Reviewing Pakistan’s Climate Action Plan 2021

Pakistan has recently updated its Climate Action Plan for the next five years, officially known as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs is an intended long-term plan of reducing emissions and temperature between 1.5 to 2 degrees by employing necessary mitigation and adaptation measures submitted by the states, which is ratified after every five years by the Paris Agreement at the Conference of Parties (COP). This year at COP 26, Pakistan has submitted an updated version of the NDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Even though Pakistan is emitting less than one per cent of emissions and has achieved its climate change goal, the Government of Pakistan (GoP) is still striving for further mitigation of greenhouse gasses (GHG). In the NDCs, Pakistan has aimed to reduce 50 per cent of its harmful emissions by 2030, 15 per cent being unconditional and 35 per cent with international support. The government of Pakistan has prioritised its mitigation goals conditional to external funding, i.e., producing 60 per cent of energy from renewable resources, and shifting 30 per cent of transportations to electric vehicles by 2030. The transition from the fossil fuel energy sector to renewable energy production will cost approximately 101 billion dollars which is conditional to the climate finance worth of 100 billion dollars pledged by the developed and top emitter states. Since 2016, Pakistan has also been working on Nature-based Solutions (NbS) as a mitigation measure by initiating the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme (TBTTP), which will be sequestering 148.76 Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) over the period of 10 years. All these mitigation goals of the Climate Action Plan have set Pakistan on an ambitious yet right track to realise its vision of sustainable development and a climate-resilient state.

The major concern in climate debate for Pakistan or any other under-developed state is the adaptation, unlike developed states where climate debate revolves around mitigation, as observed in the COP meetings. This year, Pakistan has also included adaptation measures that have been in process for the past few years. In adaptation actions, Pakistan has focused on NbS, Land use change and community infrastructure development. NbS involves afforestation and biodiversity conservation programs, 12 to 15 per cent expansion of the protected area, plantation and protection of mangrove forests in Balochistan and the coastal areas of Sindh, developing urban forest by using Miyawaki technique, Recharge Pakistan program and transforming Indus Basin by enhancing adaptation capacity of agriculture and water economies. In land-use change and forestry, Pakistan has initiated a sustainable land and forest management program in 2015 and 2016, respectively, for rehabilitation, regeneration and management of land and forests. Pakistan Forest policy of 2018 has planned to expand the forest area up to 6.5 per cent by 2030. Lastly, for infrastructure development, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) II was initiated in 2017 to revise and scale up the GLOF I by advancing monitoring systems and by placing engineer structures to further lessen the  GLOF effect on local communities. Along with this, a Protection program for snow leopards and ecosystem and clean green Pakistan index was also put in place to encourage local governments and citizens for conserving the ecosystem and maintaining cleanliness at the municipal level. Considering Pakistan has not developed its adaption policy so far, these adaptation initiatives reflect Pakistan’s seriousness for improving its capacity and resilience to mitigate climate change effects.

Since 2016, Pakistan has also been working on Nature-based Solutions (NbS) as a mitigation measure by initiating the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme (TBTTP), which will be sequestering 148.76 Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) over the period of 10 years.

The above-discussed climate goals and measures of the Pakistan Climate Action Plan raises a lot of questions, especially from a financial and development perspective. Pakistan’s mitigation goals depend on the effective and timely transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy resources. Considering the level of interest of rich states towards mobilising the promised amount of $100 billion to poor states for their mitigation and adaption plan, the viability of shifting towards renewable energy appears thin. Ironically, funds given to poor states are also in the form of loans with high interests. According to Oxfam, 80 per cent of the funding between 2017 and 2018 were in loans, which further increased the states’ debt. Furthermore, the climate funding that Pakistan receives is not effectively put to use due to the operational challenges. The initiative of bringing banks, asset holders and insurers to establish Glasgow Finance Alliance – Net-zero (GFANZ) to achieve net-zero targets would eventually increase the circular debt of poor states.

Despite the fact that Pakistan’s energy demand has inflated over the past decade due to unhindered population growth, the average person consumption in Pakistan is still far less than in the developed world. Transitioning to renewable energy production would be more challenging than it appears to be. Firstly, the national grid of Pakistan is not as technologically advanced as it requires it to be for the absorption of renewable energy. Secondly, Pakistan has a frail and unequal electricity distribution system, due to which the country has faced multiple blackouts, and more than 60 million citizens are still deprived of electricity. Thirdly, to fulfil baseload power demands, Pakistan requires large energy storage systems to run the plant. And Lastly, due to technological backwardness, poor infrastructure and technical skills, Pakistan has low renewable energy targets.

In conclusion, Pakistan needs to analyse the feasibility of its Climate Action Plan vis a vis its development and energy requirements. Pakistan’s primary priority should be; to devise its adaptation policy by involving all stakeholders and developing the capacity to implement respective measures. An all-inclusive approach is required to create awareness and mobilise citizens for climate action.

Neha Nisar

Neha Nisar is a graduate of Peace and Conflict Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad. She serves as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.

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