Exploding case of opportunity
Looking around us we see our favorite restaurants opening up after months and we are still not able to sit there and dine, our most cherished communities finally getting back together after a long halt and our friendships and relationships which turned into a mere digital interaction are somewhat getting back to how it was before but still with the caution of mask and social distancing. Emergence of covid19 has changed our lives, for better or for worse.
As they say, every picture has two sides, so does this pandemic we are facing globally.Covid19 has proved to give the much needed break to our environment. Environmentalists and optimists painted a beautiful picture of “earth taking a rest” amidst all the uncertainty. The lockdowns helped environment to recover, skies became clear and rainbows can be spotted more often, but are all these positive fashions of our surroundings here to stay when we get back to “normal”? Probably not if we “go back to normal” instead of designing “a new normal”.
We live in a capitalist society where profit is more important than human lives, covid19 proved this. Unfortunately, when large firms fired the employees and the raw material necessary to produce hazmat suits were being sold triple the prices and of course how can we forget the rate spike of masks. Another factor of today’s economic system focuses on short term economic goals and ignores the long term effects it will have on our lives. For a country like Pakistan this pandemic has provided the world with a new front to focus on and many possibilities to gain benefit from.
According to the recent report of global climate risk index by German watch, Pakistan is the number 5th country which is most prone to climate change disasters, smog, including heat waves, annual floods, changing rain patterns and melting glaciers. Not only environment challenges are on its way for Pakistan, economy is also very fragile to deal with any such incidents and emergence of covid19 and lockdown has made it worse. Increased unemployment is the growing concern for the leadership. Can climate change initiatives help?
This scenario of Covid19 has provided a developing economy like Pakistan to shift its focus on building a new “green future”. PM Imran Khan is keen enough to talk about climate change and they have the medal to make the first climate policy of the country. Million tree initiatives by the PTI government in the province of KPK gathered a lot of international appreciation. PTI has continued its million tree tsunami policy and tweaked it a bit into planting a billion trees country wide. This tree plantation initiative provided several jobs to the daily wagers who were unemployed amid covid19 lockdown.
Another commendable step taken in the right direction was announcing 15 national parks around the country. This step will ensure the protection of wildlife and livelihoods of many people. It will also provide jobs to the Pakistani youth making it a win-win situation for all. But the questions is, are these initiatives enough to protect environment and makes profit from this opportunity? Probably not.
The recent study published by Oxford University titled “Build Back Better” highlights the fact that green projects create more work, gives more long term cost savings and more short term returns. It focuses on creating more labor intensive jobs instead of jobs that needs high level of training and skill set. For country like Pakistan which is suffering from energy shortage for a very long period of time.
During summer season the rates of electricity sky rockets and load shedding is a common phenomenon but exhausting nonetheless. Green technology can help. Solar, water and wind power stations are the solutions to more than one problems faced by the country.
Globally, job creation by renewable energy sector has increased from almost 10 million to a whopping 11 millions. It is high time Pakistan explores this territory. Renewable energy sector should be subsidized and the tax on green technology should be reduced so that maximum benefit can be taken from this opportunity. This step will also give a little relief to the struggling masses who pay more electricity bills than they use the energy as the alternate energy production much more affordable than fossil energy and not to forget much more sustainable for the environment. If taken timely action and designing a workable policy, this distressful period of recovery from a global pandemic can prove to be a fruitful phase for the economy and climate.
Modern cities are not enough to cope with growing population and its increasing needs. Developing green infrastructure in urban as well as rural areas is equally necessary and it also provides huge short term and long term economic gains. During the pandemic crisis educational institutes faced new challenges and explored new solutions, online teaching being one of it. Students of rural areas faced different issues than their urban fellows, limited access to broadband being the major one. Providing high speed broadband to the far flung areas of the country is the solution which can create many new jobs for unemployed youth. Providing green technology for agriculture sector is another avenue which can prove to be economically and environmentally beneficial. Producing tractors with low or zero carbon emission, electric buses from rural to urban areas and encouraging farmers to produce crops without exploiting the limited resources like water and land can go a long way to promote an eco-friendly agriculture economy.
Covid19 has proved to be a challenge which most the world failed to tackle, but this virus is just a warning according to various ecologists. The real threat of climate change is looming over the heads of global leadership. This pandemic has given an opportunity to the world to stir the economic and social policies in an environment friendly direction. Countries can no longer afford to exploit natural resources at the cost of short term economic profits.