Renewable Energy & Environmental Governance: Creating a Sustainable Pakistan

October 14, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

AP photo



Zeeshan A. Shah

Most emerging nations carry additional environmental challenges, battling with the food, water and energy crisis also.

There is a lack of a coherent Environmental Strategy, mainly due to inefficient management of natural resources, poor maintenance of eco systems and their integrity, poor quality of life, bad governance and non-cooperation on environmental concerns on intra-county basis.

Pressures from economic growth further dampen any plans due to additional war and conflicts in most regions and there is no strategy to gauge the global environmental interdependence between key countries in Asia and Africa – the newly emerging world with double digit growth at the cost of the natural environment pollution and degradation.

Pakistan is an agro economy but does not command a lucrative energy policy or climate policy to address the challenging road map ahead. Agriculture is directly dependent on energy-dams, canals and rivers that create energy through hydro power- that enables more water thus increasing livelihoods for over 75 % of the population that depends and thrives on income from farming and agriculture. The failure is evident in the fact that the country’s agricultural exports are not compatible with the actual export potential that is not being utilized. Instead, we have an illegal system of control that supersedes the legal framework operational in the country due to corruption and lack of political will to address the growing energy needs of the nation at large.

Water for example is a key challenge in Pakistan as by 2020, Pakistan is estimated to have a severe water crisis that will also impact other nations in Asia. Water interacts with many other sectors that are impacted by climate change. At present, we have over 20% of the world with no safe drinking water and over 50% with inadequate sanitation thus making its use currently unsustainable. Water and Sustainable development –SD- has a deeper connection with climate change. Demand for water in Pakistan increases each year as the population increases. This means more people will be living in water-stressed areas in the country. Worldwide over 24 % of the population today is water stressed, hence no potential possibility of meeting energy demands, which will in turn impact the food sector, industry, coastal marine life, financial sectors, health, settlements and transport. Overall, 70% of water is used in irrigation, 20% for industrial use and 10% for domestic consumption.

Agriculture is at the base of the sustainability matrix in Pakistan, as rural areas suffer tremendously through climate change and poor sustainability. Three clear linkages with climate change have been identified. Agriculture contributes to climate change emissions; agriculture is impacted by climate change; and, more importantly, agriculture can contribute to climate change mitigation through both CO2 substitution and sequestration.

It is now recognized that the poor will be most affected by climate change. In Pakistan, there is a huge demand for clean energy to ensure that the country remains sustainable. Coal-based energy is expensive and unrealistic. Aggravated by poverty and a rising population, low rural infrastructure and a poor natural resource base largely untapped, the government has huge challenges ahead activated by poor policy, wars, corruption and lack of commitment to climate change challenges. This requires urgent attention if the rural population is to be spared from disaster. Agriculture adaptation could offer new livelihood opportunities, which need to be tapped and developed.


Photo – Warrick Page/UN


The poor are always more vulnerable as the rich can spend more on hedging. An earthquake can kill 10,000 in Pakistan but only 100 in California. Hong Kong can build a wall against sea level rise but Karachi may not be able to do it. It is simpler to understand that emerging nations need to be more climate adaptive than developed nations to satisfy their needs for energy, housing, fuel and consumption which eventually feeds off the majority of the low income population groups. Another setback in Pakistan is the lowest tax to GDP ratio as only 22 % of the country actually pays any taxes and the governance remains poor on tax revenue collection to reinvest funds in critical projects that will help create renewable sustainable energy for its future generations.

Sustainable development is needed, desirable, and environmentally beneficial. The main environmental concerns of developing countries relating to air quality, water resources, and land degradation, biodiversity and habitat protection can be addressed while pursuing development. Climate change makes it even harder for LDCs (Less Developed Countries) like Pakistan, to attain sustainable development as it threatens resources, deepens existing problems, poses new problems, and makes solutions more difficult and expensive. Un-sustainable consumption patterns of the rich are the driving force of Climate Change. 75% of energy resources are consumed by 25% of the population in industrialized countries, who also consume more than 70% of mineral resources (copper, steel, etc), 75% of cars, 75% of newsprints, timber, etc.

The hydro or wind power generation is the need of the hour for Pakistan as high impact natural disasters and changing global climate change scenarios pose a dire threat to development of its key indicators in coming years. The rich make the rules and the poor people cannot fight for their rights to life. The consumption patterns of the rich set a standard for the global village. That is why the developed nations have to be held accountable for climate change impacts on poor countries like Pakistan.

The internal issue of the country also lies in cleaning up the monopoly as the rich elite use political power to usurp natural resources or control the same resources for personal benefits over the national interest. We have land mafias and water mafia in the country backed up by the same political pundits that sit in the senate or run the day to policy affairs- deciding the fate of millions of people.

Overall, CO2 emissions are not likely to be reduced just by mere political and regulatory instruments but need incentives to move away from fossil fuels. Developed countries can adopt energy efficient technologies to reduce CO2 emissions. Clean Development Mechanism/Joint Implementation (CDM/JI) projects and tradable emission permits (TEPs) can be established in consonance to help the transition towards a cleaner future. Here, lower developed countries need to think strategically to consolidate their international negotiating positions to derive fairer benefits from CDM/JI initiatives.

A technology acquisition fund is needed to which every project should contribute and from which the recipient country should be free to buy technology from anywhere. Carbon trading needs to be made fair so that gains are shared equitably and UN keeps monitoring it effectively. Everything points out to the increasing demand for renewable energy as the key to future survival.

A paradigm shift from abatement cost to risk minimization for everyone is needed. How can one finance synergistic development in developing countries? Will the Paris Accord create a future solution for countries like Pakistan? Will China assist Pakistan in meeting its energy needs? The future may be bright but is clearly uncertain. Clean and Renewable energy is Pakistan s future. A successful plan to create “Environmental Governance “at the local and regional level for Pakistan is extremely vital at this point. Empowerment for Equity, Education and Awareness for Consensus will lead to greater public participation, enhance public policy creation and lead to enforcement.









Zeeshan A. Shah

The writer is a Director at CNNA Pakistan – a leading advocacy institute and is an expert on International Relations and Education Policy.

With over 150 publications in major local and global social media & newspapers, he has been instrumental in producing over 5000 radio broadcasts aired globally.

A thought leader, environmental journalist, media broadcaster and a change maker with an acute focus on development affairs & education for Pakistan.


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