Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday chaired a meeting on climate change with federal and provincial authorities where an impressive agenda was set. The PM decided that the government should set up electric car plants for the first time in the country and ordered the authorities concerned to ensure conversion of 30 per cent of all cars running in the country into electric vehicles by 2030.

The latter initiative, to ensure that 30 per cent of all cars in the country were electric by 2030, is certainly an ambitious goal. As with all good intentioned policies, the plan to convert most cars into electric vehicles may not be very financially welcoming, especially with the low-spending and austerity-driven approach that this government has decided to adopt. It can be argued that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s green policies, social welfare programs and emphasis on an environment-friendly approach can clash with its economic plan for the country.

Yet just because the 2030 goal is ambitious does not mean it is not important or feasible. There is a misconception that pro-environment policies should not be the government’s priority when there are many other economic concerns of the country which affect the lower classes. What this argument fails to materialise is that environmental ills have been behind some of the worst crises for the country, and their worst victims are often those living below the poverty line. Our harmful approach towards the environment is a factor behind the water-shortage crises in Sindh, which is thought to be one of the most debilitating problems Pakistan will face in the future. The fast-changing climate is also the reason behind heavy rains and floods in the Gilgit-Baltistan area. Most relevant to electric vehicles is the problem of pollution and how it leads to the mass smog crises we have seen for the past few years, which has caused an increase in health issues and road-side accidents.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, green policies have the potential to boost our job market as well. Inroads made by electric cars have the potential to be disruptive for the automation industry in a positive way by reducing the industry stranglehold by a few players. Electric vehicles, besides reduction in environmental pollution, would also lessen oil imports and increase business opportunities in the country. While the 2030 plan is certainly ambitious, it is a necessary one.