Balancing the scales

Published September 25, 2023

PAKISTAN has taken a significant step in addressing the pressing challenges of climate change through its pioneering National Adaptation Plan (NAP). This comprehensive strategy, developed through collaborative efforts involving government bodies, civil society, and agencies, is designed to empower communities grappling with the impacts of climate change.

The NAP recognises the critical interplay between water-agriculture dynamics and the value of renewable resources, which account for 13 per cent to 15pc of per capita wealth. However, this perspective must be reconciled with Pakistan’s unfortunate distinction as the third most polluted nation globally, underscoring the urgency of effective action.

The NAP lays a strategic roadmap, emphasising efficiency, forward-looking strategies, and evidence-based approaches. It incorporates nature-based solutions, aligning environmental preservation with climate mitigation while ensuring inclusivity and tailoring solutions to regional needs.

Flexibility and collaboration underpin proactive adaptation efforts, encompassing climate-resilient practices, irrigation enhancements and sustainable agriculture practices that align with Pakistan’s broader development objectives.

Pakistan must weigh the need for coal power against its renewable energy goals, as outlined in the National Adaptation Plan

Despite the NAP’s visionary outlook for a climate-resilient Pakistan, national security priorities cast a shadow over climate action, given the geopolitical complexities at play. Issues like regional tensions and border security often divert attention and resources away from climate adaptation, posing challenges to the comprehensive implementation of the NAP and its objectives.

Pakistan recently submitted revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These NDCs include a goal of achieving a 60pc share of renewable energy in Pakistan’s power mix by 2030 and imposing a moratorium on new coal power plants starting from 2020, prohibiting further power generation from imported coal sources.

However, there appears to be a disconnect between these commitments and the actual developments on the ground. The Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP) for 2021-2030, responsible for shaping Pakistan’s energy capacity expansion for the coming decade, does not align with these objectives.

According to the IGCEP, imported coal is expected to contribute 4,680MW of capacity, while local coal is projected to contribute 7,230MW, positioning coal as the fourth-largest source of electricity in Pakistan by 2030.

Pakistan has, in fact, made significant advancements in coal-based power generation, with an installed capacity of 3,300MW from five power plants using Thar coal and an additional 3,960MW from imported coal sources. Four coal power plants, including the Huaneng Shandong Ruyi-Sahiwal Coal Power Plant, the Port Qasim Coal-fired Power Plant, the HubCo Coal-fired Power Plant, and the Sindh-Engro Thar Coal Power Plant, have been operational since 2017.

Furthermore, there are plans to commission five new coal power plants, adding 2,970MW within the next two years. Notably, two imported coal power plants, Jamshoro Coal Unit-I (660 MW) and the Gwadar plant (300 MW), are scheduled for commissioning in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Efforts are also underway to transition existing imported coal Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to use Thar coal. Additionally, there are ongoing efforts to blend Thar coal with imported coal for projects in Sahiwal, Port Qasim, and Hub, with a total capacity of 3,960MW.

This trajectory seems at odds with Pakistan’s climate commitments and reveals a significant disconnect among different policy-making institutions. It’s essential to note that Pakistan is a Belt and Road Initiative country, and coal has played a substantial role in energy projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Of the 18 ‘priority’ energy projects financed by China, nine are coal-fired, contributing 8,220MW to the country’s energy mix.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognise that climate change is not solely an environmental concern but also a substantial national security threat. The impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events, shifting precipitation patterns, and rising sea levels, can exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, disrupt livelihoods, and potentially contribute to social unrest and population displacement. These climate-induced challenges directly influence national security dynamics and compound existing issues.

Incorporating climate change adaptation, as outlined in the National Adaptation Plan (NAP), into national security discussions is imperative. Climate resilience and preparedness must be integral to a comprehensive national security strategy. Aligning efforts to address climate change with broader national security objectives enables a more holistic approach to safeguarding the nation’s well-being.

Finding the delicate balance between immediate security concerns and climate change adaptation is essential. While addressing immediate security threats is crucial, long-term planning that integrates climate adaptation measures can enhance national resilience and support sustainable development.

Raising awareness among policymakers about the interconnections between climate change and national security is paramount to fostering a comprehensive and proactive approach that addresses both critical issues simultaneously.

The writer is the Pro Vice-Chancellor at Dawood University of Engineering and Technology

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, September 25th, 2023

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