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Time for stocktaking

PAKISTAN’S per capita carbon emissions have been declining, mainly due to the country’s rapidly increasing population and decreasing economic growth rate. The population has exceeded 246 million, according to the latest unreleased census, as compared to 208m in 2016 when the first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) were submitted.

Likewise, the long-term growth of real GDP per capita has averaged at only 2.2 per cent during 2000-2022, as compared to the 7pc projected in the first NDC curbing the emissions growth rate. It will take several fiscal years to reach the projected economic growth rates. Does the Global Stocktake (GST) of the Paris Agreement offer Pakistan any opportunities to address its depressed economic growth, shrinking fiscal space and crippling poverty-vulnerability nexus?

GST is a fundamental component of the Paris Agreement. It is a two-year process to check the global implementation status of the agreement. It aims to assess the world’s collective progress towards meeting the 1.5 degrees Celsius to 2°C target. GST occurs every five years. The first cycle started at the Glasgow climate summit in October 2021. It will come to a close at COP28 in Dubai in November this year. Its outcomes are expected to list critical barriers and opportunities for action on adaptation, mitigation, finance, loss and damage, and response measures.

No surprises are expected from the GST process. One global report after the other has highlighted how poorly the leading polluters — the US, China, India and EU — have failed to accelerate their transition to net-zero emissions, despite taking impressive strides. The last synthesis report by the UNFCCC Secretariat in October 2022 that was based on the 165 NDCs that were submitted, showed that the overall reduction in global emissions will be barely 3pc, and that too, if all NDCs are fully implemented. It is an alarming situation for a risk-prone country like Pakistan where the super-floods of last summer cost the country over $30 billion, putting an already struggling economy on life support.

Despite policies to combat climate change, Pakistan’s emissions have been increasing.

The Paris Agreement has failed to move faster — and not only because the world was distracted by such global challenges as Covid-19, hikes in fuel and commodity prices and the Ukrainian war. Many G77 countries like Pakistan were overwhelmed by climate-triggered disasters. They were unable to initiate domestic structural reforms for climate transformation or to keep pace with the evolving international climate finance landscape that has become overly unpredictable and competitive. To make things worse, the West has allowed the climate agenda to be driven by market forces, rather than collapsing ecosystems and the vulnerabilities of their inhabitants. As if this were not enough, the signatories to the Paris Agreement, including Pakistan, are expected to submit even more ambitious NDCs in 2025, based on GST findings.

Since the ground realities have changed, Pakistan needs to consider undertaking upward and downward revisions of several commitments made in its initial and updated NDCs submitted in 2016 and 2021. Pakistan has set for itself a cumulative target of an overall 50pc reduction in projected emissions by 2030, with a 15pc reduction from the country’s own resources and a 35pc reduction subjected to international grant finance. We can add to this a commitment of reducing 148.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from tree plantation.

To meet the targets, Pakistan has committed to shifting to 60pc renewable energy and electric vehicles with a 30pc market share by 2030, besides banning coal imports and expanding nature-based solutions. While the policies on RE, EV, coal power plants and forestry have vacillated, Pakistan’s overall emissions have been increasing. This indicates energy inefficiency, waste, line losses and low per unit productivity. We must recognise that no substantial emissions reductions were specifically targeted from manufacturing, energy and construction industries nor from transportation or the industrial processes and product use. They together contribute almost half of Pakistan’s emissions and serve as a barrier to foreign direct investment.

Pakistan’s emissions from agriculture, forestry and land use are extremely high — more than 50pc of the total emissions. There are scant lender investments or projects in the Public Sector Development Programme. It is in Pak­is­tan’s interest to ensure that GST processes help it create an enabling environment for the tra­nsfer of international finance and technology.

The donors’ conference, hosted in Geneva after the floods, was essentially a meeting with those donors and lenders who were keen to repurpose and repackage their commitments. GST, on the other hand, is an opportunity for Pakistan to develop a case for ‘new and additional’ finance for taking climate action.

The global discourse on phasing out fossil fuels has begun to change in recent months. It is moving from phasing out fossil fuels to phasing out emissions from fossil fuels. The UAE, the incoming chair of COP28, has already endorsed the idea, opening new vistas for carbon trading. This will build upon functioning models such as the EU’s Emissions Trading System, China’s Emissions Trading Scheme and California’s Cap and Trade, among others. After the small-scale piloting of a carbon-trading project in Sindh’s mangroves, Pakistan now has several options to develop bankable projects that can help offset emissions and protect our diminishing forests.

Concurrently, Pakistan has drafted its first National Adaptation Plan. While it awaits formal approval, an NDC Implementation Plan has been drafted prioritising 56 actions. Pakistan is now ready to develop an investment framework, structured on province-wise sectoral needs and priorities giving some initial costing estimates, ideally timed and aligned with GST processes. This will require synthesising a battery of documents including the national and provincial climate, water and agricultural policies, NAP, NDC, NIP and any other sectoral priorities.

Sherry Rehman, the minister for climate change, has been named as one of the 100 most influential climate leaders for her leadership role in Sharm el Sheikh and her advocacy on ‘loss & damage’ that is now on the GST agenda. She can articulate Pakistan’s narrative and augment the country’s engagement in GST processes, which are, after all, intrinsically linked to domestic stocktaking.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, "Time for stocktaking," Dawn. 2023-05-18.
Keywords: Natural disaster , Climate change , Social issues , Social rights , Social reforms , Social change , Social aspects