THE announcement by SAPM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam that carbon emissions in the country came down by 9pc from 2016 to 2020 comes as a pleasant surprise. Considering that Pakistan is among the countries most affected by the adverse effects of climate change, this reduction, and a further decrease, in emissions will help lessen the impact of global warming. According to Mr Aslam, the reduction in emissions was due to the government’s policies and nature- and technology-based initiatives in the field of climate adaptation. He said the government’s focus on nature-based interventions such as the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami and the Protected Areas Initiative had helped mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, and at the same time had opened up job opportunities for the local population. He said the country was planning to expand these nature-based solutions. According to him, Pakistan’s carbon dioxide emissions for 2018 remained 489.87 metric tons. He expressed the hope that the Billion Tree Afforestation Project and the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme, once completed and implemented fully, would remove around 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2040. He also reiterated the government’s promise of shifting 60pc energy needs to renewable sources with a goal to ban coal import by 2030.

While all this could indeed be true, it remains to be seen if the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is sustainable. Moreover, considering that most of the country’s new energy projects are coal-based, especially those related to CPEC, and that full-fledged economic and business activities were suspended to a large degree because of Covid-19 during the past one-and-a-half years, the reduction seems more like a byproduct of circumstances. The reduced emissions could also be due to the prevailing power crisis and the log-jammed industrial sector. The government’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions notwithstanding, it needs to do much more in terms of decarbonising power generation, industries, agriculture and livestock-rearing for the reduction to become a sustainable and permanent trend.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2021

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