Climate impact: Net zero CO₂ policy need of the hourBreaking

April 16, 2024

Framing and properly implementing a net zero CO₂ policy is the need of the hour to achieve a low carbon sustainable future, a proper regulatory mechanism, and long-term financial incentives for Pakistan. To cut the CO₂ levels, the role of different sectors, especially the industrial and forestry sectors, is crucial at the operational, consumption, and regeneration levels, said Chief Conservator Forests, Northern Forests Region Muhammad Yousaf Khan while talking to WealthPK. "Forests cannot play their role in carbon disintegration in isolation, and a lot of other factors need to be checked. For example, if trees are not cut, replaced or regrow in an appropriate manner, their carbon storage ability suffers. If a plant is young, it stores more carbon, and releases more oxygen. But as it grows old, its storage almost becomes full and it becomes almost useless, fit to be converted to another item like furniture. So, replantation within a specific period is necessary to keep the balance," he said. "No doubt, an increase in forest cover is important to minimise climate impact, but there is a specific mechanism to achieve benefits through it. Otherwise, the outcomes will not serve the purpose to address the Green House Gas (GHG) effect.

Rotten trees create carbon because rotting itself is a termination process that releases carbon and other materials/gases to some extent. "If the trees in their extremely mature age are cut down and the seasoned timber is used for construction or another useful purpose, except burning, we can say that we kept the carbon stored. Export of timber also means that we transfer our carbon to another destination. But, if we import carbon, besides trade, it means we have increased our already existing carbon level. So, it is necessary to discourage wood import." The chief conservator of forests further said a comprehensive policy was necessary to address all these shortly described issues. Only then will long-term environmental sustainability and resilience be achieved. Increased forest cover will not only help mitigate climate impact but also open a window for new value chains, jobs, trade and business opportunities. It is also necessary that relevant experts must be appointed to frame policies because they better understand the needs of the related sector. Discussing with WealthPK the framing of net zero policy in the industrial sector background, Kashif Noor Khawaja, an environment specialist at the World Bank, said, "Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of GHG produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

Achieving net zero emissions entails reducing GHG emissions as much as possible and offsetting any remaining emissions by removing an equivalent amount of GHG from the atmosphere. Although total CO₂ elimination is impossible, it is entirely challenging and needs global efforts and large-scale investment, he added. Talking to WealthPK about the net zero CO₂, Mussawir Qureshi, Environmental Specialist at Alfanar Projects, Neom, Saudia Arabia, said, "In the energy sector, a significant challenge lies not only in direct emissions generated by companies but also in their indirect emissions. Here, "directly" means emissions through operations, and "indirectly" means emissions through their produce. "To reach net zero CO₂, first of all, the industries must calculate their emissions directly or indirectly. For instance, a car manufacturing unit will release carbon during processing, and after that, the manufactured car will release emissions itself. The sum total of both manufacturing and product emissions' release will lead toward the solution of cutting it down or achieving net zero."

Musawwir, a former environmental health and safety specialist from the Sindh Local Government Solid Waste Management Department, Karachi, said direct emissions from an oil company might not be substantial as compared to the other industrial units, but indirect emissions stemming from consuming their products were enormous. Primarily, it is due to the combustion of fossil fuels that release significant amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. To address both direct and indirect emissions, it is necessary to mitigate the environmental impact of industrial and energy sectors. It can be done by adopting specific mechanisms – investing in green caps, purchasing carbon credits, transitioning to renewable energy, using energy-efficient equipment, and forestation.

Credit: Independent News Pakistan