Pakistan Climate March
Pakistan Climate March
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Pakistan air quality activists join Global Climate Strike

Pakistani air quality activists are marching together with young strikers on Friday to urge the government to declare a climate emergency and adopt a low-carbon economy.

In September 2019, thousands of schoolchildren across the world, including many in Pakistan, walked out of classes in a day of protest as part of a planned Global Climate Strike ahead of a United Nations climate summit, demanding action to tackle climate change.

In Pakistan, marches took place in 26 cities and rural areas.

The marches were coordinated by 200+ citizens via a handful of WhatsApp groups consisting of students, doctors, lawyers, software engineers, architects, and development professionals, among many others. They continue to work together in a coalition called ClimateActionPk, and their demand is: “Climate Action Now!”

 

Poster for climate march in Multan, Pakistan
A ClimateActionPk poster for a march happening in Multan, a city located on the banks of a river in Punjab province, and one of South Asia’s oldest cities

What happened during the 2019 Global Climate Strike in Pakistan?

Pakistan air quality activists teamed up with the young people leading the Global Climate Strike after originally planning a march to protest the country’s smog. After hearing about the Strike, they decided it would be more effective to join forces.

Abid Omar, the found of the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative who helped coordinate ClimateActionPk events in Karachi, said: “This is the first time Pakistan as a nation, young and old, schoolchildren and adults – not just professionals working in the NGO, the environment and the development sectors – have come together to demand climate action now.”

Villagers prepare to march for climate justice
Villagers from Pakistan’s Punjab province prepare posters for a march to demand climate justice

 

What coordinators are particularly excited about is that members of marginalized communities in cities and some rural areas joining the marches, particularly communities who stand to be affected the most by climate change.

Amir Zafar Khan, a lawyer who helped coordinate ClimateActionPk in Lahore, told IQAir AirVisual: “What’s truly unique that we are trying to do with this protest is bringing in people from rural areas, who have not been part of a march by the urban elite.”

ClimateActionPk called on the government to take the following steps:

  1. Declare a climate emergency;
  2. Demand climate justice though a global coalition;
  3. Adopt a low-carbon economy; and
  4. Ensure grassroots-level climate adaptation efforts. 

 

 

Global Climate Strikes poster in Pakistan
"The climate crisis won’t wait, so neither will we" reads a poster for the ClimateActionPk events to mark Friday’s Global Climate Strike

 

ClimateActionPk’s other demands included the inclusion of women and marginalized communities in climate change and environmental decision-making and policy-making, and that Pakistan should build a coalition of developing countries with the objective of holding developed countries accountable for historical greenhouse emissions.

Why is climate change a big deal in Pakistan?

The potential challenges facing Pakistan from climate change include the changing of monsoon patterns, floods, droughts, and receding Himalayan glaciers affecting the Indus River, which is a key water source for Pakistan.1

Global Climate Strike events  occurred in more than 100 countries. Schoolchildren and university students joined forces with union members, company workers, and other adults hoping to draw world attention in the days leading up to the U.N. climate summit in New York.2

 

Pakistani villagers prepare for Global Climate Strike
Men hold a poster reading “Charter of Changes” that they plan to rally with during the Global Climate Strike

 

The Global Climate Strike, as well as ongoing climate change awareness movements, have been inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.3 Her climate protests outside the Swedish parliament beginning in 2018 first sparked the #FridaysForFuture movement, in which students and others strike on Fridays to protest a lack of action to deal with climate change.

September 2019’s Global Climate Strike was followed by another day of action a week later. September’s events marked the second global climate strike; in March 2019, an estimated 1.5 million people took part.

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