Only natural climate solutions can help Pakistan to staying below 1.5° C
Pakistan’s vulnerability to adverse impacts of climate change is well-known and widely documented. Even with its diminutive contribution to global Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) emissions. Pakistan is among the top 10 extreme climate affected countries of the world, ranked by the Global Climate Risk Index.
The last five floods between 2010-2015 have caused in economic loss of US $ 18-billion with 38.13 million people affected. 3.35 million houses were damaged, and 10.43 million acres of crops and soil eroded. More than 1200 people lost their lives due to the unpredictable heat-waves in Karachi in 2015.
The Global Economy rankings shows the share of Pakistan in total GHG emissions is only 0.8% and it is on 135th in the list of global emitters of GHG. Changing environment is a serious threat to global politics has to deal with it and the Paris Agreement has facilitated to create some of the much-needed momentum to make sure that, we can live in a world with average temperature increase, below 2˚C with efforts to reach a 1.5˚C limit.
Agriculture sector, which comprises 21% of GDP, 60% of exports and 45% employs of the national labor force, is predominantly vulnerable to changing climate. The yield of food and cash crops is affecting by the increases in mean temperatures of 2–4◦C, current crop varieties/cultivars of crops are not adaptive to high temperature and reach to the maturity stage earlier than normal indicated decline in per/acre yield in response to rise in temperatures.
Climate simulation model predicted that rise in temperature with prolonged drought will cause pollination damage of fruit plants as well. In communities that rely on their environments to provide basic food, water, and energy resources, the impacts of climate change can be devastating. According to the estimates of Asian Development Bank, climate-change may cost Pakistan annually loss of more than 2% of total GDP by 2050.
Pakistan has an installed electricity generation capacity of 25,100 MW in 2017-18 to over the energy shortage. According to the sources oil (35.2%), hydel (29.9%), gas (29%) and solar-nuclear imported (6%). Country has already exhausted its gas reserves and imported oil’s price building load on annual budget.
Pakistan has the potential to meet these energy crises through hydro-electric power generation to transition to 100% renewable energy and stay below the 1.5° C temperature. The development of alternatives does not happen overnight but Pakistan will have to rely on imported fuels, LNG is difficult to import, using coal has environmental issues like rise in temperature above 2° C, using shale-gas also has serious eco-friendly issues.
Pakistan Meteorological office attributed the smog mostly to toxic emissions and atmospheric pollutants coming from coal-based industries in neighboring Indian-Punjab. Just imagine, what will happen to the regional environment and temperature, when Pakistan begins mining billions of tonnes of coal, due to its plan to open at least five new coal power plants by 2018. No doubt, that the coal that power-driven has also triggered regional and global rise in temperature.
Pakistan is grappling with many other challenges, including receding floods, melting glaciers, shifting rainfall patterns, heat waves, droughts and deep groundwater table. Our country is responsible for 0.43% of global GHG emission, but it is among the world’s top ten highly climate-change vulnerable countries. Local environmentalist sees the issue as a bigger threat than energy and terrorism.
In 2015, Paris-Agreement, 195 countries agreed to limit climate change by keeping global warming to below 2°C and efforts to stay below to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Including Pakistan and China 141 countries, mutually responsible for over 82% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) , have endorsed the agreement-2015. China-world’s 2nd largest economy and biggest coal consumer, domestically, China shows reductions in coal use for the 3rd year in a row. At the same time China established itself as Pakistan’s partner in developing the new coal energy projects.
Development is the basic right of every country and no country can be expected to compromise on development, and development requires energy. As an alternative of using coal, oil and gas Pakistan could took development initiative with renewables, particularly solar energy.
Maximum territory of Pakistan is under arid or semi-arid, an very ideal for installation of solar energy power systems with more than the needed number of sunny days/year. Average areas of Pakistan have potential of 3000-3500 sunshine-hours/year and 5-7 kwh/m2 energy potential of solar irradiance (Saleem et al., 2015).
In addition to clean energy, renewable energy solutions can produce energy in the same places it is consumed and making it climate-change friendly to staying temperature below 1.5°C to meet Paris-Agreement 2015. Renewable energy, now cost the same or less than new fossil fuel in more than 30 developing and developed countries. Pakistan needs now are focus on decision and policies to adoptive natural climate solutions, environment-friendly business models, and visionary leadership in partnerships for financial and technical decision-making level.
One thing is sure: winning the future will not be done with traditional and unfriendly environment technologies.
The author is a research scholar at China Agricultural University, Beijing, China. He can be reached at email@example.com
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