Green banking: A vaccine for smog

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Syed Asim Ali Bukhari

WE were blessed with the natural wonders brought by each of the four seasons of Pakistan but now our future generation gets to bear and suffer a new season, ie smog season. Every year from October to January, the air pollution in various cities of Pakistan reaches ‘hazardous’ levels and brings with it the season of smog. For our generation, the unprecedented nature of this season is evident from the coining of the term ‘smog’ in the early 20th century by combining the words smoke and fog. But unfortunately, it has been ingrained as the 5th season in our future generation’s seasonal timeline. After witnessing the fragility of human life, the realization, that green growth is vital for survival of our future generations, has increased even more.
The smog engulfing us is threatening the existence of our children and requires immediate and effective remedial actions from all stakeholders. The main causes of smog in Pakistan include unsustainable industrial activities, vehicular pollution, burning of municipal and industrial waste, brick kilns, etc. One of the key players that can lead this fight against smog is our banking industry.
Through the adoption of Green Banking, the banks can work towards the minimization of adverse environmental impacts created by the businesses they finance. Green Banking is based upon the minimization of a bank’s environmentally risky financing and expansion of the bank’s green finance portfolio. Through financing green manufacturing units, precision agriculture projects, green supply chain initiatives, green vehicles, green construction projects, zig-zag brick kilns, etc. the banks can play an instrumental role in eliminating smog by tackling its root cause.
This fight against smog can no longer be viewed as a public relations activity for various organizations rather this has become a fight for our survival. Green Banking is the elixir required for our smog infested society and economy. The broadening of a bank’s green finance portfolio will lay down the seeds for the development of a Clean and Green Pakistan. However, combating environmental degradation and natural resource depletion is not just the responsibility of the banking industry. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Pakistan needs to ensure the implementation of all the environmental laws existing in Pakistan. These steps will also play an important role in the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030. Action against polluting industries only during the smog season cannot remedy this situation.
The EPA needs to monitor and rectify the adverse environmental impacts of all polluting industries throughout the year. Similarly, the government of Pakistan can provide various incentives for green investments to encourage businesses to go green. One such step can be the development of green construction projects such as converting the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project into green construction projects. This can serve as a great boost for the country’s green economy and the green financing portfolios of banks.
Without government incentives and pressure from various regulatory authorities, the industries will not adopt green management principles necessary for the sustainable development of Pakistan. It is time all of us play our role and fulfill our responsibility towards providing our future generations a homeland they deserve, just like our forefathers gave us this beautiful land with abundant natural resources and limitless opportunities for green growth. Green Banking can lead Pakistan out of this smog created by our unsustainable consumption patterns and natural resource degradation.
—The writer is working as a Green Banking Officer in Bank AL Habib Limited, Pakistan.

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