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Cleaning Up CPEC

February 05, 2018

An evaluation report of the power sector of Pakistan released by Asian Development Bank (ADB) has foretold that CPEC will increase greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change and environmental degradation. According to Pakistan’s ministry of planning, development and reform, coal-fired plants with a combined capacity of 7,560 mw will be established as CPEC-energy priority projects.

Asking developing countries to sacrifice their economic growth on the altar of mitigating climate change, whilst countenancing many developed countries – specifically the US itself - in high carbon emissions is a dissemblance that has given rise to much debate in international forums. Yet, while we recognize that the ADB is a subsidiary of the World Bank and the IMF financial regime – and is thus aligned with the US interests - an objective appraisal of the report is necessary.

It cannot be argued that where Pakistan is responsible for a mere 0.43% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is among the world’s 10-most vulnerable countries to climate change. However, it is similarly unequivocal that Pakistan has large coal reserves and a crippling energy deficit - the power plants are a necessity.

Yet if we consider the cases of Jordan, Peru, and Mexico, Pakistan does not require dirty energy. Instead of using coal, Pakistan could drive development with renewables.

Taking this report into account Pakistan should invest in fulfilling its energy needs with renewable resources, developing its workforce and technical and institutional capacity. Considering climate conditions and the renewable potential in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the country could produce enough power to both cover domestic needs and to export, along with associated equipment and technology. Augmenting the renewable share in power projects, would also address the gaping disparity between Pakistan and global leaders in the realm.

The long term sustainable energy needs of the CPEC plan explicitly highlight the need for collaboration between the two countries on an investment on renewable means of energy. Alternatively, Pakistan and the Chinese government can collaborate on a carbon/emission trading mechanism that will offset the carbon cost of this venture. An encouraging step in this direction is the recent bid by Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari, the Federal Minister for Power Division, to establish a renewable energy institute in the country. One can hope that, under global scrutiny, and for all that it promises, the CPEC puts the onus the government to see through its efforts at integrating renewables to augment our energy needs


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