Revolutionizing climate policy: Nuclear ascendance begins

by Hira Bashir
LEADERS and environmentalists have been meeting at the Conference of the Parties for the past 28 years to address strategies to combat global warming. They have primarily focused on renewable energy, such as solar and wind, with the hope of reducing the usage of fossil fuels. Despite these efforts, the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy supply has remained roughly constant at 80%. However, the narrative is changing. After 28 years in the wilderness, nuclear power is finally having its moment at the world’s most important gathering on climate change. Nuclear power has surged to the top of world headlines at COP28 in Dubai, where leaders from 22 countries on four continents came together on 2 December to announce a declaration to advance a global aspirational goal of tripling global nuclear energy capacity by 2050 to meet climate goals and energy needs. This declaration is not legally binding but recognizes the pivotal role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and keeping the 1.5-degree Celsius temperature goal attainable. In the wake of COP28, the climate policy landscape has undergone a seismic shift. The recognition of nuclear energy as a key player in the quest for a sustainable future marks a significant departure from traditional climate strategies. This shift is not just a technical adjustment; it’s a paradigm shift in how we approach our environmental challenges. For decades, the climate change narrative has been predominantly focused on renewable sources like solar and wind. These sources, while indispensable, have their limitations, particularly in scalability and consistency. The global energy demand, driven by a burgeoning world population and industrial growth, has outpaced the development of these renewable sources. This imbalance has left a gap – a gap that nuclear energy is uniquely positioned to fill. Nuclear energy, with its ability to provide large-scale, continuous, and low-carbon energy, emerges as a critical component of a diversified energy strategy. It’s a solution that aligns with the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the growing global energy demand. This new stance on nuclear energy is particularly relevant for countries like Pakistan. With a rapidly growing population and escalating energy needs, Pakistan stands at a crossroads. The country’s energy policy decisions will not only shape its economic future but also its environmental footprint. Pakistan’s energy crisis is a complex puzzle of demand and supply. The country’s reliance on fossil fuels has not only strained its finances but also contributed to environmental degradation. The move towards nuclear energy, as endorsed by COP28, offers a promising alternative. Nuclear energy could provide a reliable and consistent power supply, crucial for industrial growth and economic stability. The economic implications of this shift are profound. Nuclear power plants, though capital intensive, are cost-effective in the long run due to their low operational costs and long lifespans. For Pakistan, this means an opportunity to stabilize its energy costs, a crucial factor in its economic planning. Moreover, nuclear energy can play a pivotal role in Pakistan’s commitment to global climate goals. By adopting nuclear energy, Pakistan can significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the global effort to mitigate climate change. The inclusion of nuclear energy in the climate dialogue is a reflection of the evolving understanding of what it takes to create a sustainable future. It’s a recognition that the path to a low-carbon future is not a single track but a multi-laned highway with each lane representing a different but complementary approach. In conclusion, the shift towards nuclear energy in global climate policy, as highlighted at COP28, is more than a policy change; it’s a signal of a new era in our approach to climate change. For countries like Pakistan, it represents an opportunity to redefine their energy landscape, aligning economic growth with environmental sustainability. The road ahead is not without its challenges, but it is a road that leads to a more stable, sustainable and prosperous future. —The writer is an Associate Research officer t at CISS AJK working on nuclear politics.

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir