Wednesday April 24, 2024

Sustainable recovery

By Sara Danial
December 19, 2023

In the wake of climate change challenges and the pressing need for global sustainability, Pakistan stands at a critical juncture. The country faces significant hurdles in its transport sector, manifesting in alarming statistics that demand immediate attention. Right after COP28, it is important to address the burgeoning emissions crisis and navigate towards a sustainable future.

Transport sector emissions in Pakistan have surged over the years, with per-capita emissions witnessing a staggering 44 per cent increase between 2013 and 2018. This escalation has profound implications, notably when considering that the transport sector accounted for a substantial 76 per cent of the 19 million tonnes of oil consumed in 2018-2019 and contributed 28 per cent to the 199 MtCO2 emissions from fuel combustion in 2019.

Buses and other public transport vehicles can be seen filled with passengers. — AFP/File
Buses and other public transport vehicles can be seen filled with passengers. — AFP/File

The urgency to decarbonize this sector has become imperative, especially in light of the devastating impact of the 2022 floods, which inflicted damages totalling $3,264 million and led to a loss of $281 million in the transport and communication sectors. The road to recovery demands a strategic and sustainable approach, emphasizing a clean and green reconstruction to fortify against future climate-induced catastrophes.

Acknowledging the role of sub-sectors becomes crucial in realizing these ambitions. Electric vehicles (EVs) emerge as a promising solution to mitigate emissions and establish an eco-friendly ecosystem. Introducing EVs and fostering an environment conducive to their adoption can revolutionize Pakistan’s transport landscape. Affordable EV-based logistics solutions offer avenues to reduce transport costs, enhance market access, and streamline distribution channels, safeguarding businesses against potential profit margin declines.

In alignment with these objectives, the Pakistan government has launched the Electric Vehicle Policy, aiming to electrify passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks. The policy sets ambitious targets, envisioning 30 per cent electrification by 2030 and a staggering 90 per cent by 2040. Such initiatives underline the transport sector’s pivotal role, especially concerning mega-projects like the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Not only is it a national priority, but it also stands as a focal point for inter and intra-provincial transportation across Pakistan.

Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh have already initiated urban transportation projects to alleviate intra-city mobility challenges, emphasizing the need for sustainable transport solutions at the regional level. The National Freight and Logistics Policy of 2020 aims to bolster the sector’s capabilities, ensuring competitive prices for goods transport and enhancing service quality and reliability within supply chains.

Pakistan’s commitment to sustainable transport practices carries heightened significance. The convergence of global efforts and national policies underscores the need for immediate action. It is imperative for Pakistan to reinvigorate its transport sector through a paradigm shift towards cleaner energy sources, robust infrastructure, and innovative solutions that mitigate emissions while promoting economic growth.

The nation’s dedication to decarbonization, coupled with comprehensive policies and strategic initiatives will be pivotal in steering Pakistan towards a resilient, eco-friendly future, safeguarding against the perils of climate change and ensuring sustainable growth for generations to come.

It becomes evident that the envisioned transformation goes beyond mere emission reduction. The multifaceted impact needed encompasses a spectrum of dimensions crucial for the nation’s sustainable development and resilience in the face of climate change.

Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change is underscored by its ranking as the eighth most vulnerable country in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021. As emissions from the transport sector continue to rise, the urgency to curtail these emissions becomes paramount. The sector’s contribution of 28 per cent to Pakistan’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions highlights its pivotal role in driving climate action.

One of the anticipated impacts of transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) involves significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the transport sector. EVs inherently exhibit a smaller carbon footprint compared to conventional gasoline cars, even when accounting for the electricity used for charging. This shift holds the potential to diminish Pakistan’s GHG emissions, positioning the country to address its climate vulnerabilities.

The economic implications are substantial. Pakistan’s exorbitant import bill for fuel, notably for electricity generation and transportation fuels like petrol and diesel, poses a strain on the economy. The constant devaluation of the currency and escalating energy needs further exacerbate this burden. By transitioning to EVs and reducing reliance on imported fuels, Pakistan stands to save a substantial $2 million annually.

The transition to cleaner, more accessible modes of transport holds promise in fostering societal inclusivity as well. Improved transportation infrastructure and increased access to travel, especially for women, could prove transformative. Generally, women face greater challenges in mobility compared to men, limiting their opportunities for education and employment. In Pakistan, where women’s workforce participation stands at a mere 10 per cent over two decades, facilitating their ease of transit to schools and workplaces could catalyze a seismic shift in societal dynamics, empowering women and fostering a more inclusive workforce.

The transformation of Pakistan’s transport sector extends beyond environmental concerns. It promises economic relief, societal inclusivity, and resilience in the face of climate challenges. The holistic benefits of transitioning to cleaner and more accessible transportation underscore the critical importance of strategic policies and concerted efforts to realize a sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future for Pakistan.

The writer is an independent journalist from Karachi and can be reached at: