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Mitigating emissions & maximizing revenue: The double-edged sword of carbon markets for Pak

A nation with historically low emissions but facing the hard reality of climate change is at a turning point in its pursuit of sustainability. The repercussions of climate change are evident everywhere, from crowded metropolitan areas to isolated rural communities, demanding a quick response. The idea of carbon markets surfaces as an appealing option in this environment of opportunity and difficulty, offering the alluring possibility of cutting emissions while also opening up new sources of funding for sustainable development. For the past several years, Pakistan has been choking under the weight of rising air pollution.
Pakistan ranks third among the nations with the worst air quality, according to the Air Quality Index (AQI) maintained by IQ Air, with an average AQI number of 159. With an AQI of 345, Lahore was identified as the second-most polluted city in the world. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, construction, industry, and vehicles are mostly to blame for the rising level of air pollution in Pakistan. Greenhouse gases, also known as GHGs, trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. This process is commonly referred to as global warming since it causes the planet’s surface to warm. The establishment of carbon markets and trading systems is essential to address Pakistan’s dual concerns of declining environmental quality and economic growth.
Carbon markets have emerged as a powerful tool in the fight against global carbon mitigation efforts, offering cost-effective solutions and flexibility for meeting emissions reduction targets and goals. They also encourage private sector investment in developing countries to meet their decarbonization goals.
Pakistan benefits from its participation in carbon markets in two ways: it enables the use of greener technologies to reduce emissions at a fair cost and generates revenue from the sale of carbon credits. This approach not only enhances public health and air quality but also stimulates economic growth by reinvesting earnings in sustainability projects. In addition, it makes Pakistan a leader in sustainable development, encourages innovation, and attracts foreign investment.
Pakistan has pledged to cut emissions by 50% by 2030 and has untapped carbon investment potential in sectors like agriculture and electricity. If the WHO air quality recommendations are followed, people’s average life expectancies will rise by 3.6 years in Karachi, 5 years in Lahore, and 4 years in Islamabad. Pakistan’s entry into the carbon markets has great potential for both environmental protection and economic expansion. With more than 350 Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects registered, the nation has already seen firsthand the advantages of lower emissions and foreign investment. Certain industries, like energy, waste management, and industrial processes, have room to grow and present opportunities for reducing poverty while generating jobs.
Furthermore, the issuing of green bonds and green sukuk by the State Bank of Pakistan indicates a proactive attitude towards the establishment of a local carbon market. The nation may use carbon markets to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), improve energy efficiency, and ease transitions in important industries. It also boasts lower marginal abatement costs than its regional competitors.
Amidst the promise lies a labyrinth of challenges. Limited participation in carbon trading, exacerbated by a lack of domestic legislation and infrastructure, has hindered Pakistan’s full integration into global carbon markets. The absence of awareness, regulatory frameworks, and access to carbon finance further compounds these challenges, necessitating concerted efforts to bridge these gaps. Despite these hurdles, Pakistan remains undeterred in its pursuit of a sustainable future, as evidenced by its ongoing efforts to draft a comprehensive policy framework and target key sectors like power, agriculture, and industry.
Additionally, as identified as vulnerable to climate change by the IPCC, Pakistan actively participates in international environmental efforts. Fear of exclusion and potential trade restrictions from concerned markets, such as the European Union, coupled with a low ranking on the Environmental Performance Index, further motivate Pakistan’s involvement in carbon trading.
An important consideration as Pakistan navigates its path towards a functioning carbon market is establishing a fine balance between development and sustainability. Even though there is a chance to make money, this shouldn’t come at the expense of actual carbon reductions. To guarantee that carbon trading leads to measurable environmental outcomes and long-term sustainability, it is essential to establish clear policy safeguards and monitoring procedures.
Pakistan can maximize economic and environmental advantages and pave the road for a morewealthy and environmentally conscious future by giving priority to projects that have measurable effects and emphasizing the development of renewable energy sources.
In conclusion, there are many obstacles to overcome, but there is also a ton of potential on the path to creating a carbon market in Pakistan.
The country needs to stay true to its commitment to environmental conservation and inclusive development as it balances both its objectives of reducing emissions and optimizing revenue. Through transparent and equitable utilization of carbon markets, Pakistan may not only meet its climate targets but also open up new avenues for its people to succeed. Let Pakistan’s story serve as a source of inspiration and hope for sustainable development in the face of the globe’s climatic concerns while the world watches.