Pakistan sums up carbon market potential

Developing countries can capitalise on the industrialised world's thirst for carbon cutting projects, but need to act fast if they are not to miss the window of opportunity.

This was the view of former Pakistani Environment Minister Malik Amin Aslam when he spoke at a corporate CO2 Summit in London on Friday.

The event, organised by the CWC group, brought together key thinkers from business, politics and NGOs from around the world to discuss the commercial potential of a low carbon future.

Mr Aslam outlined his country’s experiences with the Kyoto Protocol and the potential to cash in on sustainable development through the Clean Development Mechanism.

He charted some of the pitfalls – and success stories – Pakistan had faced and encouraged other countries to take action before the post-Kyoto uncertainty of 2012.

One of the main problems faced by politicians had been convincing civil servants of the value of engaging in the CDM process, said Mr Aslam.

Because there was no immediate benefit for government, and no cash incentive, it had been hard motivating the bureaucrats.

This had changed when the first private sector project, a fertiliser plant, brought investment into Pakistan upwards of 10bn rupees – more than the Environment Ministry’s annual budget.

The country has spent time mapping out resources which could be tapped by CDM projects and this has highlighted an excellent wind regime, huge potential for solar and optimal geological conditions for carbon capture and storage.

There is also plenty of opportunity for micro-hydro schemes, said Mr Aslam, in a steep country which cascades down from the Himalayas to sea level in around 1,000km.

Forestry could be the biggest winner for Pakistan, however. The country has one of the highest rates of deforestation and one of the lowest levels of tree coverage.

If plating trees meant gaining credits under the CDM, said Mr Aslam, it would making living forests a source of income in their own right, rather than an untapped resource waiting to be felled for fuel and timber.

His parting message to other developing countries, however, was act now before the market is sewn up.

He pointed to a map pinpointing existing CDM projects, highlighting the fact that the vast majority were in China, India and Mexico – states with established business links with their industrialised counterparts and which had recognised the potential benefits of getting on board early.

His advice was simple – act now, before the first movers become the only movers.

Sam Bond

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