The increasing impacts of climate change have made the world sit together to discuss ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Agreements such as the Montreal Protocol (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer) and the Kyoto Protocol (an international agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) were introduced in 1987 and 1997, and eventually helped reduce dangerous levels of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere once ratified in 1989 and 2005 respectively.

Today, almost every country has been sensitized and attempts to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing fossil fuel consumption, the primary source of increasing GHGs in the atmosphere and human-carbon footprint.

Climate change is affecting human populations in terms of decreased agricultural output, high cost of industrial products and increased cost of health care. The impacts of climate change are widespread, hence every country has initiated multiple projects to reduce carbon emissions by increasing forest cover, installing wind and solar farms, constructing energy efficient homes and heading towards low-carbon economies for sustainable development.

However, achieving this is not easy as the energy produced from dirty fossil fuels should be reduced. Dangerous levels of CO2 are added into the atmosphere from coal fired power plants, the dirtiest of all energy which is causing climate change and global warming.

Reducing such changes isn’t that easy, as results cannot be mitigated by a single country, and requires the concrete efforts of the entire world. In a bid to control global warming and climate change, the United States (US) decided to reduce its carbon emissions up to 30 percent from coal fired power plants by 2030. This is a good sign for climate change activists, as the US is amongst the top carbon emitters, and such an initiative will help reduce temperatures by the end of this century. China, the world’s largest carbon emitter has also imposed an absolute cap on its emissions, when its next five year plan comes into force in 2016.

Global leaders have thus begun to take this issue seriously; greener policies urging greater investments in the renewable energy sector are required with reduced dependence on coal fired power plants if we really wish to mitigate such impacts.

Countries are investing more in renewable energy such as solar and wind power, which has lesser or no emissions, and is cost effective in the long run. This is the green revolution that the entire world must follow. Previously, economies across the world stated that higher costs in installing renewable energy projects would lead to souring energy prices. None of these concerns were as justified as a new review of economic evidence highlighted that climate change mitigation policies meant to reduce carbon emissions did not damage the competitiveness of a business. Business magnates need to realize that development cannot be achieved at the cost of environmental degradation as countries adhering to climate change policies and protocols will offer business opportunities in fast growing global markets. Countries such as Germany and Switzerland which already adopt stringent carbon efficient policies are well positioned to benefit from their investments in the green economy.

Our neighbor India also faces electricity shortages, as millions of people in rural areas either have limited or no access to electricity. Due to growing economic and environmental concerns, India shifted to renewable sources of energy which helped it in acquiring huge investments, as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank showed an interest in their solar and wind projects. The World Wind Energy Report 2008 claims that India has the fifth largest installed wind power capacity in the world. However this is not all, as the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in the Government of India, proudly claims to produce 21,262 MW from wind farms and a total of 31,833-MW from renewable energy (as of March 31, 2014). This alone amounts to more than the total energy produced by Pakistan today.

We might be proud to be a nuclear state but we are also helpless and highly vulnerable to natural calamities. There’s a dire need to adhere to climate change policies. However, if we don’t act now, we will face an increased frequency of natural disasters, which can be detrimental to the entire economy.

Today, Pakistan faces an acute energy crisis, and the government is doing little. The recent energy plan to switch over to coal fired power plants devised by the PML(N) led government is a move that warrants criticism. The entire world is making huge investments in the renewable energy sector and it won’t be long until countries with increased emissions will be penalized with carbon taxes, negatively impacting the economy.

No doubt, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s initiative of 100-MW solar power project in Bahawalpur, with expected output of 1,000 MW in the next two and a half years is tantamount to a greener future, but a lot more still needs to be done as other nations are producing a major portion of energy from clean energy sources. We are blessed with enormous solar and wind energy potential and the government needs to work on a long-term plan to tap into this. This could bring huge investments, worth billions of dollars.

However, this is not just the government’s responsibility, as private institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) must also gear up and help communities that live far from the national grid. World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan), a global conservation organization, provided solar panels to rural communities of Sindh and Punjab and to the fisher folks in coastal towns, so that they can reduce their consumption of fuel wood for energy.

The Earth is a shared planet and we should join forces to protect it by focusing on renewable energy which in fact is the future. Greater investments in the renewable energy sector mean thousands of green jobs. Sustainability is the best policy and needs to be promoted in our country. The future of the green revolution is near. However, in order to achieve this, we should reduce our emissions from industries, transport and buildings and make a real contribution to tackle climate change.

Tough decisions are required to cap our emissions, as we can certainly expect to face opposition from the traditional energy sector (coal fired and rental power plants). There is no other way. The government needs to look at the broader picture and do what is necessary.

The writer is a Communications Officer at WWF Pakistan, and a freelance contributor.

smabubakar@wwf.org.pk

@SyedMAbubakar