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What is Pakistanʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

In brief

This is a summary of the most important findings of our analysis. Get a brief overview over the most important figures and entry points into the various parts of the in depth analysis.

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Ambition gap

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Pakistanʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−100 %0 %100 %200 %20002020204020601234
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
Legend
  1. 1
    1.5°C emissions level
    −41 %
  2. 2
    NDC (conditional)
    +206 %
  3. 3
    Ambition gap
    −246 %
  4. 4
    Reference year
    2015
Key messages

Pakistan’s 2016 NDC targets conditional emissions reductions of 20% below business as usual levels including land use, and use change, and forestry (LULUCF).2 In absolute terms, this is an increase from 431 MtCO2e in 2015 to 1365 MtCO2e in 2030, both values including LULUCF (a 217% increase).41 When excluding LULUCF, Pakistan’s 2030 target translates to between 1259-1341 MtCO2e/yr, or an increase of 206-225% above 2015 levels.

1 Mir, K. A., Park, C., Purohit, P. & Kim, S. Comparative analysis of greenhouse gas emission inventory for Pakistan: Part I energy and industrial processes and product use. Adv. Clim. Chang. Res. 11, 40–51 (2020).

2 The Government of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Intended Nationaly Determined Contribution (PAK-INDC). (2015).

3 Zahid, M. & Abedullah Anjum. Pakistan’s options for climate finance. The News International (2020).

4 Isaad, H. Opinion: Is Pakistan really phasing out coal? The Third Pole (2021).

5 Nicholas, S. Pakistan Risks Locking in Long-Term Overcapacity and Expensive Power. (2020).

6 The Government of Pakistan & UNDP. National Action Plan. Sustainable Energy for All. (2019).

7 Mir, K. A., Purohit, P. & Mehmood, S. Sectoral assessment of greenhouse gas emissions in Pakistan. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 24, (2017).

8 Ijaz, M. & Goheer, M. A. Emission profile of Pakistan’s agriculture: past trends and future projections. Environ. Dev. Sustain. 23, 1668–1687 (2021).

9 Chaudhry, Q. U. Z. Climate Change Profile of Pakistan. (2017).

10 Shaikh, N. A. Agriculture sector: A declining performance. Pakistan and Gulf Economist (2019).

11 Khan, M. A. et al. Economic effects of climate change-induced loss of agricultural production by 2050: A case study of Pakistan. Sustain. 12, 1–17 (2020).

12 IRENA. Energy Profile – Pakistan. (2017).

13 Bhutto, A. W., Bazmi, A. A. & Zahedi, G. Greener energy: Issues and challenges for Pakistan – Biomass energy prospective. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews vol. 15 (2011).

14 NERPA. State of Industry Report 2020. (2020).

15 The Government of Pakistan. Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy 2019. (2019).

16 The Government of Pakistan. Pakistan 2025 – One Nation One Vision. (2017).

17 The Government of Pakistan. Barrier Analysis and Enabling Framework for Climate Change Mitigation Technologies. (2016).

18 Ministry of Climate Change. National Electric Vehicle Policy. (2019).

19 Euro-V standards for fuels approved. The News International (2020).

20 Ministry of Climate Change. Ten Billion Trees Tsunami Programme – Phase-I Up-scaling of Green Pakistan Programme (Revised). (2019).

21 Hutfilter, U. F. et al. Decarbonising South and South East Asia – Country Profile – Pakistan. Clim. Anal. (2019).

22 Rahut, D. B., Ali, A., Mottaleb, K. A. & Aryal, J. P. Wealth, education and cooking-fuel choices among rural households in Pakistan. Energy Strateg. Rev. 24, 236–243 (2019).

23 Farand, C. Pakistan explores debt-for-nature scheme to accelerate its 10 billion tree tsunami. Climate Home News (2021).

24 Lin, B. & Raza, M. Y. Analysis of energy related CO2 emissions in Pakistan. J. Clean. Prod. 219, 981–993 (2019).

25 Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives. CPEC – Energy Priority Projects. (2021).

26 Majid, A. How cleantech can help power Pakistan’s green revolution. World Economic Fourm (2019).

27 Mir, K. A., Park, C., Purohit, P. & Kim, S. Comparative analysis of greenhouse gas emission inventory for Pakistan: Part II agriculture, forestry and other land use and waste. Adv. Clim. Chang. Res. 12, 132–144 (2021).

28 Ahmed, S. Should Pakistan be investing in carbon capture? – Part 1. The Express Tribune (2020).

29 Malik, S., Qasim, M. & Saeed, H. Green Finance in Pakistan: Barriers and Solutions. (2018).

30 Khan, M. B. Alternative energy policy 2019 at a glance. The Nation (2020).

31 Qasim, M. Pakistan leapfrogging to a green energy future. East Asia Forum (2020).

32 PACRA. Power Generation – An Overview. (2021).

33 Current values for renewable energy’s share in the power mix are taken from Table 7 of NERPA’s 2020 State of Industry report.

34 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for countries, they underestimate the feasible space for developed countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

35 In analysed global-least cost pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS). These pathways tend to attribute technological CDR regardless of countries potential. Thus, the level of sinks indicated in the analysed are rather a lower estimate of what the country would need to balance by 2050.

36 This assumes that emissions intensities of Pakistan’s five main sectors (energy, agriculture, industrial processes, waste, and LULUCF) remain essentially unchanged from the levels seen during 1994-2008.

37 Emissions intensity is derived from data taken from the PRIMAP database (emissions) and World Bank (GDP). Agriculture’s share in GDP is taken from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

38 See Table 2 in NERPA’s 2020 State of the Industry report.

39 It is important to note that the Pakistani Government’s 7% annual GDP growth objective, which informs its emissions projection, is taken to commence from 2015. Although the years 2016-2018 saw higher than average GDP rates (~ 5.6%) this was followed by a 1% growth rate in 2019. In any case, 7% has, so far, not been achieved.

40 Note that the absolute values have been converted from SAR, as they appear in the NDC, to AR4.

41 Pakistan’s baseline projections for 2030 emissions, as stated in their NDC, assumes an emissions growth rate of about 9% p.a. This would be a significant increase from the average annual rate of around 3% during years 2000 to 2015. Furthermore, as the projected emissions growth is larger than the government’s forecast GDP growth rate of 7% p.a., emissions intensity would grow at a compound annual rate of 2.9% between 2015 and 2030, in contrast to the 1% average annual decrease seen between 2000 and 2015.

42 Previous studies have shown that with planned and announced coal capacity, Pakistan’s emissions due to coal fired power plants would likely peak in 2055 and phase out in 2061. This being far above what was shown to be needed at a regional level: coal phase out from power by 2040 in South and South East Asia to be compatible with the Paris agreement.

International support will be needed to help the country implement a 1.5°C compatible domestic emissions pathway which requires a reduction of 30-48% below 2015 levels by 2030 (or 216-289 MtCO2e/yr in 2030), while meeting the country’s growing energy demand.

Pakistan’s NDC target is conditional on international climate funding of 40 billion USD. However, the flow of climate finance to the country since the announcement of its NDC has been much lower than expected.3

1.5°C compatible pathways show that Pakistan could reach CO2 emissions reductions of around 90-97% below 2015 levels in 2050 while GHG emissions could decrease by 66-71% in 2050 below 2015 levels, reaching a level of 121-152 MtCO2e/yr excluding LULUCF by 2050.34

Remaining emissions, mostly coming from agriculture and waste would then be balanced through the deployment of carbon dioxide removal approaches, either from the land sector or technological options such as biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Decarbonising its economy through the uptake of renewables is the biggest opportunity for the country to reduce its reliance on fossil imports and associated costs.

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Key messages

Despite Prime Minister Khan’s recently announced moratorium on new coal, the government’s current plans to expand electricity generation capacity rely heavily on coal-fired power plants, placing the country on a path that risks stranded assets, increases energy dependency and would likely lock in a carbon intensive pathway.4,5

In contrast, 1.5°C compatible pathways would require renewable energy’s share in power generation to increase from its current level of 32% to at least 79% in 2030 and at least 95% in 2050.33 This would mainly come from wind, solar, bagasse, and hydroelectricity.

Along with the increase in renewables, coal, which has historically played a minor role in Pakistan’s power mix, will need to be phased out almost immediately. Likewise, gas would need to exit the power mix between 2037 and 2046. A fully decarbonised power sector could be realised between 2035 and 2040.43

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Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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Current targets
Required targets
2025
  1. 2025 25 % Renewable share
2030
  1. 2030 30 % Renewable share
  1. 2030 78 to 85% Renewable share
2036
  1. 2036-2038 Zero emissions power
2050
  1. 2050 95 to 100% Renewable share

Footnotes