PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan paved the way for the Pakistanis’ decarbonization of the country’s economy. In his December 2021 speech at the UN Climate Ambition summit, he said Pakistan would generate 60% of its energy from renewable sources, ensure that 30% of new vehicles are electric vehicles and that Pakistan would no longer pursue coal plants. These broad statements can guide the country’s road map for decarbonization.
As extreme climate-induced events have brought the world to the climate tipping point, disruptive technologies have given new impetus to global efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century. This transition is now led by China, the EU, the UK and the US under the Biden administration. They all started to set ambitious goals and also made climate change a threat to national security, made it a central part of foreign policy and increased investments in decarbonizing their economies. Surprisingly, China and the United States even agreed to decouple their cooperation on climate change from their otherwise complex relationship marred by Hong Kong’s future, human rights and trade disputes.
The argument for decarbonization is driven by the learning that a higher rate of economic growth can be achieved without commensurately increasing carbon emissions. In fact, the opposite has been observed in several countries: reducing carbon emissions accelerates economic growth, attracts private sector investment, promotes startups and entrepreneurs and creates new jobs, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises. . The number of jobs created by renewables in China and India is staggering and there is no reason to believe that it cannot create green jobs in Pakistan either. Global post-Covid-19 stimulus packages are designed to make recovery climate smart and inclusive to ensure a just transition.
Now is the right time for the government to promote electronic vehicles.
How can Pakistan navigate its path to decarbonization? Can there be a long term strategy? Can Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy and Nationally Determined Contributions, both under review, reflect the vision of the Prime Ministers? We will first have to recognize that the fossil fuel industry has no future in Pakistan, as it does elsewhere in the world. A quick review of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry membership of foreign investors will show that the membership in the oil and gas sector has stagnated and, in fact, apart from a handful, no one has invested or expanded its membership. activities over the decades. country, while many renewable energy companies have mushroomed nationwide and some have been noticed around the world for their growth.
Unfortunately, the good business with PPIs has made them lazy annuity seekers. Unless the energy production mix is fundamentally altered and the share of renewables increases dramatically, these companies will continue to pose a double existential threat: growing circular debt and higher health-endangering emissions. human. Pakistan can potentially break this deadlock by moving away from the state-led monopoly model in favor of an open, competitive, private sector-led multiplayer market, as Sakib Sherani has recently argued in this area (challenges of energy sector). It’s time to decide how subsidies to the fossil fuel industry can be shifted to renewables for a level playing field and to stimulate a new climate economy.
Solar and wind prices have fallen sharply, and this has been possible mainly because of China’s lead in investing and scaling to a level its competitors could not understand. Likewise, China is also in the driver’s seat of electric vehicles, with a larger domestic market for electric vehicles than the US and Japanese markets combined, and producing more batteries for electric vehicles than the rest of the world combined. China has achieved this spectacular status by pursuing joint ventures with major automakers like Toyota, Ford and Tesla. Due to the close economic relations between the two countries and several special economic zones under the CPEC, Pakistan may also aim for joint ventures with prominent Chinese companies and other ventures and jump on the path of more decarbonization. faster than most of its neighbors. Fostering hybrid vehicles cannot lead to transformational change.
It appears that the EV market will surpass official targets, only if adequate charging infrastructure is accelerated, before elite capture bypasses the common man. A handful of charging stations by some elite brands is a sham for a country with more than 70 million people living below the poverty line, especially as EVs are poised to become the hottest technologies. disruptive.
The cost of batteries around the world is increasing every year. The endless possibilities capture the imaginations of young entrepreneurs, start-ups, fintechs and SMEs. They will transform two-wheelers, three-wheelers, light commercial carriers that provide local loading and transportation services and, of course, thousands of contractors who provide pick-and-drop services to schoolchildren. in every town and city. Replaceable batteries, obtained from rental vendors, can reduce the cost by more than two-thirds. Additionally, a chain of competing collection points to collect charged batteries along highways can reduce emissions as well as the cost of doing business. It will propel trade nationally and with Afghanistan.
So now is the right time for the government to promote electric vehicles for commuters of 100 to 200 kilometers, in order to achieve the co-benefit of clean air in congested areas. The development of policies for charging infrastructure must be a priority. Currently, the network’s capacities are precarious and can hardly cope with increased demand. Premiers, five million affordable housing units and affordable housing corporations, can ideally provide ready-to-use housing in the future to support the transition.
Finally, electric vehicles are promising but are not a miracle solution to the challenge of decarbonizing Pakistanis. The success of Pakistanis will depend on significant investments in renewable energy. There should be a clear emphasis on five policy innovations: a) Decentralized off-grid generation enabling power purchase agreements between companies; b) Off-grid energy service companies and models of rural electrification and universal access to energy; c) promote electric mobility, including railways; d) circular economy in recycling waste into energy; and (e) reducing emissions from agriculture and scaling up nature-based solutions.
The author is an expert on climate change and development.
Posted in Dawn, February 20, 2021
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