Climate change, also known as global warming, has been established as an existential threat to the planet we call home. Anthropomorphic activities, those caused by human beings, are responsible for the greatest increase in global temperatures ever recorded since the last ice age. The activities in question are effecting an ever-increasing pool of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which has given rise to the greenhouse effect, or the trapping of the sunrays that land on the Earth. Previously these rays would bounce off the Earth like a mirror and the heat would escape. But due to the C02 that has been trapped around the globe, a greenhouse-like effect is giving rise to warmer temperatures year upon year, and also creating more severe climate events like tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and more severe temperatures in both winters and summers.
The activities that are causing climate change are multitudinous. They range from cattle-farming, which is the single greatest cause, all the way to the cutting down and burning of trees. A major contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases, especially the major culprit in global warming, namely CO2, is the burning of fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas.
Pakistan is suffering a disproportionate effect of climate change. Luckily, the country’s current leadership is making groundbreaking moves on the environmental front, with the Billion Tree Tsunami successfully completed even before they were in the driving seat of national affairs, in the KP province. Since the PTI has taken the reins of the nation, they have expanded their tree plantation campaign to now being called the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, and this will surely help Pakistan, which has one of the lowest rates of forest cover currently under 2% and falling as a result of the unchecked timber business and the resulting devastation of our national environment.
Internationally, British Petroleum (BP) has announced brave new goals of becoming Carbon Net Zero by the year 2050. While they are giving themselves a long runway, BP is one of the major players in the global petroleum industry, and therefore their public commitment is extremely laudable as it raises expectations for other market participants to come forward with similar initiatives.
In Pakistan itself, one such company has also set ambitious targets for itself to protect the environment. Byco Petroleum Pakistan Limited is Pakistan’s largest petroleum-refining company, with a design refining capacity of 156,000 barrels of oil per day. As Pakistan’s largest refiner, Byco takes its role as an ethical corporate citizen of Pakistan’s industrial sector seriously, and is sensitive to the effects of climate change. Byco is Pakistan’s first petroleum company to commit to go completely carbon neutral by the year 2030.
Novel approach for an oil firm
We spoke to Byco’s Vice President, Mr. Azfar Saeed Baig, on Byco’s novel approach to care for the environment and their decision to accept the social responsibility of trying to reverse climate change:
“While there are many reasons for the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, Byco is conscious of global warming. Therefore, we have looked at many different options of ‘decarbonizing’. Byco is streamlining refinery processes to be as efficient as possible. Crude selection is being reviewed, while power generation options for the plant are also being discussed, including steam turbines and solar power, all to ensure that we do whatever is possible to preserve the environment.”
If the electrical grid eventually reaches their plant, Byco’s emissions from power generation would be completely curtailed. To offset emissions from the refining process itself, the company has focused its plans on afforestation, or planting of trees. While planting trees may be one of the simplest methods, it is also one of the most beneficial techniques of CO2 mitigation as well. Mr. Baig commented: “Byco decided to begin its long journey of becoming Carbon ‘Net Zero’, by launching a Green Campaign, back in the year 2018.” In August of that year, Byco launched its award-winning “Fuel Up, Green Up” campaign.
The concept behind the “Fuel Up, Green Up” campaign was three-fold. Firstly, Byco began distributing two million moringa tree seeds throughout Pakistan via its hundreds of retail outlets for every customer that purchased fuel from Byco’s retail outlets. Customers were encouraged to take photos of their planted saplings and share the same on Byco’s social media. That way, the whole world could see the direct impact of the campaign with their own eyes.
Secondly, Byco researched the Miyawaki Method of tree plantation that has been developed by Dr. Akira Miyawaki. Observing a Miyawaki plantation, Byco saw with its own eyes the major benefits of using the Miyawaki Method of plantation: Miyawaki forests replicate the natural evolution of forest growth at an accelerated growth of an unbelievable ten times the organic rate of growth.
The Miyawaki Method adopts the theory of Potential Natural Vegetation (PNV), which basically states that only those species of trees should be planted which are native to the area where they are being planted, and from the time before human habitation and human intervention. These species, according to the PNV Theory, have the highest and most successful rate of deep growth, and would be most beneficial to any and all specific ecosystems where they are being planted. Another related benefit of the Miyawaki Method is that it encourages 100 times for biodiversity, and 30 times the amount of carbon sequestration on average that is done through traditional plantation techniques.
Byco therefore sponsored the first Urban Forest park plantation in Clifton, Karachi. A major event was planned and executed in August 2018 with hundreds of Byco’s employees and their families planting trees, marking the saplings and signing nameplates. Major celebrities from the spheres of music, sports and fashion joined hands with Byco, including Moin Khan and Shaneira Akram, for the noble goal of simply planting a tree.
Tree plantation not only sequesters carbon, but also purifies the air we breathe, acting as lungs for our environment. Trees cool the climate, and so also help the terrible condition of Karachi’s extremely high Urban Heat Island effect, which has even taken lives of hundreds of Karachiites in the heatwave of 2015.
Mr. Azfar Saeed Baig added: “Within only a few months after the August 2018 plantation event, it was plainly evident that the Miyawaki Method was truly a game changer in improving the environment.” Byco noticed that the saplings planted in August were growing much more rapidly than they had ever seen previously. The predictions promised by the method were in fact plainly evident.
The company’s experience with Miyawaki afforestation was so positive that it confirmed Byco’s belief that they were on the right track. Byco therefore doubled down on their commitment; the company decided not only that the Miyawaki Method would be the means through which the company would eventually become carbon neutral, setting a target for itself for 2030 for the same, but only some seven months later planted another micro-Urban Forest as a proof of concept on a heretofore previously uncharted territory for Karachi: right on the beach at Seaview in Clifton. The DHA’s previous efforts to grow tree’s there had not resulted in any great measure of success.
Byco was confident though that Dr. Akira’s method would “bear fruit” here, however, and low and behold, now some 18 months since the May 2019 plantation, it is plainly evident for anyone to see for themselves how successful the micro-forest test has been: the micro-forest is thriving in a thick growth despite the strong saline-laced monsoon winds of the Arabian seas lashing the trees, which usually end up killing most past plantation efforts.
Byco planted thousands of trees near its refinery as well at its Bowser Village where tank lorries are parked waiting for their turn to load up on fuel from the refinery. Now Byco intends to develop Balochistan’s first Urban Forest using the same method immediately opposite its refinery gates in a slightly more harsh and arid terrain then attempted previously by the company. Indeed, Byco will continue to plant trees for the next decade to meet its goal of carbon neutrality. A critical additional benefit of the method is that after the first three years, there is no further maintenance required of the trees as by that time nature takes over. Mr. Baig concluded: “Byco strongly encourages other companies in Pakistan to embark upon similar journeys to protect our environment and save the world from the existential crisis of climate change.”
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