Fund the transition

(Hiba Ahmed, Islamabad)

The excuse for developing countries to go after fossil fuel projects to boost their development rate was acceptable a few years ago, when climate change was being understood and the global decisions were focused to the developed nations only. It was totally justified back then as the developing countries had several limitations to implement power projects and the rate of greenhouse gases emissions and contribution in global emissions was fairly low as compared to the developed countries. But given the consequences of changing climate and rapid increase in greenhouse gases concentrations it was suggested in COP21 that the current alarming situation requires cumulative efforts of developing and developed countries. The excuse is no more valid as climate change will not only hit those nations who have the most contribution in it but will affect the whole earth and it is a fact that the developing countries are most vulnerable. Pakistan rank 7th as climate sensitive country, and it is an alarming situation for us to take initiatives, and start fighting against climate change before it starts questioning our survival.

Pakistan is on way to a rapid development, nobody can deny. But should the development be our only target? It is the most important thing we should understand. Pakistan has been an energy stressed country and energy projects are its top priority. It has been investing in energy projects that are mostly coal based projects. Several projects lie under CPEC (China Pakistan economic corridor), many of them are to be implemented and a few have already started working. The problem is not only coal, but “imported coal”. Exploiting the local coal reserves could be a justification for fossil fuel projects but imported coal doesn’t even make sense in terms of carbon footprint and the cost associated with such projects.

One of those projects is Gwadar’s coal power plant with cost of US $6 million aiming to generate 300 MW. The project will completely rely on imported coal. Considering this example only, a climate change aware person can easily figure out the alternate projects i.e. renewable energy projects. The cost associated with the project is not low enough to be ignored by the economists. Pakistan has the great potential of renewable energy systems like hydro-electric power systems, wind power systems, and solar energy. We can take advantage of all the blessings we have in a country of diverse geography. Only hydel power potential is 60,000 MW and unfortunately only 11% of it is being used. According to a research (Qureshi et. al. 2014), the hydel power share to total energy production can become more than 40% if employed properly. The hydro-electric power has the advantage to be implemented on different scales from large power plants to small and micro system according to the feasibility. It doesn’t require always going for building a huge dam instead many small systems can be employed at different locations to fulfill the local need of electricity. Hydro power plants are not only cheap and renewable but are efficient to produce up to 90% of the available energy into electricity whereas no fossil fuel project can reach the limit.

Pakistan should make the transition and invest the available funds in renewable energy models. The hydropower potential should be utilized that will cause no harm in future. Not only that we would become self sufficient as no coal would be imported, we will be saving our funds, we will not add in global emissions, and above all we will be saving ourselves. The transition from coal based plants to hydro power system will be a major contribution towards combating climate change. Hydro power systems don’t create any environmental harm, and are completely renewable and reliable.

For this cause, government should first make a comprehensive research to identify the potential sites for hydro power projects and then should privatize all small projects granting the private companies a fair subsidy. The large dams given the high capital cost can further be researched before implementation and for feasibility and availability of funds. A continuous monitoring and evaluation should be done by the government organizations. The task isn’t difficult at all if the higher authorities consider and realize the potential we have. The privatization will reduce unemployment and will create many other opportunities for the people. Government should also appreciate and encourage those private entities that are working on renewable energy models and should subsidize them. Such steps will boost up the development rate of the country without compromising on climate change issues and greenhouse gas emissions at large scale.

Instead of just worrying and talking about the problems, it is the time to stand up against those problems. We should do, what should be done, in time before it is too late. We being a vulnerable nation can’t blindly follow those successful and developed nations that have caused the current situation. A few decades before, it would have been a great initiative to find the opportunities for fossil fuel projects but the time has changed and current scenario requires making the transition to renewable energy models. If we want to stand out and be recognized as a wise and successful nation then it is time to fund the transition!

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