When preparing and planning for the 2050 net zero target, it’s important to remember that the Earth’s atmosphere knows no boundaries and that every nation is responsible for preserving the environment and atmosphere. This obligation falls particularly heavy on those countries that have contributed the most to pollution and continue to do so.

The Earth’s atmosphere comprises 78 per cent nitrogen, 21pc oxygen, and only about 0.04pc Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Yet CO2 contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect and can trap heat in the atmosphere. Net zero initiatives aim to reduce CO2 emissions to a level that can be absorbed by the oceans and maintain less than 0.04pc to prevent climate change.

It should be noted that the quantification of CO2 is bound to have sufficient margins of error. The ocean’s natural circulation patterns play a significant role in carbon absorption, which varies due to wind-driven currents and deep water movements.

After decades of emitting significant volumes of CO2, developed countries are leading an initiative to achieve a net-zero target by 2050, under the garb of the Kyoto Protocol, and emphasising the transition to cleaner energies. As Pakistan’s CO2 emissions are quite negligible (0.99 tonnes per capita), it is like being pushed to kill a fly with an elephant gun.

The industrialised world has been interfering with nature in different ways to promote their business objectives. They create new business opportunities by instilling fear and then offering products, technologies, and solutions to their intended markets.

We should be free to decide which approach, when and in what way is right for our nation

Developed countries’ policies and measures aim to protect their own business interests, and they consider and use the less developed countries as their marketplace. Currently, Bhutan, Comoros, Gabon, Guyana, Madagascar, Niue, Panama, and Suriname are CO2-negative only due to sufficient rain forests, low energy consumption, and a primitive stage of development. Being CO2-neutral does not mean anything to the public if they are not properly fed.

Pakistan’s legal system has collapsed, the poverty index is soaring, purchasing power has decreased, and the middle class is experiencing a significant reduction. Moreover, there has been a marked increase in the number of people living below the poverty line due to various reasons.

The developed world keeps creating new business opportunities by instilling fear or creating a need and then offering products, technologies, and solutions to the intended markets eg Y2K. Net Zero appears to be another business stunt of the developed world.

None of the less developed countries’ economic conditions have ever improved solely due to the intervention of Bretton Wood institutions. Pakistan is the worst example of being under the influence of economic hitmen.

If there was any sincerity on the part of Bretton Wood Institutions, Pakistan would have been allowed to execute the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which would not only have resulted in a reduction in CO2 emission but also economic development in Pakistan.

In the recent past, Pakistan was compelled to a premature shift from Euro-II to Euro-V standards effective 1st of August 2020 and January 2021 for gasoline and diesel, respectively, without any consideration to all existing non-compatible small vehicles and motorbikes.

Logically, motorbikes, 800cc cars, and rikshaws should be facilitated to use Euro II gasoline. This alone can positively impact the masses as the price of Euro II gasoline is expected to be less by about Rs12-15 per litre, without causing any burden on the national exchequer.

In all fairness, developed countries should first compensate less developed countries for their historical CO2 emissions. To achieve fair and just compensation, a pro-rationing mechanism takes into account country size, population, economy, socio-economic conditions, current CO2 emission rates, and other location-specific constraints and opportunities.

Pakistan relies heavily on highly expensive imported technology, machinery, and services. The current per capita CO2 emission in Pakistan is only 0.99 tons, so we should focus on economic measures like promoting forestry and implementing effective monitoring of obvious violations to offset the current level of CO2 emissions rather than gold plating the existing industries.

Switching from Euro V to Euro VI/VII specifications may be delayed until new CO2-efficient machinery, equipment, vehicles, industries, and systems for future projects are in place. Let us not be more loyal than the king.

Without any compromise on international commitments, Pakistan should be free to decide which approach to achieve the Net Zero target is right for its own nation, at what time, and in what way.

The writer is a former Member Gas (OGRA), an energy lawyer, and an independent consultant.
Email: arif@arifassociates.pk

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 27th, 2023

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