Pakistan & the global warming

Pakistan is considered as one of the developing countries of the region and as such is striving to become more industrialized nation without leaving its deeply rooted agriculture economy. During the mid-60s, spawning over a period of a decade, Pakistan had made great strides moving in that direction, but due to the political instabilityand poor planning by the policy makers, this momentum was lost. In the following decades, unplanned industrial developments, and lack of interest to invest inupgrading the technologies, not only its plants’ productivitysuffered a lot, but it also created many environmental challenges. The plants were considered as the cash cows and thus the investments were made at just the bare minimum levels to keep them running.Because of this approach and lack of environmental policy, the industrial plants became one of the major sources of the pollution. During the same period, Pakistani middleclass continued to grow and as such their hunger for adapting the western lifestyles created use of the personal transportation (cars, motorcycles), air-conditioning, electric/gas appliances, processed foods, and other luxury items,as the status symbols. As a result of this, major metropolitan cities became not only densely populated but also sources of pollution and emissionof very high levels of the carbon dioxide (CO2), the major contributor of the global warming.
To support its industrial activities and the unstoppableincrease in the personal transportation preference by the growing middleclass, Pakistan has to heavily import oil and gas (fossil fuels) from the Middle Eastern countries. This trend has created traffic congestions in the major cities and as a result, permanent presence of thick haze, heavy fogand smoke have become major sources for the public health crisis. The pollution is creatingan ever-increasingasthmacases, upper-respiratory illnesses, COPD, andother pulmonary diseases to every age group and socio-economic levels of the society. If this trend will remain unchecked, not only it will have major impact on its fragile public healthcaresystem but will also become one of the major contributors to the global warming.
The quality of life and prosperity of any society depends on its economic growth through the industrial activitieswhich require power supply. For its power generation,Pakistan is heavily dependent on the fossil fuels(oil, gas &coal) which are the majorproven sources of the pollutionand creators of unhealthy air quality for breathing. Currently, Pakistan consumes abo ut 207-210 million barrels ofoil per year.According to the experts, for every barrel ofoil,0.43-0.45 metric ton (MT) of CO2 is generated. This means that just fromuse of the oil, 89to 95 millionMT ofCO2 is emitted in Pakistan.With the renewed strive to become more industrialized nation to help its exports and less dependence ofits economy on the agriculture, Pakistan will continue to increase its carbon-footprint and CO2 emissions.
According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, total number of vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, heavy duty hauling trucks, buses, etc.)are growing at a rate of 10% per yearand according to the sources as of 2018, total number of the vehicles registered in Pakistan were about 23.6 million units. This means that in Pakistan just the vehicles alone are generating about 108-110 million MT of CO2 per year.With the current conservative growth projection of about 10% per year, by 2050 Pakistan’svehicles population will reach to about 400 million units. This means that by 2050, up to 180 million MT of the carbon dioxide will be generated by the vehicles alone!However, by adoption of the EV fleets as part of the national transportation strategy, definitely CO2 emission will be much less by that time.
Besides the transportation industry,there are other sources of CO2 emissions, like the power plants (coal, oil, gas), chemical plants, biomass plants, steel, and cement plants, etc.The steel and the cement industries not only use very high amount of energy in their production processes but are also the most pollution generating products of the industry.According to a recent “Global Carbon Project” studies, to-date, cement is the most energy intensive industrial product. According to some conservative estimates, Pakistan has generated about 14 million MT of CO2 from this industry alone in 2018. Thus, this is not the best product for exporting as the PM Imran Khan brags about itin his many televised statements! To some estimates, Pakistan is among the top 30-CO2 emitters of the world, generating over 200 million MTin the pre-covid year and by the next decade, it will reach to over 420 million MTof CO2 emissions.
It’s true, no country can live without cement and steel to continue to grow its economy, supports itsdevelopments, and improving its standard of living. Thus, in today’s industrial world, the only way to live & sustain the growth while reducing its carbon footprint is through adoption of a proven technology that is universal, reliable, and sustainable.To date, besides the natural process of photosynthesis by the plants, carbon capture & storage (CCS) technology has shown outstanding results in a very short period of time and is commercially used in many European countries. However, for its paramount success, it needs multilevel collaborative efforts, like the governments, policy makers, industry,and the private sectors.
Under the current government, Pakistan seems to be very committed in addressing the ever-increasing pollution problem in the country by devising environmental policies to check and to reduce pollutants, particularly the CO2 emissions.Under the Prime Minister Imran Khan, trees plantation initiative has been started on a very massive scale. His government has embarked to plant 10 billion trees across the country. This will definitely help to reduce the atmospheric CO2, but it will take a very long time to benefit from the tree plantation scheme. Keeping in mind that over a period of 10 years after the plantation, only 60 to 65% of theplanted trees survive.According to a recent research (DOA), one mature tree (3-5-year-old) absorbs ~21 kg of CO2 per year. For everyone MT of CO2 absorption (per year), about 50 trees are needed. Thus, for every 100 million MT of CO2, Pakistan will need more than 5 billionhealthy trees to absorb the CO2 emission generated just from the vehicles(currently generating 108-110 million MT of CO2 per year).
Even though, plants area great gift of nature not only to absorb the atmospheric CO2 but also through naturally built-in photosynthesis process, convert it into oxygen (O2), the main source of life for all the living organisms, including the human beings. Since, the industrial activities and the transportation cannot be stopped to waiting for the plantation to reach to their maturity, the best solution is to use carbon capture-storage technology (CCS). Using this technology, CO2is capturedat its source of production (factories and the power plants). After the capture, it is transported either via a pipeline or by other means like the tank trucksor via vessels to the storage sites. Usually, the storing facilities are located under the water in the oceans or underground. These technologies are already being successfully used in the EU and the Scandinavian countries with few challenges.
Like any new technology, the CCS technology requires heavy investmentsfor its infrastructure and expertise that are not found currently in the developing countries, including Pakistan. This means that Pakistan has to approach the developed countries that are currently using this technology and are willing to share it and to assist in funding of the projects.
Since the global warming is a global issue, it will be a great initiative if the UN will spearhead this project bycreating a consortium of the CCS technology companies/countries and to push them to transfer the technology to the developing countries as well as the poor nations. Additionally, the multilateral donor agencies should be brought on board for funding of these projects at zero cost or at the rate of theirCO2 emissions, orat the fraction of the revenues generated through their plants. This will be a great milestone for the UN and will be as memorable as its own creation after the world-war by the nations of the world. By sponsoringand underwriting this project (CCS), the UN will not only help the countries who do not have access to the technology and financial means for reducing their CO2 emissions but will also help the entire world in reducing their carbon footprint in order to reach collectively tothe carbon-neutral target of 2050.
This blueprint for tackling the global warming will be a wining pathway for every nation in creating more inclusive and equitable conditions for breathing healthy air, without sacrificing the determination of the free spirit to continue pursuing to advancethe frontiers of excellence in science, technology, health, and quality of life in the pursuit of happiness.

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