Extravagant gestures | Pakistan Today

Extravagant gestures

  • The PM’s travel raised questions of influence

Attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have in many cases not used commercial airlines or travelled by train to the event. Several billionaires and many world leaders arrived at Davos in private jets, which did no favours to the environment. Considering the key theme at the summit is to do with saving the environment this was not very smart. But when have world leaders given much thought to such issues?

Prince Charles attended the summit and pushed for ‘green taxes.’ He met Greta Thunberg, and asked the delegates and business leaders to support green measures. Yet he flew in to Davos on a private jet, which will apparently ‘produce six tonnes of carbon per passenger compared to 0.19 tonnes for a commercial flight.  In Davos the prince transferred to an electric car rather than a helicopter, but it does not take away from the fact that his plane burnt a great deal of fuel and left carbon emission all the way from the UK to Switzerland.

He was not alone. Last year, according to the Business Insider, ‘The World Economic Forum recorded more than 600 plane journeys that can be attributed to Davos— a figure that does not “take into account public figures such as presidents and prime ministers.’”

Aircraft are likely to be responsible for almost a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050. That is just 30 years down the track, not a date in the distant future.

What is certain is that nothing is being done to offset the effects of pollution in Pakistan, not really. The pollution levels in the atmosphere in Lahore alone this year in winter has been at hazardous levels. There was an initiative in Lahore to minimize the use of plastic shopping bags but as with all other initiatives this turns out to be a gesture only and has been fizzling out where applied and ignored in most sectors. What else has been done? Nothing at all. But our PM did attend the Davos summit of course

The Prime Minister of Pakistan also attended the World Economic Forum summit at Devos this year. The key theme for the world economic summit at Davos was the concept of a sustainable world. That includes reducing the carbon footprint to lessen pollution.

The prime minister of Pakistan said that his trip to Davos was the cheapest by any Pakistani premier in the history, and thanked Mr Ikram Sehgal for being a partial sponsor of his trip as he, the PM, did not want to burden the national exchequer with the expense.

It is not clear whether Mr Sehgal footed the bill for a private aircraft or for a commercial airline ticket for the PM to Davos. It could well be a commercial airliner, which is how the PM travelled earlier to the USA for example. Such trips must certainly cost much less than private jets. Prince Charles’ London to Davos journey for example is considered to have cost around £15,000. A commercial airliner would also do less harm to the environment than a separate private jet.

Imran Khan’s initiative in this respect is laudable, but as always there is another side to the matter.

There are people in this country– property tycoons and others– who have gone from rags to riches and enjoy a huge clout in the corridors of power by doing favours to those in authority. This is not to imply that Mr Sehgal’s action was in any way for such reasons, but it is advisable for people to avoid such extravagant gestures in case they are misconstrued, particularly since more often than not such an interpretation would be quite accurate.

In the case of Mr Khan’s visit to Davos, it was government work, a meeting of heads of state and other concerned individuals to consult and agree upon measures to protect the global environment. It was not a private cricket match, or a privately organised literary festival. Private individuals therefore have no business to offer to offset the costs in such cases. Nor should government officials accept such offers, which should be declined with thanks.

One elects persons to public office expecting them to have some understanding of such matters. It is unfortunate that they almost never do, or perhaps they do but are unwilling to put in the effort, time and personal sacrifice involved. What is certain is that nothing is being done to offset the effects of pollution in Pakistan, not really. The pollution levels in the atmosphere in Lahore alone this year in winter has been at hazardous levels. There was an initiative in Lahore to minimize the use of plastic shopping bags but as with all other initiatives this turns out to be a gesture only and has been fizzling out where applied and ignored in most sectors.

What else has been done? Nothing at all. But our PM did attend the Davos summit of course.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/



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