Green transition

November 12, 2019

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The writer is ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan.
The writer is ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan.

THE global demand for green transition is growing, especially among the youth who will inherit our Earth. It is no longer seen as the responsibility of just the government, it is the responsibility of every public institution, company and citizen to do what they can in their domain. It was the pledge of more than 70 nations at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on Sept 23 to make concrete plans now for how to reach the goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

In Pakistan, there are still voices arguing against green transition. Some say that the countries that industrialised first, created the problem and that they should carry the burden of solving it. They say that Pakistan is responsible for only 1pc of carbon emissions, so it does not matter much anyway. Climate aside, the strongest arguments for Pakistan are economic and with regard to resource survival. They are compelling.

Firstly, green transition in the energy sector would mean much lower electricity prices as well as a much smaller burden on Pakistan’s troubled trade balance. The energy sector in Pakistan primarily runs on fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal. Consequently, electricity is very expensive in Pakistan, and this is making Pakistan less competitive economically. The heavy dependence on imported oil and gas is also undermining Pakistan’s trade balance and is a major component of the current economic crisis.

Solar and wind turbines can produce electricity at half the price of oil and coal or better. With the help of pioneering wind turbine giant Vestas and others, Denmark has the world’s highest amount of electricity from renewables approaching 70pc in 2020, but at the same time has the lowest load-shedding and one of the lowest production cost levels in the world.

Those who can produce sustainably will be the winners.

The message is clear: the more renewable sources for producing electricity, the better for the trade balance and for lower energy prices. And it would make Pakistani businesses much more price-competitive in the global markets!

Secondly, global consumers are turning to sustainable production, and soon this will also be reflected in tax incentives and regulations in Pakistan’s two biggest export markets: the EU and the US. Already, as many as two-thirds of consumers have a strong preference for sustainable products, and this trend is expected to strengthen over the coming years. Big enterprises like Carlsberg and Starbucks are taking out plastic from their line of products to meet those expectations.

Moreover, it is only a matter of time before an intensifying race to meet climate goals will impose sustainability standards on products being imported to, for instance, Europe. A little further down the line, Pakistan’s main export markets will also put in place far stricter regulations for products.

The message is clear: those who can produce sustainably will be the winners on the economic markets.

Thirdly, building a circular economy is crucial for Pakistan to preserve its resources. Pakistan is one of 10 countries in the world that will be most affected by climate change. Pakistan has numerous environmental and resource challenges that will have to be resolved quickly, if, for instance, water resources and the ability to grow agricultural crops are to be available also for future generations.

In Pakistan, 85pc of water is used in agriculture. The lack of waste management is slowly but literally turning Pakistan into a wasteland. Air quality ranks among the poorest in the world and that has an impact on health standards.

The message is clear: sustainable handling of waste, protection of aquifers from pollution and saving on water resources are indispensable to Pakistan.

Solutions exist. Waste-to-energy and recycling solutions could make it possible to put a value on waste and thereby finance solutions. In Denmark, most waste is recycled, some is turned into energy and only 1pc goes into a landfill. The newest state-of-the art waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen can convert 500,000 tons of residual waste to energy every year practically without the emission of toxic fumes. The investment is expected to fully pay for itself through the sale of energy.

In October, Copenhagen hosted the C40 World Mayors Summit — with coordination among the largest cities around the world, including Karachi. Cities are responsible for 70pc of global carbon emissions and 80pc of energy use, and that is why green and smart solutions for cities are crucial for overall global green transition. Innovative solutions are being developed and shared here — and Pakistan can benefit directly.

For Pakistan, climate neutrality is not just something ‘nice to do’. It is a ‘need to do’ for survival. And on top of that it just makes good economic sense.

The green entrepreneurs of today, whether countries or business companies, will be the global winners of tomorrow.

The writer is ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2019