Global community vowed via the Paris Accord to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrialization levels while recognizing the danger of climate change including Pakistan. The adaptive measures taken in this regard include a mitigation and adaptation measures to shift away from fossil fuels based energy mixes and towards the use of renewable sources of energy. Pakistan’s push towards coal-based power generation could not have been more off the mark. Two power generation units at a coal-based plant in Sahiwal became operational, reportedly adding 666-megawatts to the national grid against the vows taken by the country.


Although, Sahiwal plant runs on imported coal but to utilize indigenous coal reserves as well, particularly in Sindh’s Thar desert is under consideration.

Government has claimed that use of the latest technology will minimize emission of harmful gases from these plants. Though, environmental protection groups are not particularly optimistic, as the Worldwide Fund for Nature noted in a statement following the Paris Accord last year that even the most advanced technology could not be relied upon to significantly lower the degrading effects of coal-based power generation.

Pakistan’s energy-related carbon emissions account for only 0.7 tons as compared to an average of 25 tons for the US, Australia, and Canada; 11 tons for European Union (EU) countries, and 2.1 tons for developing countries. Government’s argument is that Pakistan’s rather low carbon footprint in comparative terms and its desperate need for sustainable economic growth leading to job creation for a burgeoning youth population make its push for coal-based generation unproblematic.




However, the problem of climate change cannot be reduced by country-level data. Environmentalists have warned us that now Pakistan is among countries with high vulnerability to adverse climate change impacts and this will hurt population groups with low incomes and assets, leading to little or no resilience to cope with financial and economic losses.

Media reports on the Sahiwal coal plant suggest that Punjab’s Environment Protection Department has yet to issue a Confirmation of Compliance Report stating that around 20 health and environment concerns pointed out to the Punjab Power Development Board, the provincial authority concerned, has been addressed. The delay in addressing these concerns is criminal negligence on the part of the Board with the power plant already entering the operational stage. Similar concerns figure in the Thar coal project as well. Finally, there is further the issue of land acquisition for these plants. The government must ensure that acquisition is done with full consent of communities that stand to be displaced and that these communities are compensated in an adequate and timely manner.