Race to Zero carbon emissions
Although much of the world’s attention is still focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, climate crisis still remains the planet’s greatest threat as it has proved to be an existential danger to the human race.
In order to limit the global temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius, carbon emissions have to be halved by 2030 in order to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Despite being ambitious, the survival of the planet depends on pledges made by world leaders which have clearly fallen short so far. The worldwide economic shutdown seen in the past two years during the pandemic only brought the carbon emissions down by 4-8 percent, which bodes ominous for the future. This brings to light the fact that the only way out of this conundrum is to decarbonize the world and to do it without further ado.
“Race to Zero Carbon Emissions” is an ambitious campaign led by high level climate champions for Climate Action. It was launched at the UNSG’s Climate Action Summit 2019 by the president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera. Race to Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats to the planet, creates decent jobs and unlocks potentials for inclusive and sustainable growth.
Race to Zero is an initiative represented by 733 cities, 31 regions, 3,067 businesses, 173 of the biggest global investor companies as well as 622 Higher Education Institutions from 120 countries. Collectively, these “real economy” actors cover nearly 25 percent of global CO2 emissions and over 50 percent of the GDP and are committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 with an aim of stabilizing global temperatures at less than two degrees Celsius.
Since 1994, Pakistan’s carbon emissions have increased by 123 percent in 2015, and are projected to increase by 300 percent in 2030. The main contributors, 90 percent of total emissions, are the energy and agriculture sector.
Reducing our carbon emissions to net zero may be our biggest challenge yet. Though the aim is ambitious and there isn’t a single action that can lead to carbon neutrality, a single source of essential sustainability intelligence, data, insight and global commitment could accelerate the journey to achieving this aim.
Pakistan also has a role to play in international efforts to decarbonize. Although the realization has sunk in among the policy makers as well as local businesses and investors, rudimentary level talks are not being translated into a concrete action plan.
Since 1994, Pakistan’s carbon emissions have increased by 123 percent in 2015, and are projected to increase by 300 percent in 2030. The main contributors, 90 percent of the total emissions, are the energy and agriculture sector.
Shifting to renewables’ energy sources and divesting from fossil fuels is imperative to decarbonize the energy sector in order to meet the Paris Climate pledges. As of now, 46 percent of our total carbon emissions are attributed to burning fossil fuels. Under CPEC, Pakistan invested heavily in coal to meet the energy demands of the country and somehow this addiction to dirty fuel doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Shift to renewable energy sources will not only ensure seriousness toward an international pledge but also increase energy security, reduce air pollution and provide more jobs.
In addition, Pakistan needs to decarbonize its transport sector, which again is a major contributor to carbon emissions due to reliance on oil which is hard to decarbonize. Pakistan is the second most rapidly urbanizing country in South Asia. Decarbonizing transport in the urban setting should be given priority status in order to reduce vehicular emissions by introducing more EVs (electric vehicles) in mass transit circuits and giving incentives for EVs.
With the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) looming just ahead, all companies can benefit from lowering their CO2 emissions and become part of Pakistan’s leadership on Climate Change. Pakistan needs to adjust and stay abreast with latest technologies and innovations to achieve net zero emissions. In a promising move, a total of 14 companies across textile and FMCG (consumer packaged goods) have pledged to the cause of carbon neutrality by 2050.
COP26 could be our last best chance to combat Climate Change. It is a chance through which nations will commit to curbing emissions enough to meet a 1.5 degree Celsius trajectory. A lot of hope is pinned on the outcome. By setting crucial emission targets, world leaders could stave off the worst climate change scenarios.
Turning targets into reality will require not only policy measures but also billions of dollars in spending, where developed countries could help developing countries to meet their net zero emission targets as well as ensure economic impetus for their development projects and agendas. Pakistan has pledged to cut down its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030. However, this is only possible given the economic situation of the country and the availability of international funding. External climate financing will be critical for Pakistan to invest in low carbon and greener technologies.
It is time to realize that climate change has become everyone’s business and the pledge to save the planet from the devastating impacts of climate change is the responsibility of not only the government but also every city, every business and every citizen. The need of the day is a national collaboration of public institutions, businesses, sectoral experts and academia to deliver the goal of net zero emissions for Pakistan by 2050 and formulate a policy framework for Pakistan’s private sector to accelerate its sustainable transition toward zero carbon emission technologies and economies.
- Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba is a freelance consultant working in the areas of environment and health.