Clear clean energy: Civil nuclear deal is a must
ARGUABLY, in pursuit of acquiring clear, clean energy, Pakistan needs to have a civil nuclear deal with any of the global powers, China, Russia and the US.
Most of our electricity generation is based on coal-gas power plants, the very negative means to hit the climate change parameters. While losing this objective, we will be much closer to promoting CO2 gas emissions.
Regardless of Pakistan’s very small contribution to GHG emissions, its role as a responsible member of the global community in combating climate change is highly appreciable.
Pakistan is one of the most affected countries from adverse impacts of climate change as well as air pollution.
A report by research group German Watch in 2019 ranked Pakistan as the fifth most affected country due to climate change over the past two decades (German Watch 2019) while IQAir ranked Pakistan’s air as the second most polluted in 2020 (IQAir 2021).
In order to reduce these impacts, the country needs to take extensive adaptation and mitigation measures, while transforming the energy sector towards less polluting and carbon neutral options.
Pakistan is a poor country, with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of US$1,909 in early 2019, and 58 million people lack access to electricity.
With growing incomes, population and urbanization, energy demand is increasing, placing pressure on domestic resources.
Despite the existence of indigenous natural gas, renewable and coal resources, Pakistan has become more dependent on imported oil, gas and — recently — coal resources.
In order to contribute to the global effort, Pakistan intends to make efforts to delink economic growth from carbon growth to keep its emissions trajectory at the lowest possible level so it can play its part as a responsible country.
All our development plans are being cautiously executed to keep our carbon footprint low so that we can engage in climate compatible-development pathways.
Adapting to climate change remains amongst the topmost priorities of the Government of Pakistan as the nation remains at the forefront even amongst the most impacted countries.
In the same vein, integrating climate change concerns into overall development planning, initiating on- ground action in priority sectors of agriculture & livestock, water resources, disaster management, forestry and human health, in a coordinated way is our national commitment.
The present government is paying earnest attention to addressing the climate-related issues and has been undertaking concerted actions to cope with the policy and institutional challenges.
The Government is committed to taking all possible steps towards making all development climate- resilient.
Although it is a small emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), unlike India, Pakistan is likely to increase its greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the fuel choices and investment it makes.
The turn to embrace coal is an emerging concern in the broader Asian context and in the wake of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which Pakistan ratified.
Its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) affirmed its desire to join the global effort to mitigate and adapt to rising emissions, including from the power sector that is the leading source of Pakistan’s emissions.
Over the past few years, Pakistan’s energy sector undergoes transition where utilization of oil for power generation has been replaced by coal.
However, while the sector is going through transition, it would be a wise decision to comprehensively assess and streamline this transition in Pakistan will impact efforts for reduction of environmental, ecological, climate change and economic burden now and for future generations. I
n delivering its energy policy challenges, Pakistan, today is poised to adopt policies for improvement in coal-fired generation efficiency and carbon capture and storage (CSS) retrofitting for a sizable increase in planned coal-based capacity are evaluated.
Emission reduction potential, fuel input requirements and emission mitigation costs are estimated by scenario analysis using Pakistan’s bottom-up power sector model.
The results indicate that the impact of coal plant efficiency scenario in emission reduction is limited despite significant fuel cost savings that result in negative abatement costs.
Alternatively, the CSS retrofitting scenario requires more input fuel due to the efficiency penalty, but has a substantially higher potential in reducing GHG emissions by capturing the CO2 emissions. However, high cost of CO2 capture makes it economically unviable.
While efficiency improvement provides a cost-effective measure for mitigating GHG emissions in the short run, large-scale deployment of CSS in the long run can potentially mitigate 36 times as much CO2 emissions.
Its commercial viability, nonetheless, depends on capital cost reduction and a favourable carbon pricing regimes in the future.
Pakistan is committed to pursuing various forms of renewable energy, including solar and wind energy, nuclear power offers unique benefits alongside these alternatives.
Apart from being an inexhaustible supply of clean energy, nuclear power plants are often a more consistent source of power than wind, solar, or hydroelectric sources that depend on weather conditions.
Given that Pakistan was recently named the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change, safely developing a consistent source of energy independent of climate conditions is a wise strategy in addressing Pakistan’s energy shortfall.
Nevertheless, to many Pakistanis, however, the dire state of Pakistan’s energy crisis mandates the exploration of civil nuclear power.
Still, to avoid the perception of enhancing its nuclear weapons program, Pakistan has declared that it is proactively engaged with the international community to promote nuclear safety and security, a claim rightly endorsed by the IAEA.
The launch of Clean & Green Pakistan – the program envisages addressing five components: plantation, solid waste, liquid waste/ hygiene, total sanitation, and safe water.
Objectively, civil nuclear power represents a clean and effective option to close Pakistan’s energy deficit and meet the international community’s ambitious goal of lowering global temperatures by two degrees in the next 30 years.
The operation of the C-4 nuclear power plant is not a sufficient synergy to meet the future challenges, particularly the management of proper measures to cater to the evolving energy needs.
Therefore, to meet objective of clear clean energy, Pakistan must be open to exploiting and expanding the means of peaceful nuclear energy.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.