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June 23, 2021

UK to help Pakistan fight climate change: Lord Ahmad

June 23, 2021

LAHORE: As a gesture of friendship, the United Kingdom will provide technical expertise and other help to Pakistan in controlling air pollution and fighting the phenomenon of climate change.

This was announced by UK’s Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth Lord Tariq Ahmad here on Tuesday at a brick kiln in a remote area of the provincial metropolis. Lord Tariq Ahmed of Wimbledon is also the UK prime minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. He has arrived in Pakistan for a two-day visit. His visit, covering two cities, will further enhance the friendship between the UK and Pakistan.

During his stay in Pakistan, Lord Ahmad was expected to meet a number of ministers and provincial leaders including Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar and Governor Punjab Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar.

Lord Ahmad will discuss the importance of maximising unique bilateral partnerships to tackle global challenges including climate change (with the UK hosting COP26 later this year) and the response to COVID-19. He will also discuss how the two countries can boost the trading potential between each other.

The state minister will promote the UK’s role as a force for good by meeting faith leaders (including from minority groups). Lord Ahmad’s visit is the first by a UK minister to Pakistan since the start of the pandemic and follows the recent video message from Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the World Environment Day and a recent phone call between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

At a ceremony, Lord Ahmad said the world has changed a lot since he last visited Pakistan, a country close to his heart and roots.

“Loss and separation due to COVID-19 has impacted us all. But the pandemic has brought us closer too,” he said, adding that more than ever before “we must stand shoulder to shoulder and tackle global challenges, especially climate change”. He said during his visit to Pakistan, he will be discussing how can “we work together using the best of our international friendship to protect our world against climate change”.

He said dealing with climate change bilaterally will bring more prosperity for both the great nations and “we will be able to protect all our people from COVID-19”. He said he will talk on ensuring that girls get education they deserve and by making a stand against hate and prejudice.

He said the zig-zag technology was introduced in Pakistan’s brick kiln sector, which was a very positive step towards the climate change.

Pointing towards the white smoke coming out of the nearby kiln, he said earlier this smoke was black, which contained more carbon content but now with this technology, it was reduced to 60 per cent.

Answering a question, Lord Ahmed said emission measurement studies show that there has been a 15% reduction in CO2, 40% reduction in particulate matter and 60% reduction in black carbon as a result of the switch to a cleaner and more efficient technology. He added that profitability has increased for brick entrepreneurs due to reduced coal consumption and better grade bricks produced by the zig-zag kilns.

He said over 11,000 brick kilns are concentrated in Punjab’s agricultural heartland and cleaner brick production will improve air quality and reduce smog besides having a positive impact on crop productivity and better health outcomes.

The UK has announced support for a capacity-building initiative for the brick kiln sector in Punjab, he said and maintained that this initiative will help train 100 kiln owners and operators in efficient use of the new zig-zag technology. In addition, it will create a cadre of master trainers that will help scale up with this effort across the country, which will significantly reduce emissions while simultaneously improving productivity.

“The UK and Pakistan are the best international friends with the UK committed to supporting Pakistan,” he said, adding that as the host of COP26, the UK congratulated Pakistan on World Environment Day activities and for setting a global leadership example including the no new coal announcement and 10 billion tree initiative.

The UK supports Pakistan’s government and local communities to adapt to climate change and improve resilience through emergency disaster planning and helping to increase the use of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency, Lord Ahmed maintained.

There are around 20,000 brick kilns in Pakistan, out of which almost 50% are in Punjab. The brick sector in Pakistan was highly unregulated and uncoordinated until 2017 when the ICIMOD’s intervention introduced the zig-zag technology, said the representative of the ICIMOD, adding that through peer-to-peer trainings in both Nepal and Pakistan, brick entrepreneurs from Pakistan learned first-hand about how to set up and operate the environment-friendly and financially viable zig-zag technology, an alternative to the highly polluting Fixed Chimney Bull’s Trench Kilns (FCBTK).

The Brick Kiln Owner Association of Pakistan (BKOAP) established the first zig-zag brick kiln in Lahore and within a span of three years, more than 7,000 FCBTK were converted into zig-zag kilns, said the ICIMOD representative while talking to the media.

In view of the financial and environmental benefits of the technology, the government of Punjab banned the operation of traditional kilns from December 2020. The ICIMOD, along with the Brick Kiln Owners Association of Pakistan (BKOAP) and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO, previously known as DFID) have conducted regular awareness, capacity building trainings and workshops in Pakistan. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICIMOD continued to support the brick entrepreneurs and maintained the momentum of technology transition in Pakistan through remote support and on the ground mobilization of previously trained personnel.

The ICIMOD, in collaboration with FCDO, are aiming to enhance this support by transferring best practices for a cleaner, more sustainable brick industry and for improved working conditions in brick kilns in Punjab. The ICIMOD planned to establish two showcase kilns in Punjab and demonstrate initial firing using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to replace the use of fuel wood. This support will be extended to conducting awareness programmes and developing a pool of master trainers to outscale the zig-zag technology beyond Punjab.

The ICIMOD and the FCDO will also assist in the setup of instrumentation for emissions and energy use monitoring, which will help calculate and achieve Pakistan’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and help carbon financing efforts, he said. In this regard, the ICIMOD and the FCDO are organizing an inception workshop for stakeholders on June 24, 2021 to share the objectives and outcome of this initiative.

The objective of this workshop is to brief stakeholders about the project and its outcomes and receive feedback.