Sunday, April 3, 2016

From a Solar Powered Parliament to a Safer Pakistan

In February 2016, the parliament house of Pakistan achieved a distinct status of becoming the world’ first ever parliament which is 100 percent solar powered.  3,940 solar panels installed over the rooftop and in the parking area of the building produce 1MW electricity and surplus energy is sold out to the National Grid.

The story of solar powered parliament house of Pakistan is part of the big picture the global climate movement is shaping to transition to clean energy pathways and limiting global carbon emission to the scientifically endorsed limit of below 450ppm.

Irrespective of the fact that Pakistan’ share of carbon emission is still less than one percent of the global emission, the country is part of the recent Paris Agreement which encourages all UN member countries to take strenuous efforts in achieving a common goal of staying below 2 Degree Celsius to avoid dangerous climate catastrophes.

Pakistan has remained a victim of climate crisis since long. Last year, the GermanWatch index stated Pakistan as the 8th most affected country due to climate change. In 2010 this ranking was number one. Among the most recent examples is the May 2015 heatwave in Karachi which killed about 2000 individuals. In February 2016, temperature in Karachi peaked to 36.5 Degree Celsius, a February never been so hot in last twenty years. From a sea level rise in the coastal areas of Baluchistan and Sindh to melting glaciers in the North, climate change continues to challenge human survival in Pakistan.

Despite the growing challenges of climate change, Pakistan has the potential to get benefits from a wide range of opportunities to tackle this issue. Renewable energy is one of the options. A study conducted by MIT, Stanford University and University of California confirmed that Pakistan can produced 92 percent of its electricity only from solar power which is the highest rate in the world. This would definitely require a strong political will.

Pakistan being part of the global community can play its part to make Paris Agreement a success by strengthening domestic system of carbon inventory and verifiable reporting mechanism against the needed climate financing to harness promising opportunities like renewable energy.

Although, certain outcomes of the Paris Agreements like current pledges made under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to limit carbon emission are not sufficient to keep the average temperature increase below 2 Degree Celsius. The agreement however has good things to offer as well - a global commitment of raising USD 200 billion annually by 2020 to support vulnerable countries fight climate change. Highly feasible solar projects together with enhanced system to verify and report carbon mitigation in Pakistan can open ways to access this Green Climate Fund.

Pakistan has the opportunity to revert its challenges associated with climate change with climate resilient country. A strong political will is however needed to make drastic improvements to make this desire a reality. Pakistan still needs to make its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) stronger under the Paris Agreement which currently has no specific targets due to lack of authentic and reportable carbon inventory system.

Number of promising initiatives at the government level gives strong hope that Pakistan is not undermining its climate action as part of the global community. The country approved its National Climate Change Policy in 2012. In early 2015, the government reinstated its Federal Climate Change Ministry and introduced net metering system which allows consumers who install solar system to sell any surplus electricity to the National Grid. Only the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, after its completion would generate 1000MW of electricity. The federal government’ Green Pakistan Program aims to plant 100 million trees and the KPK government has initiated Billion Trees Tsunami program to plant another 1.5 billion trees in the country.

The only option to act on climate is in the best interest of all of us. We still have a long way to go and make our country a safer part of the world. A strong political will is no doubt a key to make this happen fast. 

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