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An educated, innovative and productive population will be more ready to adopt new, pollution-free methods and technologies in industry, transport and households, according to the study, published this month (May) in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Investing in human capital is the best defence against environmental degradation, the researchers say.
“We learnt from our findings that if people, employees and societies are more educated, they are more productive and have more potential to understand the importance of environmental quality and energy security and to follow environmental regulations”
They based their study on data relating to long- and short-term effects of human capital on carbon emissions reduction in Pakistan from 1971 to 2014.
“We learnt from our findings that if people, employees and societies are more educated, they are more productive and have more potential to understand the importance of environmental quality and energy security and to follow environmental regulations,” Yuhuan Zhao, lead author and associate professor at the School of Management and Economics, Beijing Institute of Technology, tells SciDev.Net.
Zhao suggests improving access to education, increasing the number of students enrolled in secondary education and investing in educational and vocational training centres. “This will require the government to develop a viable plan with respect to enhanced expenditure on the education sector for provision of more education facilities,” she says.
According to Pakistan’s Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the UN in 2016, the country’s annual carbon emissions stood at 405 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2015. But they are set to spike to 1,603 million by 2030, with 56 per cent of emissions linked to inefficient and fossil fuel-based energy.
Adil Najam, author of the 2017 Pakistan National Human Development report, says increasing emissions are mostly attributable to reckless energy-use behaviour and inefficient technologies in the transport, industry and household sectors.
“Producing efficient and innovative manpower through enhanced access to education in a country where millions of children don’t attend school is inevitable if Pakistan is to achieve sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty,” says Najam, who is dean at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University in the United States.
UNICEF representative in Pakistan, Aida Girma-Melaku, says one cannot expect to have efficient, skilled and innovative human capital in a country like Pakistan where seven out of 10 children are still out of school.“Improving human capital through enhanced access to education and stronger investment in children and adult education holds the potential to boost carbon emission reduction in a country where environmental degradation costs US$7 billion to the national exchequer annually,” she says.
According to Najam, “this study’s findings are important not only for Pakistan but also for other populous countries with low human development indices”.