Without climate cash, Pakistan’s emissions are set to soar

by Rina Saeed Khan | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 16:24 GMT

A general view of the port before the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan November 13, 2016. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

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“It is practically saying that if we don’t get around $1 billion a year we will not be able to do anything”

Pakistan might be one of the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to climate change – ranking seventh in this year’s Long-Term Climate Risk Index brought out by Germanwatch – but it still not focused on protecting its 200 million strong population from serious impacts such floods, glacier lake outbursts and sea level rise.

At this week’s U.N. climate talks in Marrakesh, Pakistan’s ambassador to Morocco, Nadir Chaudhry, ran through the highlights of Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy. However, the policy, readied back in 2012, is largely yet to be implemented on the ground.

Just as serious, Pakistan’s plan for its contribution to the Paris Agreement, which aims to wean the world off fossil fuels and hold global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, sees a four-fold increase in the country’s climate changing emissions by 2030 – unless the country gets $40 billion in financial assistance to help with cutting emissions. Even then the projected emissions would fall by only 20 percent. For adaptation the country is asking for $7 billion to 14 billion annually to cope with flood disasters, sea level rise and other problems.

Pakistan’s emissions are very low at the moment but set to increase substantially as a result of projects being implemented through $46 billion in bilateral investment on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It remains unclear how much infrastructure development this will entail and whether these projects will have environmental safeguards built into them. That may be one reason why, despite spending months working on a plan for its contributions to the Paris Agreement last year, the government instead submitted a last-minute, one-page document, which proved to be an embarrassment for the country alongside the more detailed assessments of most other countries.

The Pakistan government pledged to revise this document after undertaking a greenhouse gas inventory, which took almost a year to ready. The government finally submitted the new document just days before the Marrakesh climate talks, and ratified the international climate agreement – the 104th country to do so – days before sending its 20-strong delegation to Morocco.

Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan, Pakistan envisages building a network of motorways, power plants and railway infrastructure. Already the first Chinese shipments using existing networks are rolling in through the high mountain pass that leads to Kashghar from Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan’s north.

On November 13, the first Chinese shipment also left Gwadar port in the coastal south of Pakistan, set to become the largest port in the region, which will eventually handle over $500 billion of Chinese exports. Chaudhry, Pakistan’s ambassador, said all these activities will prove to be the largest bilateral investment in the region when it comes to South-South cooperation.


Pakistan’s new plan for its contribution to the Paris Agreement, appears to take cognizance of all this development in its future projections of emissions.

Pakistan estimates a four-fold increase in its carbon emissions from five sectors from 405 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide to 1,603 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030. The country pledges to cut that higher level of emissions by 20 percent by 2030 if it receives up to $40 billion in aid.

But Pakistan doesn’t appear to be committing much in the way of its own resources to the effort – and is now coming under criticism again for that.

“Pakistan has not offered any unconditional reductions on emissions on a voluntary basis. In my analysis it is the only country, along with Afghanistan, in South Asia and Central Asia who not offering any cuts on their own” points out Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, head of LEAD-Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation.

“It is practically saying that if we don’t get around $1 billion a year we will not be able to do anything. In comparison, other countries like Bangladesh and Nepal are doing 5 to 10 percent (emission) cuts on their own,” he said.

In his view, that places Pakistan “at the bottom of global responsibilities in international climate circles by showing a non-serious attitude”. He hopes the plan will be revised, as countries still have time to re submit and revise their “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs.

However, Bilal Anwar, a Pakistani climate expert who helped prepare the new plan, as a former advisor to Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change, called it “a good document that is balanced in terms of mitigation and adaptation. It covers the policy framework of Pakistan and its energy needs and identifies potential areas of mitigation.”

He noted that in Pakistan “there is a huge energy crisis in our country and if the international community doesn't help us then we will have to embark on a high carbon pathway”. He feels strongly that “Pakistan needs financial and technical assistance before it locks itself into not-so-clean sources of energy (like coal) due to our pressing energy needs” and the emerging economic corridor with China.

Kashmala Kakakhel, a Pakistani climate finance expert attending the Marrakesh meeting on behalf of international NGOs, called the new document just “the very first step”.

“With all its weaknesses, the new NDC is a welcome step. However, we should not consider the submission as a final goal, but a very first step in positioning our self to work with the international community to address key climate challenges,” she said.

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