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Pakistan and Climate change

By Uzair M Younus
May 5 2014




The recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of experts formed by the United Nations, makes for some scary reading. The report concludes that the devastating effects of climate change are already visible. According to the report, polar ice caps are melting, water supplies around the world are shrinking, extreme weather patterns are becoming more common and the ecosystem of the oceans is undergoing rapid change. As sea levels rise, major coastal cities such as New York, Mumbai, Calcutta, Guangzhou and Karachi will face significant risks that can translate into huge losses.

Melting glaciers in the North and rising sea levels in the South place Pakistan in a susceptible position and the massive floods in recent years are just a trailer into the future. As the effects of climate change worsen, our economy, population and environment will be more vulnerable than ever before.

Sadly, these facts have not pushed policymakers to develop a forward-looking policy that aims to mitigate the deleterious effects of climate change in our country. Investments in water conservation, sustainable agriculture, water storage and reforestation are lagging. In fact, investments in developing our coal and burning it to meet Pakistan’s energy needs are being made with much fanfare. Being the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world, coal has a large part to playin the emerging crisis that the world is facing and while the rest of the world looks towards cleaner sources of energy, Pakistan is going in the opposite direction.

It is indeed true that coal is cheaper and that it can go a long way in boosting industrial production, creating jobs and bringing relief to the masses that have suffered from years of load-shedding. One must, however, take into account the air pollution, health hazards and the overall negative externalities that will occur due to this policy. The carbon emissions from these power plants will cause acid rains, pollute our rivers and cause widespread damage to our crops.

While some investments in renewable energy sources are being made, the focus has largely been on developing other forms of power sources. The current energy policy, much like policies implemented in the past, is short-sighted and does not take into account the downstream negatives that we will suffer from in the years to come. Even the mega-dams that are being constructed will cause damage to the Indus Delta. The impact will be felt by the rural communities that rely on the delta for fishing and agriculture.

Investments in renewable energy will not only give Pakistan a better and cleaner alternative, they will also enable technology transfer that can fundamentally alter the shape of our economy. With an effective policy, Pakistan can emerge as a leading player in this industry. As demand for renewable energy rises all over the world, we can export photovoltaic panels, electric batteries and other renewable energy goods. Such a policy will equip our economy to compete in the 21st century, boosting exports, creating jobs and leading to rapid technological innovation. It is a sad reality that we have been unable to integrate with the global economy and have been lagging in the export of value-added goods. A sustained effort to build a renewable energy industry in the country can address this problem while bringing in foreign investment and revenues.

In the decades to come, our rich agricultural lands, along with our urban areas, will be at greater risk. While one can bring militant groups to the negotiating table, nature has a record of doing things its own way. To address these challenges, Pakistan needs to develop a modern economy that is able to grow without damaging the ecosystem of the nation. Investments in renewable energy with a keen focus on technology transfer is the way in which we can begin this process. In the short term, such a policy will bring in foreign investment and create jobs. In the medium and long term, a burgeoning renewables sector will boost exports, enable innovation and equip us to better deal with the deleterious effects of climate change.

Originally published by Tribune Pakistan 


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