Economic Prosperity through Decarbonization: Pakistan’s Road to Net-Zero

In the face of the intensifying global climate crisis, cities have come to the forefront as the primary hubs of energy use and carbon emissions. They are home to over half of the global population and contribute to 80% of the world’s GDP. Alarmingly, they are responsible for two-thirds of global energy consumption and over 70% of annual global carbon emissions.

The rapid urbanization anticipated in the coming decades, with more than 70% of the world’s population expected to reside in cities by 2050, underscores the urgent need for sustainable urban energy systems. The challenge is particularly pertinent for Pakistan, a rapidly urbanizing country grappling with the dual challenges of energy security and climate change.

Digitalization is playing a pivotal role in sustainable energy transitions. The advent of big data and digital technologies has enabled real-time collection and analysis of data, leading to more efficient management of city services. In Pakistan, the adoption of these technologies could significantly reduce energy consumption, improve grid stability, and enhance the quality of life for its citizens.

Smart cities represent a promising solution to this conundrum. Leveraging big data and digital technologies, these next-generation energy systems can manage city services more efficiently, improving grid stability and quality of life. They offer new synergies to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, and enhance resilience.

However, the transition to net-zero emissions is not without its challenges. It calls for an overhaul of our production, consumption, and mobility patterns, and a fundamental transformation of nearly all major industries. Innovations such as carbon capture and alternative proteins are emerging as game changers in achieving net zero.

In Pakistan, the transition to a net-zero future must be inclusive, ensuring that low-income groups also benefit from the solar revolution. Net-metering, which allows consumers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid, is an important building block for our net-zero future.

As we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, CO2 rates are rebounding rapidly. The increase in global energy-related CO2 in 2021 is expected to be the second-largest in recorded history. This makes the decarbonisation of cities a global priority and of special significance to achieving national commitments and objectives.

Local governments are in a unique position to deliver on the net-zero emissions agenda. National governments can help cities overcome barriers to progress and accelerate clean energy transitions using digitalisation. In Pakistan, this means empowering local governments with the necessary resources and policy support to implement smart, sustainable urban energy systems.

However, achieving a net-zero future requires a fundamental transformation of nearly all major industries. It calls for an overhaul of the ways we produce, consume, and move, and necessitates strong political will, public support, and substantial investment.

Critically, the transition to net-zero emissions must be inclusive and equitable. It is essential to provide a level playing field to low-income groups so that they can benefit from the solar revolution. This involves promoting off-grid and mini-grid solutions, improving access to affordable clean energy technologies, and ensuring that the benefits of the energy transition are shared equitably.

The road to a net-zero future is long and fraught with challenges. But with the right policies, technologies, and collective will, we can transform our cities into resilient, low-carbon hubs of sustainability. The time for action is now. For Pakistan, and for the world, a net-zero future is not just a distant dream, but a pressing necessity.

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