Prime Minister Imran Khan claims himself to be the “Pakistan’ biggest environmentalist”. Therefore he obviously had to be disappointed and “puzzled at the cacophony” over Pakistan not being invited to conference on climate change hosted by US President Joe Biden this month. The Premier of Pakistan citing his government’ contributions like Clean and Green Pakistan and 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative argues “My government’s environment policies are driven solely by our commitment to our future generations of a clean & green Pakistan to mitigate the impact of climate change.”
However, before becoming a self-acclaimed champion of environment protection, the Prime Minister should have reviewed ongoing Pakistan’ environment scenario as a whole, his policies pertaining to ecology and sustainability juxtaposing impacts of social, political and economic developments on national environment.
It is an irony only 0.04% of the government’s development budget goes to environmental protection in Pakistan. Therefore the government’s ability to enforce environmental regulations is limited and private sector lacks the will and funds to meet environmental standards. While the PTI-led federal government neglects or abandons many other factors, which don’t allow the country to be in the league’ of nations doing enough to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Such as;
Pakistan’ High Deforestation Rate
Despite the fact forests and woodland constitute only 5% of the total country’ land, Pakistan has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. According to the National Forest Policy, 2015, around 66,700 acres of forests are lost every year, mostly are community-owned. This is largely because rural communities depend on trees and plants for sustenance in the form of fuel and livelihood. While the untapped devastation by timber mafia is still a least-concerned crime.
Moreover, Pakistan had a mean score of 7.42/10 in the 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index, which ranks it 41st globally out of 172 countries — cannot be considered an ideal situation.
Heavy Consumption of Dirty Fuels
In Pakistan, high sulphur fuels rule over the market, approximately up to 5,000 ppm and even more. Sulphur has been a major culprit in automotive fuels which causes pollution, although there are other factors such as hydrocarbons and aromatics. While almost all developed countries have adopted Euro-VI standards (ultra-low sulphur at 10-15 ppm). Most Southeast Asian and even African countries have adopted low sulphur (50 ppm or less) fuel standards. But in Pakistan Euro-II has been adopted only recently which still permits 500 ppm, causing widespread air pollution and associated health issues.
Pakistan is also now aiming to raise country’ dependence on imported oil for power generation to 50% by 2030. While policy makers are striving to fill in the gaps of electricity generation by resorting to short term, and inexpensive fuel sources like coal and Regasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG). That’s adding more pollution rather cleaning the atmosphere.
Poor Air Quality
Lahore has been regularly ranking at the top of Air Quality Visual’s live pollution chart of the major global cities. The forest cover of Lahore has been reduced by 70% in the last 12-13 years due to which Lahore now faced the issue of smog and presently ranks 2nd in the list of worst city of the world.
Similarly Karachi’s urban air pollution is among the most severe in the world, engendering significant damages to human health and the economy. The inefficient use of energy, rising number of vehicles used daily, increase in unregulated industrial emissions and the burning of garbage and plastic have contributed the most to air pollution in urban areas. Governments both federal and provincials have been found unable to curb this menace.
Intense Industrial Production
One of the greatest contributors to air pollution is industrial activity. The inadequate air emission treatments and lack of regulatory control over industrial activity has contributed to the deterioration of ambient air quality in major cities. The World Bank report in 2013 stated that the increase in industrialization, urbanization and motorization will inevitably worsen this problem further, posing a serious threat to the country’s economy.
Reliance on Coal Power Plants
While the rest of the world is focusing on reducing their reliance on coal and other harmful sources of fuel for power generation, Pakistan is instead celebrating a number of coal power projects planned within the scope of CPEC. Coal is widely known as “dirty fuel”, and its combustion leads to CO2 emissions, which are a major cause behind global warming.
Although, Pakistan is a signatory of the Paris Agreement and has pledged to limit global temperature rise by two degrees, but rising number of coal-based power projects is something like moving back to their pledge.
In conclusion, the Leaders’ Summit on Climate organized by USA is not bigger than United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP-21) and also uninviting Pakistan is utterly a political move by US administration. But this is a fact there is still a lot for Pakistan to mitigate the vagaries of climate change.