Around 128,000 people die due to climate change every year in Pakistan, an official of the ministry of climate change informed a Senate panel recently. Officials also made some other disturbing disclosures at a meeting with members of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights. Some of these are that average lifespan in the country could be reduced by two to five years because of environmental pollution; 43 per cent of the pollution is being caused by the imported low-grade oil used by the transport and energy sectors; and Pakistan cannot use environmentally-friendly fuel till 2021; that the country’s last oil sector policy came, in 1997, 22 years ago. Since then, much technological advancement has taken place. Furthermore, climate change is also affecting children’s immune system. The committee, headed by Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, took up the issue of climate change after the recent smog in Lahore. The panel invited the ministry of climate change, Punjab government representatives, the ministry of petroleum, Ogra, and representatives of oil refineries to the meeting.
The panel was informed that the five oil refineries in the country are still primitive and our oil has high magnesium and sulphur contents. This is harmful to health. In Pakistan, Euro-2 standard is applied while the world has gone to Euro-6 technology. Experts say going to Euro-4 or Euro-5 will be counter-productive if vehicles are not upgraded with regular inspections. Tail-end emissions and fuel quality need to be considered simultaneously.
Considering all this in the backdrop of the fact that Pakistan is the fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, the sluggish approach by the authorities points to a grave failure on their part. We should not uncritically get carried away by all that writers on climate change say. One should sift chaff from the grain. However, science is not an alternative fact. It cannot be denied that ice melts when exposed to heat.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2020.