ISLAMABAD-In its Circularity Gap Report 2023, the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative (CGRI) has urged Pakistan to focus on food safety, energy efficiency, and austerity to improve its economy. The report by the global think-tank has categorised the countries of the world into Build, Grow and Shift countries. Build countries are those which are low-income, low on Human Development Index (HDI), and struggle to meet the basic needs of health and education. Pakistan falls in the Build category.
Grow countries are rapidly industrialising middle-income countries with a growing middle-class, and they are manufacturing hubs and big agricultural producers. This category includes countries like China and India. Shift countries are rich countries which have high incomes, high levels of human development and consume most of the materials extracted from the earth like fossil fuels. This category includes countries of the Global North.
The report states that if the current levels of material consumption are not altered, the planetary boundaries of freshwater consumption, stratospheric ozone depletion, and atmospheric aerosol loading may overshoot sometime in the future. Ocean acidification is already close to overshooting since one-quarter of carbon emissions are absorbed by the oceans, leading to a loss of marine life. As for bio-diversity loss, climate change, land system change, and chemical pollution, they have already overshot their limits and are threatening the basic balance of essential systems of the planet Earth.
The report has outlined four systems which need to be reformulated and revised to reverse the overshooting processes of essential planetary boundaries. They include the 1) Global Food System, 2) Built Environment, 3) Manufactured Goods and Consumables, and 4) Mobility and Transport. According to the report, in the Food System, Pakistan needs to focus on putting healthier food on the table for its people. The average need of a healthy diet is 2600 calories per day. Pakistan needs to shift from meat, fish and dairy to fruits, vegetables, nuts and cereals. Similarly, Pakistan needs to prioritise the production of local, seasonal and organic food in homes and rooftops to reduce the costs of fertilisers, processing and transportation, in addition to strictly avoiding any food waste.
In the Built Environment, which is related to infrastructure development, Pakistan needs to be as energy efficient as possible. It needs to make use of the ‘Passivhaus’ approach, which is considered as gold-standard in energy efficiency. It refers to a rigorous energy-efficient design standard which maintains an almost constant temperature in the building throughout the year. Also, Pakistan needs to reuse waste in the development of infrastructure with special emphasis on prioritising the use of circular materials to reduce reliance on cement and stee. In Manufactured Goods and Consumables, the people of Pakistan are advised in the report to buy only those things which they need absolutely and also to quit fast fashion in favour of sustainable textiles. As for mobility, the people of Pakistan need to adopt a car-free lifestyle and switch to walking or cycling for commute. That will only be possible if investments are made in a state-of-the-art public transport system that reduces the need to buy cars.
And also, urban designs should be developed in such a manner that there are credible walking and cycling tracks for people so that they feel comfortable in giving up their cars. The trade-off between giving up cars for walking or cycling should be a profitable one for the people so that it is adopted readily. The report has stressed the need to adopt a circular economy because the trends of current material consumption and extraction from the planet Earth are not sustainable. The results of material and industrial overstretch are already visible in the form of climate change, pollution and loss of natural habitats. The report states that the rising levels of material extraction have reduced the levels of global circularity from 9.1% in 2018 to 7.2% in 2023. Therefore, it said, any country that adopts sustainable ways of living and development will contribute towards the continuation of human civilisation into the future.