Pakistan’s future lies in just energy transition to renewable sourcesBreaking

October 10, 2023

The speakers at a consultative meeting held here by the SDPI on Tuesday underscored the need for timely transitioning of the country’s energy mix over clean and green renewable power solutions of solar and hydropower for a sustainable future amid a strategic position to be maintained at the global forums negotiating on clean energy shift. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) organized a consultation session with Senators and leadership of different political parties to mull over the country’s challenges and opportunities to shift over clean energy for a sustainable future in the prevailing testing times of economic turmoil. The discussion was participated by Senators Musadik Malik, Engineer Rukhsana Zuberi, Farah Naz, Seemi Ezdi, whereas fromer MNA Shahida Akhtar Ali and former SAPM Malik Amin Aslam were also present.    

Senator Musadik Masood Malik of PML-N said the country’s local energy resources, gas, production is declining and its precious foreign exchange is burdened with the heavy import bills of oil and gas. In the middle of these economically unsuitable conditions, there is an elite capture in the energy sector that consumes one-third of the total gas produced for manufacturing of fertilizer whereas the decision was made to provide subsidized fertilizer to the farmers.   Malik underlined that the cheapest energy produced from gas is diverted to fertilizer companies through the maneuvering of the elite capture which diverts the highly expensive electricity tariff to the poor who are voiceless.

He highlighted that such deals are done through legal contracts that paves the way for litigation embedded in it through a capability deficit which is structured in the system. He said the country has pledged to ambitious targets like capping coal power plants, shift to energy mix and phasing out of coal power project but during the Ukraine-Russia War the Western countries who brokered such global agreements for socalled just energy transition reverted to coal mining and power generation through the dirty fuel. The country was left empty handed in the lurch to manage its energy needs with limited resources and spiking up fuel rates, he added.

Pakistan, he said need to manage its energy transition according to its economic realities, where responsibility is paramount which should not be belligerent to the west. He said Pakistan’s coal reserves worth $6.3 could be utilized but it will incur environmental impacts, whereas the country should create it's strategic position like the Middle East managing it's energy transition on its own terms. He said the country could obtain hydrogen producing technology in lieu off ban on its coal usage.

Senator, Engineer Rukhsana Zuberi from PPPP said there should be a legal restriction on attorney general to not appear in the cases of such public or private entities usurping public rights through tainted use of power agreements. Moreover, the parliamentarians and senators should also not be the legal advisors of such public or private entities that are damaging the environment, public wellbeing and national exchequer. Former SAPM, Malik Amin Aslam said the country has submitted an important document of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was designed after looking deep into solutions for renewable energy solutions available for the country’s energy mix shift.

He said these commitments were soft that could not incur penalties but were subject to global checks on it. He added that the country is one of the lowest GHG emitters but its emissions are rising and it can be declined below business as usual trajectory from its own resources and it can further reduce it 35% more if gets a climate finance of $100 billion. “The Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Plantation Project if continues till 2030 then it can reduce 500 metric tons of carbon emissions per year emitted annually by trees and can make country carbon neutral by 2030,” Malik added.

Deputy Executive Director SDPI, Dr Shafqat Munir in his opening remarks briefed the participants that climate crisis was racing at an unprecedented pace whereas the natural disasters due to carbon emissions demand the world to phase out fossil fuels from human consumption cycle and replace it with ecofriendly solutions of renewables. He said the prevailing dilemma was due to global inaction of the international leaders who could make a bigger difference in the entire humanity’s effort to restore the balance of nature disturbed by the anthropogenic activities on the mother earth.

Research Fellow, SDPI, Dr Khalid Waleed in his presentation noted that the country had borne serious impacts of global crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia conflict that casted bleak impacts on its energy sector. However, its prevailing energy mix and infrastructure is not resilient enough to bear the aftershocks of global crisis and demands a robust out of the box solutions to ensure its energy security.   The country amid rapidly changing global energy regimes, carbon footprint limiting legislation on import products in the EU requires the country to take up the path of course correction, he added. Dr Waleed noted that the multifaceted chaos prevailing in the country should be used as a ladder to develop integrated policy solutions for energy sector.

Ubaid Chaudhary from Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) said suggested that the devolution of power generation, transmission infrastructure and distribution mechanisms is need of the hour to make the power sector more reliable and efficient. Keeping in view the absence of the energy subject in political parties’ manifesto; the CPDI has been proposing to add different recommendations in the manifestos with targets by 2030 to ensure just transition of energy sector and promotion of energy generation infrastructure atleast at the grassroots level. Former MNA, JUI-F, Shahida Akhtar Ali appreciated the suggestions by CPDI at the district level and termed it convincing and promising to yield results.

She assured that she would take up those recommendations to be incorporated in her party’s manifesto. Senator Seemi Ezdi from PTI said the dialogue was a much needed initiative and it was commendable that the Institute would continue it. She added that the country’s vulnerability due to climate change was rising and it demanded a holistic approach which could be explored through public and private partnerships to promote just energy transition with youth on board for inclusive development. Senator Falak Naz of PTI said her region of Chitral was worst impacted due to climate change as an entire city in the region was washed away by floods due to glacial melt.

CEO, Policy Research Institute for Equitable Development (PRIED), Badar Alam in his concluding remarks said that there are 30 solar and wind projects lying unimplemented since 2012 despite the fact that their letter interests were signed by the then governments. The political parties should join their voices and forces on such issues to hold the quarters concerned accountable for the delay in the projects impacting the entire sector and the masses at large. “We need to come out of easy mind solutions but rather a complex thinking to address an intricate issue of shifting energy mix over sustainable and green solutions,” he added.

Credit: Independent News Pakistan (INP)