Pakistan has long been grappling with environmental degradation and is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to the effects of climate change.
The country has witnessed a significant rise in extreme weather events like flash floods, droughts, heatwaves and crop failures over the last few years.
Given these circumstances, Pakistan must remain committed to green sources of energy to mitigate the impact of climate change.
However, Pakistan recently announced that it was reverting to firing up its coal-fired power plants, citing the current economic crisis as the main reason.
This is a worrying development not only for the country but also for global environmental targets.
Pakistan’s decision to slow down the implementation of its clean energy goals could be a huge setback for the world’s fight against climate change.
Pakistan’s renewable energy targets aimed at generating 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. It was seen as a critical step forward in the country’s effort to transition to clean energy and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. However, the economic crisis faced by the country has made it challenging to achieve these goals as planned.
The G-20 economies of industrialised nations have an immediate responsibility to support countries like Pakistan’s transition to cleaner sources of energy.
While Pakistan only produces a tiny percentage of global emissions, it is one of the countries that must bear the brunt of climate catastrophes.
Developed economies must come forward and provide economic assistance, debt restructuring, and support to encourage Pakistan to remain committed to green sources of energy.
The provision of financial incentives could include preferential trade arrangements between Pakistan and G-20 economies, tax breaks for companies that invest in renewable energy infrastructure and other incentives that make it more attractive for companies to invest in renewable energy infrastructure.
The G-20 economies must also contribute to this effort by transferring technology and developing human capital in Pakistan through partnerships with academia and industry. Technology is a critical pillar of Pakistan’s renewable energy sector, which can be accomplished through training programs, technology transfers, and investments in research and development.
It is also crucial for the G-20 economies to ease Pakistan’s debt burden, which will ensure that Pakistan can continue investing in renewable energy infrastructure and reducing its dependence on fossil fuels. This will not only help Pakistan achieve its clean energy goals but will also support the global carbon emission targets.
Since ratifying the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2016, Pakistan struggled to meet its domestic energy goals and requirements, which was one of the major strategic compulsions for Pakistan to boost its cooperation with China under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
There is a pressing need to develop the country’s capacity to implement renewable energy infrastructure projects, by tapping into Pakistan’s immenserenewable energy potential, particularly in solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower.
However, the country faces several challenges in implementing these projects, including a lack of infrastructure, sustainable financing and technology. These are only some of the areas where the G-20 economies can play a vital role in enabling Pakistan to build up its capacity to implement sustainable energy projects.
Pakistan also needs international cooperation to create a favourable investment environment for renewable energy, by creating dynamic policies to encourage foreign direct investment in renewable energy infrastructure and technology. Investing in renewable energy in Pakistan beyond mitigating the impact of climate change can help to create jobs, energy cost reduction, and increase the viability of SMEs, which in turn may help supply energy to remote and underserved areas of the country.
These benefits can be leveraged to build wide-scale public support for renewable energy adoption and encourage future investment.
A diversified energy portfolio that includes a mix of different energy sources will be the best solution for Pakistan’s energy needs.
When compared to the adoption of coal, nuclear energy could also be a potential turn key solution to Pakistan’s immediate energy needs since the country already has an installed nuclear energy capacity of 3,550mw. Investment and global cooperation in this energy sector can also encourage the country to stay on track with global emission targets.
Although there are challenges to increasing Pakistan’s nuclear energy capacity, such as cost, safety, and scalability, international cooperation could be crucial in addressing these roadblocks and increasing the viability of nuclear power as a source of clean energy for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s decision to revert to coal-powered energy generation may severely hamper its clean energy goals when seen in the context of the current economic crisis and billions of dollars worth of damage caused by the recent flash floods and COVID pandemic. It should be a concerning development for both the country and the Paris agreement goals.
Leaders of G-20 nations must take responsibility to assist and enable environmentally vulnerable countries like Pakistan to remain committed to cleaner sources of energy, through the provision of economic assistance, debt restructuring, technology transfer and human capital development, along with other financial incentives.
This will create a positive incentive for other developing countries – to remain committed to a clean energy future for the world rather than reverting to carbon-based sources out of economic compulsions.
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