Nuclear Energy Summit 2024: Pakistan’s Participation and Key Takeaways

In an era marked by the escalating energy crisis, rampant fossil fuel consumption, and the existential threat of climate change, the need for collective action has never been more urgent. The intertwined nature of these crises demands a holistic approach, one that transcends political differences and fosters global collaboration. From investing in renewable energy to implementing sustainable policies, it is imperative that nations work together to mitigate the looming threats to our planet’s future. To have cooperation at state level, the world leaders and heads of states gathered at the world’s first global Nuclear Energy Summit on 21st March, 2024 in Brussels. The event was the first of its kind to gather world governments to discuss common issues and highlight the role of nuclear energy in reducing use of fossil fuels, improve energy security and boost economic development. The summit was organized by collaborative efforts of Belgium and the IAEA and co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Dr. Rafael Mariano Grossi. More than 30 countries along with European Union participated in this summit, including the United States, China and Pakistan. Nuclear energy has got significant attention of world leaders to address issues of climate change and energy security. In December 2023 at UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, nuclear energy was included in the Global Stocktake. It was agreed in the conference to accelerate deployment of nuclear energy and other low carbon energy sources and the Nuclear Summit was the first follow-up event of COP28.

The participating countries have got opportunity to share their vision and national plan to use nuclear energy as an effective source of energy to reach net zero and follow the path of sustainable development. As rightly highlighted by DG IAEA, “Nuclear energy is an extraordinary asset whose full potential we need to untap if we are to keep climate change in check. The narrative that pits nuclear against wind and solar is wrong. It is time for the truth to get through, for leaders to pull the necessary levers and help make the global climate goals achievable.”

During the summit, the participating states stressed the importance of using nuclear energy to achieve energy security, zero carbon emissions and to address climate change. The AtomsforNetZero initiative was launched during the summit which called for support of member states to utilize nuclear energy to reach net zero goal. The initiative will provide technical support, expertise and scientific evidence to various stakeholders including Member States, Industries, Financial Institutions and International organizations regarding the potential of nuclear energy to decarbonize electricity production. Hence, nuclear energy summit was a holistic effort to convene all stakeholders to discuss the issues of nuclear energy through panel discussions, and scientific committees to create a level playing field for funding and financing nuclear power projects. Issues of financing nuclear projects through public private partnerships, cooperation and collaboration with IAEA, importance of education and research to prepare nuclear force were discussed during the summit.

The summit emphasized on the importance of nuclear energy, as other sources of energy are depleting and are not environmental friendly, leading to climate change as they increase carbon emission. World is facing severe climate change and the temperature has already risen by 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times.If greenhouse gas emissions continue, there is a high risk of global warming between 1.5 and 3 degrees Celsius by mid-century and between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

The world grapples with climate crisis and energy security concerns have grown exponentially as could be seen through War in Ukraine. Nuclear energy serves as a more appropriate and sustainable option. The role of nuclear energy is increasingly recognized as a suitable alternative to fossil fuels as it can effectively play a role and accelerate transition to net zero being a reliable backbone of clean, affordable and resilient energy option. Burning fossil fuel leads to the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, which harms the environment. And therefore Nuclear energy is considered one of the safest, cleanest, and most environmental friendly source emitting no greenhouse gas.

Pakistan Participation in Nuclear Summit and Key takeaways:

Pakistan is a developing country that is facing energy shortages and is most vulnerable to climate crisis. It has been collaborating with IAEA to work on peaceful use of nuclear energy and has made significant progress to utilize nuclear energy in health, agriculture and energy sectors. However, the overall energy demand of Pakistan and its reliance on fossil fuels makes it an important stakeholder in Global nuclear discourse as it aims to shift towards the clean energy options to contribute to Net Zero target and sustainable development. In Pakistan, oil, and natural gas are the main source of energy along with some operational hydro-power plants. Along with that, Pakistan also use renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. Compared to wind and solar energy, nuclear energy is more cost-effective in terms of the amount of energy produced per dollar invested. And the energy generated through Nuclear Power Plant is more environment friendly and cost effective than other sources of energy.  According to Pakistan Economic Survey 2021-2022, from July to March 2021 of the fiscal year, the total capacity of nuclear power plants was 2,530 MW, producing 7,076 million units of electricity. The following year, from July to March 2022 of the fiscal year, there was a 39% increase in capacity to 3,530 MW, resulting in the generation of 12,885 million units of electricity for the national grid. This resulted in increased contribution of nuclear energy to electricity generation  from 6.68% during the same period in 2023 to 8.8% .Pakistan, although is contributing less than 1% to global-warming ,it ranks as the eighth most vulnerable nation to climate change. To address climate challenge, Pakistan has shown increasing desire to move towards nuclear energy. Despite operating six nuclear power plants, Pakistan faces an electricity shortfall due to its industrial and consumer demands. Reliance on fossil fuels not only worsens climate issues but also strains Pakistan’s already fragile economy. International support and financing are essential for Pakistan to expand its nuclear energy capacity, providing a cost-effective and sustainable solution to its energy needs

Pakistan’s foreign minister Ishaq Dar represented Pakistan in the Nuclear Energy Summit and met with DG IAEA to discuss issues of mutual concern. He highlighted that nuclear energy is important for Pakistan to meet energy needs and achieve zero emissions goals.

Nuclear Energy Projects require strong financial support  therefore during his remarks with DG IAEA on the sidelines of the Nuclear Energy Summit, FM of Pakistan, Ishaq Dar highlighted that the International Financial Institutions and banks should support and finance nuclear energy projects in developing countries that will enable them to meet their energy needs and achieve zero emission goals. Pakistan being the founder member attaches great importance to the IAEA work. FM also appreciated IAEA role in enhancing the discourse on peaceful use of nuclear technology. Pakistan’s participation in the summit highlight its desire to enhance its share of nuclear energy in the overall global energy mix as nuclear energy can effectively be used to combat climate crisis. Pakistan is making significant contribution in the technical cooperation work of UN nuclear watchdog and will continue to support such efforts. There is more need to sensitize the world about nuclear energy as a clean source of energy according to FM.

During the meeting DG IAEA appreciated Pakistan’s efforts and collaboration with IAEA as it is sharing experience and expertise with developing countries of Asia. He also agreed on need of financing nuclear projects in developing countries as an important issue that needs to be addressed and showed his willingness to work with international financial institutions to resolve this issue. Last year, DG IAEA also visited Pakistan nuclear facilities and witnessed Pakistan’s progress in peaceful application of nuclear technology.

In a nutshell, Nuclear Energy Summit highlight the growing awareness in governments of the world to address common issues of climate change and energy crisis through mutual collaborative efforts. Pakistan’s participation in the summit showcase its resolve to make transition to nuclear energy as effective replacement of fossil fuels but that will require International support to develop infrastructure required for that transition. The summit calls for global investment in the nuclear energy domain to make this a successful venture as common problems require common solutions. Moreover, the problem can only be addressed if the points highlighted during nuclear energy summit will be implemented through collaborative efforts of all governments.

Authors: Tayyaba Khurshid is Associate Research Officer at Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK and MPhil Scholar of International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

 Hira Bashir: Hira Bashir is Associate Research Officer at Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK and MPhil Scholar of Muslim Youth University, Islamabad.

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