Environmental challenges like consumption patterns in a consumer driven society, waste management, and climate change are all examples of the wicked problems Pakistan is facing in the 21st century. Problems for which no agreed upon solutions are identified can be broadly termed as “wicked problems”. These wicked problems have many causes; however, unsustainable pattern of production and consumption are key drivers of this crisis. It is difficult to target the linkages of the causal factors and hence makes it hard to identify the real problem and come up with solution to tackle it. Pursuing solutions is more of a political rather than a technical issue.

Green economy is one of the solutions to the challenge of sustainability. The term green economy is not new but gained momentum after the financial crisis of 2008, when many governments around the world needed to tackle economic recession while furthering climate protection goals. UNEP has described the green economy as one “that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”.

Historically, economic growth has tended to rely on the increased extraction of raw materials and increased waste generation. In essence, it is possible to combine the needs for the development of the country but at the same time noting that meeting the needs of the present generation should not compromise the ability of the future generations to meet their needs. Clean, environmentally friendly industries can play a part not only in meeting the sustainable development goals but also reduce the carbon footprint. Countries that make the investments necessary to create a low-environmental-impact society may gain a competitive advantage over those that continue to pursue business as usual

Transitioning to a greener economy is a complex and challenging process for a developing country like Pakistan. The question that arises is whether there is a tradeoff between protecting the environment and the economy and job creation? Environmental and economic objectives are often presented as conflicting goals. A common theme in political debates in recent years is that certain environmental regulations result in unacceptable job losses, the choice is presented as being between a robust economy on one hand and improved environmental quality on the other. A 2008 national analysis in United States argues that “contrary to conventional wisdom, environmental protection, economic growth and job creation are complementary.”

State sponsored financial investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency can help generate jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn is a win-win situation for the government, a well-designed response to current environmental and energy challenges can be a driver for future economic growth. Companies play a critical role in greening the economy. In order to achieve the transition, corporate practices and decisions must be aligned with broader social and environmental needs and priorities.

In Pakistan, economic incentives and disincentives are important. The government needs to develop a climate resilient green economy strategy which maps out in relation to industry, transport, energy sector, agriculture and to play around the idea of developing more green cities. At the heart of this strategy should be the climate resilient green economy finance facility, which should aim at pooling international sources of finance with national sources, to deliver to the projects that are a part of the green growth strategy. Hence, it is imperative that policies are directed towards environmental greening of the economy through economic tools like taxes and fees, pricing pollution promotes more efficient resource use and encourages innovation. Well-designed taxes or permit systems can also be net job creators.

Transitioning to a green economy will require significant public and private investment as well as major policy shifts at the national and international level. Strengthening the international environmental governance would be a bold step towards a global green economy. Viable and strong international agreements and commitments create a level of confidence and are the only effective way to deal with global environmental issues such as climate change.

In Pakistan, where poverty eradication, social challenges and economic growth are a major priority, the challenge is to take a systemic view and to integrate environmental, climate as well as social challenges. Without doing this we will not be able to succeed. The economic downturn urges the government towards a path which is much less damaging to the society, the environment as well as the financial system. It is now time to implement green economy stimulus packages to reinvigorate production and consumption, particularly in the short term.

The challenge of transitioning to a green economy is to maintain and extend the policy efforts to the grass root level through bold initiatives, long term plans and international cooperation. To progress towards a green economy, we need long-term targets. We need to invest in renewable energy in order to create the frameworks necessary and the prospects for all actors involved to invest and use the latest technology.

The common notion that environmental regulation harms the economy is a myth. While regulations may harm particular industries, and reduce international competitiveness in some instances, the benefits of environmental regulations consistently outweigh the costs. Further, well-designed regulations can actually have a net positive impact on economic growth and competitiveness, and foster job creation.

 

 The writer is a freelance consultant on environmental issues.

drmehr5@gmail.com