Pakistan, Climate Change and the Pursuit for Sustainable Development

Pakistan is on a mission to become more sustainable- and it’s time the world stood up and took notice. 

More than ever, there’s an urgency felt across the nation to fast track sustainability – and alot of that has to do with geography.

Due to its location on the map, Pakistan is disproportionately affected by climate change, threatening human development and economic progress for the nation’s most vulnerable. 

This is vividly illustrated by the severe floods in 2022 that submerged one-third of the country. The catastrophe impacted more than 33 million citizens and displaced 8 million people with 90 districts hit. Damages exceeded $30 billion- about 8% of Pakistan’s GDP. 

Extreme environmental disasters such as this are no longer rare occurrences. They are increasing in frequency and intensity, underscoring the need for international attention as Pakistan continues to fight against environmental challenges. 

The fact that Pakistan has one of the lowest carbon emissions in the world only adds salt to the wounds of pain and frustration. As it stands the country is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases, yet it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. It’s paying an extortionate price, not only with lives but destroyed infrastructure too, from schools and homes to hospitals and roads. The total bill for the 2022 flood is expected to exceed $10 billion and recovery will take years.

Sustainable Development Goals and the National Agenda

Unsurprisingly, against this backdrop of climate uncertainty, Pakistan has stepped up its efforts to improve the lives of its citizens and make a steadfast commitment to achieving a sustainable future.  As such, it has integrated the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its national agenda through a unanimous National Assembly Resolution in 2016

With the UN’s target year of 2030 in sight, the country has made significant strides by incorporating these goals into its national policies and strategies and establishing a robust institutional framework to track and achieve these targets.

Here’s a closer look at the progress Pakistan is making from a climate action perspective: 

Rising to the Challenges of Climate Change – A Greener Pakistan

Clean Green Pakistan is an important government initiative launched in 2018. It addresses the environmental challenges of Pakistan through a focus on five major pillars: plantation, sanitation, hygiene, solid waste management, and liquid waste management to enhance the ecological and sanitation conditions across the country. 

The campaign, in line with Pakistan’s commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change and its national priorities under the UN SDGs, has engaged the community and local governments in improving green standards and cleanliness through a competitive and reward-based approach. This has helped to foster real behavioural change and to make Pakistan a safer, more sustainable place to live.

The movement has also been fruitful in its collaboration with national and international partners, including UN agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society, and private sector stakeholders.


Ten Billion Trees- Reforestation success

Another notable achievement is Pakistan’s efforts in boosting its biodiversity through The Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme, a successful tree planting project which was launched in 2014.  Initially focused on combating deforestation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the project exceeded its goal by planting over 1.5 billion trees by 2018. This success led to the expanded Green Pakistan program, which targets planting 10 billion trees nationwide over five years. 

The initiative combines reforestation and afforestation, involving private entities and local communities to promote environmental protection while boosting local economies through job creation.


Community Driven Education, Sanitation and Health Programmes 

Furthermore, charities are enhancing the efforts of Pakistan’s government by advancing the country’s SDG goals, complementing official strategies with targeted community-based projects.

The Citizens Foundation (TCF), for example, is doing brilliant work in enhancing health and education, which are crucial components of Pakistan’s SDG commitments. The organisation has established numerous schools across urban and rural areas, providing quality education to millions of underprivileged children. TCF is also involved in health initiatives that improve access to healthcare services, offering preventive care and health education, thereby reducing disease prevalence and improving life expectancy.

Additionally, charities are increasingly integrating sustainable technologies into their projects. For instance, a collaboration between Panjab Saaf Pani (Clean Water) and Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab (IPAL) has led to the installation of solar-powered ATM water dispensers in remote areas, providing safe drinking water and  preventing waterborne diseases.  With a unique identity card, each family can get 30 litres of guaranteed clean water per day, while also contributing a small fee to a community fund for the filtration plants and vending machines

These kinds of initiatives demonstrate a successful approach to social upliftment, directly linking grassroots actions with broader national and international development agendas.


Rise in Digital Banking and Cashless Payments

Pakistan’s successful digital transformation is also helping to create a more sustainable future for the country, by accelerating the adoption of digital banking and payments, and bringing more people into the formal economy. 

According to The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) quarterly review for Q2 of fiscal year 2023-24, there was a surge in digital transactions, led by mobile and internet banking with 16 million and 11 million users, respectively. Transaction volumes rose to 280 million and 57 million through these platforms.

Meanwhile Raast, Pakistan’s first instant payment system, processed 107 million transactions, contributing to a total of 343 million since its 2021 inception, significantly digitising payment processes.

The SBP also reported that Electronic money institutions (EMIs)  grew to 2.7 million users, with a notable increase in e-wallet transactions among youth and freelancers. E-commerce also increased  by 13%, showing a shift to online transactions. The implementation of Raast and QR-based payments boosted online payment popularity. The real-time gross settlement system (RTGS) maintained a 99.99% reliability rate, handling transactions worth nearly USD $1trillion.


The Booming Fintech Sector: Facilitating Financial Inclusion

Pakistan’s fintech landscape is flourishing, generating innovative financial services that enhance traditional banking. These advancements are democratising access to financial resources, attracting more customers, and heralding a new era of economic growth. Additionally, fintech innovations are promoting environmental sustainability, particularly through mobile payment solutions. This enables more citizens to participate in greener initiatives each time they pay for goods and services, further integrating climate into daily economic activities.

Fintechs like JazzCash and EasyPaisa facilitate different kinds of ‘green’ transactions – while also encouraging the adoption of paperless billing and digital receipts, reducing the need for physical paper and promoting sustainability. 

Additionally, these platforms help streamline the distribution and management of funds allocated for environmental projects, ensuring transparency and effective use of resources. 

As more Pakistanis gain access to these convenient payment options, their ability to support and initiate eco-friendly projects increases, fostering a more engaged and proactive approach towards building a sustainable future.



Pakistan’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals is evident in initiatives like Clean Green Pakistan, impactful community projects, and advancements in fintech. These efforts are not only helping to address climate change but also strengthening the socio-economic framework. 

The nation’s focused approach will continue to raise living standards and promote economic resilience, charting a course towards a sustainable future.