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Strategy to reduce carbon emissions

November 30, 2015


PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif approved on November 12 a national carbon emission reduction strategy and the ministry of climate change submitted the strategy document to the UN Convention Framework on Climate Change on the same day.

The strategy document is called the ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC). The UN Convention Frame­work on Climate Change (UNFCCC) session held last December in Lima required all the parties (member countries) to submit their INDCs stating the commitments, contributions, and actions that they are considering to undertake during 2020-2030 to achieve the objectives of the convention.

Pakistan’s document, it is believed, has set a goal of reducing emissions by 30pc from 2008 levels by 2025 under a new global climate deal due to be agreed in Paris in December.

The parties to the convention are required to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Under articles of the convention, the developed countries are required to take actions for mitigation, finance and technology transfer to developing countries while the latter are required to take actions that include adaptation, mitigation, capacity-building and sustainable development (including food security).

Carbon dioxide emissions are those which stem from the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement. But they also include carbon dioxide produced during the consumption of solid, liquid, and gas fuels and gas flaring.

In 1989, Pakistan’ emissions were calculated to be 63.40m metric tonnes which increased to 166.41m tonnes in 2013. A year before it was 165.38m tonnes According to World Bank data, in 2011 Pakistan’s emissions stood at 163.4m tonnes while those of the US were 5,305.5 metric tonnes, Russian federation’s at 1,808m tonnes and of Japan at 1,187. 6m tonnes — the highest emitters in the world.

Some possible emission-reducing measures identified by Pakistan include promoting renewable energy, reducing electric power losses during transmission, efficient water use in agriculture, limiting diesel-powered pumping, minimising farm tillage to keep carbon in the soil and using manure to generate biogas

Though Pakistan is amongst the lowest emitters and accounts for less than 1pc of the total global carbon emissions, it remains committed to the global efforts to reduce climate-altering carbon emission to tackle global warming and its impacts by adopting low-carbon development path particularly in energy, agriculture, transport.

The agriculture sector in Pakistan plays a key role in its economy as the livelihood of nearly half of the population is dependent on this sector. This sector is now under threat from climate change. According to a recent study, it is expected that temperatures will increase by 3°C by 2040 and even up to 6°C by the end of this century in the Asian region. Hence, owing to this factor, Asia can lose 50pc of its wheat production.

Besides, Pakistan’s agriculture is more vulnerable to climate change because of its geographical location. Due to anthropogenic activities, temperature of the earth is rising and it may have negative effect on the production of wheat. The study examines the impact of climate change on production of four major crops in Punjab. In the short run, it says, the increase in temperature is expected to affect the wheat productivity but in the long term it will have a positive effect on it. Once the temperature touches 14.76oC, any further increase will positively affect the crop. Variations in temperature will have little effect.

On the other hand, the precipitation has significant relationship with wheat crop in the first two stages of production. The optimal precipitations for the first two stages are 111mm and 84.50mm respectively. That is, beyond these optimal limits, further precipitation will adversely affect the growth of the plant.

In the third stage, precipitation does not affect wheat crop. However, a rise in temperature is beneficial for rice production initially. But beyond a certain optimal temperature, any increase becomes harmful for it. Interestingly, the increase in precipitation does not harm the rice productivity. The change in climate variables (temperature, precipitation) has a significant negative impact on production of cotton. However, the increase in temperature also harms the sugarcane productivity in the long run.

In recent decades, high temperatures have been observed in Asia and the Pacific regions where agriculture sector is seen more vulnerable as 37pc of the total world emissions from agriculture production are coming from there. Countries most vulnerable to climate change include Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, Pakistan.

On the other hand, the study says, there is also a possibility that agriculture sector may harm the climate. This problem was identified by a researcher in 2009. It is observed that 14pc of nitric oxide and methane is coming from the agriculture sector and 18pc is due to deforestation for agriculture use.

Secretary of the ministry of climate change Arif Ahmed Khan says Pakistan’s INDC is rooted in its Vision 2025, which is a roadmap of economic growth. Since the country’s development needs are expected to grow, the industry must be able to take a lead role in meeting the transformation. He hopes the developed countries would mobilise adequate funding and technology transfer to enable the developing countries to achieve INDCs.

Some possible emission-reducing measures identified by Pakistan include promoting renewable energy, reducing electric power losses during transmission, efficient water use in agriculture, limiting diesel-powered pumping, minimising farm tillage to keep carbon in the soil and using manure to generate biogas. How the country manages to achieve these goals remains to be seen.

Published in Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, November 30th, 2015