KATOWICE - While Pakistan has not contributed significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, it remains at the frontline of climate risks, Pakistan’s Advisor to the PM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam told the ministerial discussion in the plenary on climate finance on Monday at the UN Climate Change Conference 2018 (COP24) being held in Katowice, Poland.

As ministers from almost 200 UN countries begin negotiations on finalising the details of operationalising the Paris Agreement this week, Aslam explained how “Pakistan’s adaptation related climate expenditures amount to 6 to 8 percent of our annual GDP… we are without doubt bearing more than our due share on climate adaptation”.

In his view, global ambition for climate change cannot be enhanced without enhancing ambition on climate finance. There are three components to the negotiations here in Poland: finalising the Paris rulebook, coming up with financial support for developing countries and an ambitious package which countries must agree on to move forward in cutting enough carbon emissions to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees C. UN scientists say that to help the most vulnerable countries survive we must limit warming to 1.5 degrees (the Earth has already warmed 1 degree).

On the mitigation side, Pakistan has promised the world through its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) document submitted under the Paris Agreement, to cut emissions by 20 percent below business as usual by 2030 – conditional to the availability of global climate finance. In Aslam’s view, the rich countries promise of US$100 billion of “new and additional” finance to help developing countries tackle climate change remains a pipe dream. He added, however, that Pakistan is going ahead in its resolve to combat climate change, with a greener growth model envisioned by PM Imran Khan, and has spent $120 million on the massive Billion Tree Tsunami project alone. The 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project to be spread over next five years will have an anticipated domestic cost of $1 billion. “In Pakistan we have successfully transformed our political commitment into action, and have become a driver for mobilising domestic climate finance,” he told ministers from the other UN countries.

He added that to fully operationalise the Paris Agreement, the scale of climate finance has to correspond to the needs of developing countries and the transparency framework must include transparency of financial support from rich countries. There also needs to be a replenishment of the Green Climate Fund (which supports developing countries with grants to fund projects tackling climate change) with less bureaucratic procedures and easier access, he pointed out.

The DG Ministry of Climate Change, Irfan Tariq, who has arrived for the second week of COP24, also spoke at the side event on the “Belt and Road Green Development Partnership” which is looking at greening the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Tariq explained that when Pakistan submitted its NDC document in 2016, they had looked at their projected emissions from CPEC. He stated: “It is our intention to revise those NDCs at an appropriate time… and to see whatever has been left out, it needs to be incorporated”. He explained that under Phase 1 of CPEC which conceives power generation, the coal power plants being established in Pakistan will use more efficient super critical technology and provide real time data on their emissions.

However, a new report released by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis this December on “Pakistan’s Power Future” notes that renewable energy including wind and solar is now the cheapest form of new electricity generation in Pakistan. The report states: “Further adoption of ever-cheaper and accessible renewable energy can make a greater contribution towards meeting Pakistan’s growing electricity demands. Instead, Pakistan is currently on an energy pathway towards over-reliance on imported fossil fuels, out-dated coal technology, and expensive, seasonal and delayed hydropower. Polluting power plants relying on fossil fuel imports are being planned in the context of Pakistan’s weakening currency, growing current account deficit, declining foreign exchange reserves and escalating circular debt, reducing Pakistan’s energy security. This is not necessary now that tariffs for wind and solar are below all other generation sources”.

The report notes that planned expensive hydro and thermal power projects will not be necessary and that in addition to outcompeting other power technologies on price, renewables also have much faster construction times (18 to 24 months).