Pakistan’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last year was inadequate – to say the least.
The country did not include a single measurable target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This low ambition and non-committal attitude was disappointing from a country that has seen its fair share of climate induced disasters in the last five years: droughts, floods and more recently, intense heatwaves.
Just last year, over 1200 persons died in Karachi while hundreds more were affected when temperatures touched a scorching 48 degrees centigrade. The floods of 2010 are considered the worst of the century and directly affected about 20 million people with a death toll of close to 2,000. Droughts like the one that hit Thar last year have become a more regular feature and impact not only the impoverished population but also agricultural productivity.
Is Pakistan to blame for the increased frequency of these disasters? Many would argue that Pakistan produces less than one percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, and if anything, needs to increase its emissions if it is to meet its developmental goals. Agreed that the country is currently a small emitter in the global scheme of things but does that absolve Pakistan of its responsibility to commit to mitigation targets, particularly when emissions are projected to double in the next twenty years?
The Vision 2025 announced by the government envisages a rapid economic growth trajectory for the country, which will inevitably bring a corresponding increase in emissions. However, it is imperative for Pakistan to commit to reducing its projected greenhouse gases as a responsible nation. Integrating low-carbon and climate compatible policies in all developmental targets is the need of the hour, not just for Pakistan but all countries.
According to Pakistan’s INDC, “…the country will only be able to make specific commitments once reliable data on peak emission levels is available.” The government thereby cited a lack of a credible baseline data on emissions as the reason for not setting mitigation targets. Not surprisingly, this target-free document has been criticised by experts both at home and abroad.
However, all is not lost. Work is underway by a team of national and international experts to develop a reliable baseline for the country: an exercise that should be completed by the middle of this year. This study, commissioned by the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), will support the government by providing an updated baseline of greenhouse gas emissions (a task ongoing through 2015-2016) and quantified options to mitigate them. The experts have developed low carbon scenarios that take into account expected trends in the country on indicators such as greenhouse gases, GDP growth, and sectoral changes through to 2030.
The first step in the assessment is the development of sectoral greenhouse gas emissions baselines from 2000 to 2010. Emissions will then be projected out to 2030 to create the reference case, against which abatement potential will be estimated for the six mitigation sectors set out in the UNFCCC: energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste. Potential mitigation actions will be reviewed to identity those that offer the greatest opportunity for encouraging emissions reductions, align with the government of Pakistan’s priorities, and result in sustainable development benefits.
In addition to presenting the impacts that low carbon options would have on reducing emissions in Pakistan, the options will also include information on the cost of projects, which Pakistan can use to help identify resourcing needs required through climate finance sources such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
Last year, under pressure from the government, the project fast-tracked work on the two sectors, energy and agriculture, to support the development of the INDC. However, the major proportion of project funds is for the development of the greenhouse gas reference case and identification of low carbon mitigation options. Says Phillip Gas, senior researcher energy at the IISD: “The project is not tied to any one national or international engagement, but is designed to be a long-lasting useful resource for the Government of Pakistan.” It is envisaged that Pakistan can use the information generated by this project to inform its future international contributions to climate change whether they are national communications, Biennial Update Reports (BURs), Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) or National Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Here’s hoping that the project outputs will lay the foundation stone for raising the ambition of climate actors in Pakistan, to assist and identify the low carbon and sustainable development priorities for the country.
The writer works in the Climate Action Programme of Lead Pakistan.