Global warming will increase poverty and inequality

Original agenda of Paris meeting of 2015 relating to seventeen highlighted Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030 had placed climate change or global warming concern at 13th level, whereas apprehensions relating to failure of arresting global warming at 1.50% level keeping in view climatic changes happenings during last 6 years have forced all countries to revise or speed up strategies to arrest global warming so as to keep strategies to achieve other 16 goals intact/undisturbed.

It is obvious that changing climate, global warming, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation particularly in developing countries coupled with persisting COVID pandemic has almost threatened the normal existence of humanity in this part of the world.

World was enthusiastically moving towards achieving zero inequality and poverty by end of 2030, but onslaught of COVID and side by side adverse effects of climate change and global warming has caused a concern for researchers at World Bank who believe that 68 to 135 million people are likely to fall below poverty line by 2030 what to speak of reducing poverty.

Quite a number of economically rich countries and even emerging economies are striving to control emission to 1%. Despite global efforts there remains a wide difference between what is to be achieved and what has been achieved. Quite a number of countries are facing extreme heat due to uncontrollable fires, withering food crops due to fast melting of ice from mountains causing either floods, frequency of cyclones in several parts of the globe and drought conditions in African and Southeast Asian countries in particular. Efforts will have to be speeded up with regard to obtaining renewable energy, which presently has been achieved to the extent of 25% even in economically rich countries, quite far from target of 100% vying standard.

The move on the part of countries to meet the challenges of global warming for ensuring sustainable living standards round the globe must be preceded by justified policy making and its development and implementation for all sector economies with broader objectives of reducing poverty and inequality leading to creation of decent jobs and improvement in liveable environment.

The climate change risks are affecting the countries disproportionately. In majority of low and middle income countries major segment of their population depend on agriculture, forestry and fisheries which entirely depend on sources and opportunities provided by nature. Growing global warming is worsening existing problems like shortage of both potable and irrigation water thus enhancing scarcity of food etc. unfortunately these low income economies add much less to carbon emission as compare to economically rich countries. According to World survey report two categories of the low and middle income countries representing 60% of the world population add only 15% of the total emission to the atmosphere. As stated in the report, on per capita basis, emissions are 20 metric tons of carbon equivalent a person a year in United States, which is double the amount per person in European Union or China and ten times the amount what is with India. In other words greenhouse gas emissions are mainly linked with degree of economic development and level of wealth with a country. Thus cross country inequality is due to accumulation of greenhouses gases by economically rich countries.

Efforts to reduce emission and cost involved therein should not affect welfare of economically disadvantaged segments of population of a country. Efforts in this regard must serve the broader objectives that development at all counts and reduction of poverty and inequality. In this regard rich countries must have provision of financial transfers to low income developing countries where decarbonising programs and achieving zero emission status can bring additional burden on their budgets thus impacting adversely welfare of poor segment of their population.

India and China being the highest carbon emitting countries have rendered Asia as second largest continent adding to global warming. Greenhouse gas emission from Asia’s coal-based greenhouse power generation and carbon intensive manufacturing such as cement ,steel, motor vehicles, agriculture and domestic cooking and heating have resulted in high level of pollution in South Asian cities in Particular.

International Energy Agency (IEA) for achieving net zero emission by 2050 has given a road map which outlines the policies, technologies and behavioural change emphasising the fact that energy related emission alone will be decarbonising 3/4th of global economy. For remaining 1/4th agenda countries must stop fossil fuel consumption and craft a resilient energy economy dominated by renewables such as solar and wind powers. Extended lock downs during 2020 and 2021 due to COVID pandemic proved that electricity system tend to become clean with reduced demand as high cost oil, coal and gas power plants get switched off first, while solar, nuclear and wind power continue to generate as much electricity as can be taken up by countries according to their requirements. Decision action at this count will place the economies on a stronger and sustainable path.

In pandemic scenario, Pakistan government in pursuance of policies to boost up economic growth rate must commit to achieve net zero emission status by 2030 by redirecting its energy producing investments in providing solar mini and micro grids to bring light to masses. In addition to getting urban population off grid through solar home system and solar energy supply to schools, hospitals, SMEs etc can be ensured by public and private enterprises through financial assistance being offered by banking sector in the form of soft loan schemes already floated for youth self-employment and recently announced a very liberal credit scheme by State Bank of Pakistan for SME sector. In this regard similar models of rural energy entrepreneurship need to be developed to make use of solar and wind power in rural sector also. According to one Pakistani expert Dr. Fahad Saeed working with Climate Analytic International earnestly is of the view that Pakistan has huge solar and wind energy potential that could meet not just domestic electricity demand, but also of all countries in the region.

In the context of decarbonising transport system National Electric Vehicle Policy will become more meaningful if the charging infrastructure for the emerging EV market is supported by hybrid solar system. It is desirable that Pakistan seriously adopts pro poor strategies for energy production and supply to reduce the cost of economic development. It will not be irrelevant to mention that other South Asian countries like Maldives and India are speedily striving to achieve zero emission status. India has attained 4th position in wind power generation and 5th with regard to solar installations capacity.

Pakistan government’s declaration after Climate Action Summit (CAS) of December 2020 that country will no longer be relying on coal based power does not hold good as due to resources constraints and to meet commitment relating to CPEC projects concerned entities have reverted to making use of Thar coal for power generation. However in other areas use of renewable energy is gradually increasing. In this regard greater initiatives from government need to come to reduce fossils produced energy and rely on clean energy particularly solar power for which Pakistan has never ending potential. In this regard international support from agencies like World Bank and Asian Development Bank must come forward for providing low carbon technologies and also financial assistance to promote zero emission program in the face of already financially burdened economies of developing countries including Pakistan due to persistent hazards of COVID pandemic. To conclude, concerted efforts are needed to introduce innovative and pro-poor technologies particularly in low and middle income countries to arrest global warming and make this world liveable for all.

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