Are we willing to learn from the current disaster and chart out the course for a different future?
he twin crises Pakistan is facing — floods and the current account deficit - are linked to a single commodity, i.e., fossils fuels. The country is facing the brunt of climate change even though it contributes less than 1 percent to global CO2 emissions. In other words, it is paying the cost of the use of fossil fuels in developed countries. At the same time, hike in global commodity prices, particularly oil, is a major cause of its financial crisis.
Recently, Pakistan took two important steps to deal with this situation. The country signed the Green Framework Engagement Agreement with Denmark in order to seek support on the path to green transition. Green transition means moving from the fossil fuels to renewables and sustainable forms of energy. This agreement is also intended to improve Pakistan’s capacity to handle the impact of climate change through mitigation and adaptation.
Pakistan government also approved the National Solar Energy Initiative to produce 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity through solar energy projects over the next months. The initiative aims to reduce the import bill of costly diesel and furnace oil. It can also be counted as a major step on the path to green transition.
Recent calamity has put Pakistan at the centre of the climate change debate. “Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country,” warned the United Nations secretary general, Antonio Guterres, while urging the world to come to Pakistan’s aid as he launched a $160m appeal.
Until now, Pakistan had adopted a complacent attitude towards the climate change issues. Even as experts put the country on the list of nations most vulnerable to climate change, our policy makers refused to believe that the nation was facing any imminent threat.
Though Pakistan has a small carbon footprint, country’s GHG emissions are increasing at an annual rate of 6 percent or 18.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent.“Pakistan’s carbon emissions will reach 400 million tonnes of CO2e per year by 2030 if the situation remains unchanged,” says Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, author of Pakistan’s climate change policy. “Uncurbed emissions would speed up the melting process of glaciers in the north of Pakistan and severe floods can damage the country’s economic growth.”
Turning to Denmark, a global leader in green transition is good news. “Many countries in the world look towards Denmark for technical support,” says Ahmad Farooq, Pakistan’s ambassador to Denmark. “Denmark has had solid collaborations with many countries including China, Turkey, Egypt, Vietnam and India in the area of green transition. India signed a Green Strategic Partnership with Denmark two years ago,” he adds. While Pakistan is also looking at a green strategic agreement with Denmark, it has started with a Green Framework Engagement.
Pakistan has vowed to produce 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. While a part of this energy can be produced through wind turbines, a much larger share must come from solar energy as Pakistan has immense potential in this sector.
Denmark had embarked on the path to green transition five decades ago when its economy faced an oil shock due to 1973 oil crisis that tripled the oil prices. At that time, Denmark was one of the developed countries most dependent on oil for its energy supply. More than 90 percent of its national energy supplies were based on imported oil.
The historic surge in oil prices marked a turning point in Denmark’s energy policies. Virtually overnight, the crisis spurred a push to diversify the national energy mix. Five decades later, Denmark is a world champion of green transition, blazing the path for the rest of the world. Its electricity sector relies mainly on renewable energy.
Eighty percent of the electricity produced in the country comes from renewables: 57 percent from wind power, 20 percent from biomass and other combustible renewables, and 3 percent from solar power. Denmark has a near-term target in 2030 of 70 precent reduction (compared to1990-levels) and a long-term target of climate neutrality in 2050 at the latest.
Denmark’s major expertise in production of green energy lies in the wind energy. The Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas is currently the world’s largest wind turbine maker, representing over 16 percent of the world wind turbine market.
Pakistan, on its part, has vowed to produce 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. While a part of this energy can be produced through wind turbines, a much larger share must come from the solar energy as Pakistan has immense potential in this sector. Pakistan’s real challenge lies in integrating renewable energy into its grid system. Denmark has great expertise in smart grid systems and Pakistan can learn in this area through the newfound partnership.
Another interesting area in which Pakistan can learn from Denmark is production and distribution of biogas. Like Pakistan, Denmark has a large livestock sector. Using manure and bio-waste, Denmark produces biomethane that helps Denmark fulfil one fourth of its gas consumption requirement, while it wants to fulfil all of its gas need from biomethane after a decade.
Relevant departments in Pakistan must work hard to get the best out of the Green Framework Engagement, which is the first step in collaboration between the two countries in areas of climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as just and sustainable green transition.
A Joint Plan of Action containing specific activities of collaboration is required to put the agreement into action. Only Pakistan can understand its needs and how to fulfil them.
Every challenge is an opportunity, only if a nation is willing to learn lessons and charts new pathways to the future. Are we willing to learn from the current disaster and chart the course for a different future?
The writer is an anthropologist and development professional. He can be reached at zaighamkhanyahoo.com