Energy solutions and climate change
By: Mashaal Gauhar
is well known that the ravages of climate change and
environmental degradation are most keenly felt in the
poorest parts of the world.
The untold suffering of
Pakistanís vulnerable communities in the wake of devastating
floods remains a bitter indictment against successive
governments that have palpably failed to address a recurring
Dramatic changes in
weather patterns caused by global warming have unleashed
monsoon rains of biblical proportions upon Pakistan.
Amid the countless
predictions, estimates and statistics.
The exacting human toll
claimed by the climate change onslaught is often all too
easily forgotten. In 2010, torrential rains affected 14
million people, resulting in a massive humanitarian
In 2014, vast swathes of the
Punjab and Kashmir were inundated in the wake of violent
downpours resulting in a death count running into the
hundreds as swollen rivers swallowed entire villages,
leaving livelihoods displaced and homes destroyed.
An overwhelmingly agrarian
economy, Pakistanís precious agricultural future must be
fortified against the grave implications of catastrophic
In this yearís budget, the
government set a growth target of 5.1 per cent for the
agriculture sector for fiscal year 2014 Ė 2015. However,
lessons still have not been learnt from the apocalypse of
2010 as the 2014 disaster grimly demonstrated.
Accounting for 70 per cent of
the Earthís surface, oceans are the primary recipient of all
inbound solar energy. During the 20th century, water levels
rose each year by 1.88mm.
However in the last two
decades, the rate of increase has risen to 3.3mm per year.
Though this may not seem
much, this incremental yet unrelenting rise foreshadows a
major climatic shift, the early consequences of which have
already manifested in Pakistan over the last few years.
Scientists predict that a
further increase would completely devastate islands like the
Maldives and archipelagos in the Pacific as well as vast
tracts of coastline across South Asia.
The International Energy
Agency has estimated that investments of a trillion dollars
a year in clean energy will be required to meet climate
As water levels continue to escalate at an accelerated rate,
the looming risks for countries like Pakistan cannot be
ignored. The Global Climate Risk Index 1993-2012 has ranked
Pakistan as the 12th most affected by extreme weather
Throughout the ages, the
course of the Indus and her tributaries has shaped our lives
and determined our existence. The sudden collapse of the
Mohenjedaro and Harappa civilisations, widely attributed to
flash flooding, is a haunting reminder of just how deeply
intertwined our fates are to this great river system.
In fact, the Indus Valley
civilisation is believed to have been the largest of the
four ancient civilisations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and
Pakistanís overweening dependency on fossil fuels has not
only hemorrhaged the economy but has also inflicted
considerable damage in terms of environmental degradation.
Since compelling evidence
directly links rapidly rising water levels to the burning of
fossil fuels, it is essential for Pakistan to implement
alternative energy solutions on an urgent basis.
Recognising the enormity of the challenge, several
developing countries have surpassed the developed nations in
implementing alternative energy solutions, most notably
India and China. This has attracted significant
international investor interest.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asserted that the
300 million people in India who currently have no access to
any power source will be provided electricity in the form of
Similarly, Pakistanís rural electrification strategy must be
premised on clean, sustainable energy solutions including
wind and solar.
The unmet energy needs of the
country can no longer be addressed through fossil fuels
which not only exact a heavy toll on the national exchequer
but also threaten our future generations.
Denmark has emerged as a clear leader in adopting
alternative energy solutions in its strategy against climate
change. By 2020, the country aims to produce 70% of its
energy from renewable sources and to make the shift to
renewable energy completely by 2050, definitively abandoning
coal, oil and gas.
In addition the Danish government has made significant
investments in research and development as well as
energy-efficient technologies. Denmarkís success has
attracted the attention of several other countries including
Pakistan must strive to
emulate such ambitious targets and use Danish policy as a
blueprint for transforming its own energy matrix.
This must include a
favourable taxation regime for the renewable energy sector,
subsides on imports to attract private capital as well as
the utilisation of the countryís abundant geographical
advantages: plentiful sunshine throughout the year and wind
In November last year, Spainís ambassador to Pakistan,
Javier Carbajosa Sanchez, outlined potential areas of
collaboration between the two countries in the field of
Also in November, Germanyís Chancellor Angela Merkel
signaled investor interest in Pakistanís energy sector
conditional upon improved stability in the country.
Such collaboration would be
immensely beneficial to Pakistan, particularly in light of
Germanyís decisive shift away from nuclear energy towards
renewable energy sources.
The wind project at Gharo
financed by the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
is a promising start to realising Pakistanís wind energy
Further Investments by China
and FFC in wind energy indicate the level of local and
international investor interest. Now it is up to the
government to ensure that a conducive environment and
enabling framework are put in place to secure Pakistanís