Future of the Environment

Can Pakistan cut carbon emissions by 30% in ten years?

Saleem Shaikh
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As Pakistan struggles with the rising risks of floods and melting glaciers, it is crafting a plan to cut its planet-warming emissions under a new global climate deal due to be agreed in Paris in December.

The South Asian nation is currently considering a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2008 levels by 2025.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan, the federal climate change minister, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Pakistan intended to submit its contribution to the global climate agreement by Sept. 30, an informal U.N. deadline ahead of the Paris meeting.

Pakistan accounts for less than 1 percent of total global emissions. “Yet we still see an opportunity in cutting the country’s carbon emissions,” Khan said in an interview.

A team of technical experts and government officials is putting together Pakistan’s draft “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC), as the plans are termed, with international support.

Viable carbon-cutting policies identified for Pakistan include boosting renewable energy, cutting electric power loss during transmission, more efficient water use in agriculture to reduce diesel-powered pumping, minimising farm tillage to keep carbon in the soil and using manure to generate biogas.

Khan said his ministry would finalise its INDC by July 30, and send it to the prime minister for approval before submission to the U.N. climate change secretariat.

Pakistan’s energy and transport sectors are the country’s largest source of emissions, together making up half of the national total, while agriculture produces 39 percent, according to a 2008 national greenhouse gas inventory.

“For us, the most important target sectors for mitigation efforts include energy, transport, agriculture and industry,” said Sajjad Ahmed, director-general for climate change and environment at the federal climate change ministry.

At present, the country’s emissions are increasing at an annual rate of 6 percent, or 18.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. Emissions were 147.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2008.

“Pakistan’s carbon emissions will reach 400 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (per year) by 2030 if the business-as-usual scenario remains intact,” said Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, author of Pakistan’s climate change policy and former director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

Uncurbed emissions would speed up the melting process of glaciers in the north, trigger severe floods and harm the country’s economic growth, he warned.

Forest Potential

Syed Badshah Bukhari, former director general of the Pakistan Forest Institute, said forests had major potential to reduce the national carbon footprint, as trees sequester carbon.

Emissions could be cut nearly 40 percent by expanding the percentage of Pakistan’s land area under forest from around 5 percent now to 25 percent by 2030, he noted.

“This target can be achieved by involving communities, educational institutions and the private sector in mass tree plantation campaigns,” he said.

“However, this will require political will and a complete ban on tree-cutting during the next 15 to 20 years,” he added.

Asjad Ali, chairman of the Alternative Energy Development Board, said climate change concerns must be integrated across energy policy, because today’s investment decisions would fix the infrastructure, fuel and technologies to be used for decades to come.

The government is promoting energy-efficient systems and LED lighting by removing duties on imports and encouraging investment in the production of energy-saving lights.

Mass transit buses

The transport sector alone is responsible for about a fifth of the country’s total emissions and over half of oil consumed.

The introduction of energy-efficient mass transit systems could shrink the sector’s carbon footprint by 30 to 40 percent by 2025, Abdul Hakeem Baloch, state minister for communications, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some progress has been made. A mass transit bus system launched in Lahore a couple of years ago and the new Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus system aim to remove around 1 million cars from the road, from a total of 12-13 million, cutting a significant amount of carbon emissions.

The model is being extended to other Pakistani cities including Karachi, Asia’s fastest growing port city.

Pakistan’s draft INDC also proposes converting a quarter of the country’s 1.1 million diesel-run tubewells to run on biogas by 2030, and shifting industrial units fuelled by coal and oil to waste energy.

The country could maximise energy generation from renewable sources, including hydro, solar and wind, to provide the bulk of electricity needed to supply 90 percent of the population, the plan says.

Water storage capacity could be boosted from 30 days to 90 days, to enable an increase in hydro-power generation, it adds.

But the actions presented in the INDC are expected to be conditional on increased international assistance through a range of channels, including the fledgling Green Climate Fund.

This article is published in collaboration with The Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Saleem Shaikh is an Islamabad-based freelance writer for the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Sughra Tunio is a writer at the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Image: A man removes dirt from an oven to retrieve baked bricks at a brickyard in the outskirts of Islamabad. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood. 

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