport system to reach a goal of zero emissions, integrating the gender perspective in the “Safe BRT Travel Program”, combating climate change impacts using Urban Forests and, managing solid waste to mitigate flooding risks. Karachi introduced a bus rapid transit zero emission metro-line in 2018. The “Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)” Project improved the public transport system through reduced journey time, efficient and safe connectivity and affordability. This project is expected to reduce 77,979 tons of CO2 emissions per year. To ensure safety for men and women, the ‘’Safe BRT Travel Program’’ has trained staff, put up anti-harassment posters with reporting numbers/helplines, have separate stations for males and females and have installed recording mechanisms in place to ensure safety.

As for using urban forests to address climate change, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) planted the Miyawaki Forests and intends to plant 300 small forests in different parts of the city to increase its green cover. Moreover, through the Solid Waste Emergency and Efficiency Project, the city aims to construct new sanitary disposal cells, upgrade transfer stations, acquire new equipment and develop a long-term waste solution plan for Karachi. The project’s outcomes are all contributing to  Sustainable Development Goal 11 – “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

In addition to these strategies, the city also has a plan to develop and report a consumption-based emissions inventory for goods and services in the next 2 years. KMC intends to develop Karachi’s Nature Restoration Plan consisting of short and long-term goals to make the city greener, natural and climate-resilient.

Since 2011, Karachi has been reporting its climate action progress toward urban sustainability to the CDP-ICLEI Track, the largest platform for cities globally to report their progress and thus, be held accountable for their climate action. This track may be used by cities to report on a wide range of activities, including UN-backed climate campaigns such as  Race to Zero, which aims for decarbonisation initiatives to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Along with its commitment to Race to Zero, the city of Karachi is also a signatory for the largest global alliance for city climate leadership, the Global Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) of which ICLEI is a funding member. ICLEI supports cities and subnational in a way to achieve their local climate ambitions and to further contribute to the NDCs achievement in line with the Paris Agreement.