PAKISTAN has pledged to the world that it will drastically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by shifting to cleaner energy sources and encouraging electric vehicles. The SAPM on climate change assured the international community during a US-hosted virtual conference that the country will shift to 60pc clean energy and convert 30pc of its overall vehicular fleet to electricity by 2030. That is a tall order given that renewable sources, barring hydropower, constitute only a fraction of the nation’s overall energy mix, and issues such as infrastructural impediments, higher upfront costs and range anxiety are likely to keep consumers from shifting to electric vehicles for many years. Besides, the government is yet to fully align its climate change goals with its power and automotive strategies even though it has separately drawn up EV and alternative energy policies. For example, the long-term plan prepared by the NTDC last year totally ignored the renewable energy option in favour of dirty fossil fuels without taking into account the cost of their impact on the environment. Likewise, some ministers appear reluctant to encourage cheaper, environment-friendly hybrid technology as a way to encourage a shift to green electric technology.
Indeed, the shift to cleaner fuels is crucial to slow down climate changes affecting food security across the globe. But that is not enough. Countries like Pakistan, which are affected the most by the changing climate, need to go beyond measures aimed at slowing down environmental degradation and promote policies that target the reversal of damage already done. One of those measures would include helping farmers switch to modern irrigation and seed technologies for conserving depleting water resources for the future. In fact, unless the government formulates an umbrella policy that covers all sectors of the economy and all segments of the population, it will not be able to win the climate war. The execution of different policies in silos will not work or produce the desired results. By making big pledges at the conference, the government has already fired the starting pistol. The ambitious targets spelled out at the conference will have no hope of being met without a comprehensive effort. There’s no doubt that developing countries are also looking towards major economies responsible for global warming for financial assistance to tackle the problem. But they cannot sit still, waiting for the promised help to arrive. It is time they joined the race.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2021