Pakistan is the third most vulnerable country to climate change, which is slowly inflicting heavy damage on the economy. Last year’s floods have already caused a loss of $30 billion to the country, estimates suggest.
However, Pakistan does not contribute even 1% to global carbon emissions.
The question then arises: if Pakistan consistently tries to reduce carbon emissions by reducing its usage of fossil fuels, will it escape the impending dangers of climate change such as floods and barren land?
From that point of view, it may have little impact because Pakistan’s fate is tied to what the rest of the world does, especially the developed world, widely considered to be the biggest polluters of the environment.
However, according to researchers, pollution, especially in congested cities with population clusters, makes the big urban centres like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad dangerous places to live in.
According to estimates,128,000 lives are lost in Pakistan due to health hazards caused by pollution.
Power plants that are located close to these cities contribute to this, especially those established by different industries. And then there’s a huge social and health cost.
According to research conducted by Darya Lab, over 50% pollution in cities is caused by traffic. Therefore, reducing pollution coming from fossil fuel vehicles is very important.
That’s one reason why Pakistan should take Electric Vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy seriously.
Energy imports have remained the biggest import group for Pakistan. In the first seven months of the ongoing fiscal year 2023, Pakistan spent $10.6 billion on energy imports – over 29% of total imports.
Along with political drama underway in Islamabad, Pakistan’s economy is also tanking. The government continues to sweep things under the rug as if nothing is amiss.
On top of that, foreign exchange reserves have depleted to critical levels and a default may be just around the corner.
Even if the current setup manages to evade an immediate default by managing to convince a reluctant International Monetary Fund (IMF), it will only be a few months before things again become the way they are right now.
This is because Pakistan is heavily dependent on imports. The current account deficit will remain as it is while exports remain stagnant.
The best thing the country can do is structural change in the true sense of the word. It should first target the biggest spenders of foreign exchange and that should begin with reducing energy imports.
The country should work to harness more wind, solar and hydel power. It should also consider switching to electric vehicles.
The government has tried to facilitate buying of electric vehicles during the last few years but unfortunately this space has also been haunted by elitism.
The encouraging part is that you can now easily spot EVs on Pakistan’s roads especially in busy metropolises like Karachi. However, you won’t find an EV that costs below Rs30 million and the price can actually go up to Rs60 million.
These EVs are equivalent to fossil fuel SUVs. Around three-fourths of the market in Pakistan consists of cars with engine sizes 500cc to 1,000cc, and EVs equivalent to these engine size vehicles are not very expensive.
However, when one factors in the savings that come from not spending on petrol or diesel, these EVs, in the long run, become much cheaper.
Pakistanis could buy ten small EVs instead of one expensive e-tron. But unfortunately, here, the needle points in favour of the rich.
First things first
Reducing fuel imports by facilitating the use of renewable energy sources. Pakistan gets enough sunlight and then there’s wind as well.
Raw material for solar panels, mainly quartz, is abundantly available in Pakistan also. Quartz glass is used in many facets of photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturing.
There’s every ingredient for Pakistan to get back on track. But there is a dire need of a will to do the right thing.
There are mafias, and powerful lobbies in every industry, sector and market. They are sitting like vultures just to find a way to benefit from loopholes in the law without any regard for the country.
Those loopholes in the law exist solely so that they can be exploited.
Under these circumstances, citizens will also be happy to invest in businesses based on imports or in real estate so that they don’t have to invest in riskier areas.
The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners