According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan has risen to become the fifth most vulnerable country in the world to the effects of climate change. Between 1999 and 2018, Pakistan tragically lost more than ten thousand lives and incurred economic losses exceeding $3.8 billion, primarily due to climate-related disasters. These losses continue to mount as climate change intensifies.
Furthermore, the recent monsoon rains in February 2023 unleashed devastating floods, affecting over 60% of the country and displacing more than 15% of its population. These floods left countless individuals without homes, businesses, and access to basic necessities. As Pakistan was grappling with the aftermath of these calamitous floods, scorching heatwaves in the summer months made life even more precarious, culminating in July being declared the hottest month on record. To exacerbate matters, the country’s economy took a nosedive, leading to a staggering 113% increase in fuel prices.
In the face of such daunting challenges, it is imperative for companies to take proactive steps to support their employees in combating climate change. One effective measure is embracing remote work, a work arrangement where employees work from their homes using internet connectivity.
Firstly, remote work would reduce the need for daily commutes to offices, resulting in lower gasoline consumption. By decreasing commuting, employees would use significantly less fuel, ultimately curbing the burning of fossil fuels. This reduction in fuel consumption is crucial, as the burning of fossil fuels is a primary contributor to harmful greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, and Nitrogenous oxides. According to Global Workplace Analytics, adopting remote work could potentially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 54 million tonnes, addressing a fundamental driver of global warming and carbon footprints.
Pakistan, in particular, has been a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, releasing over 220 million metric tons into the environment. A report from the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) highlighted that 27% of Pakistan’s energy consumption was attributed to oil, with 48% of this oil being used for transportation. Enabling remote work would significantly cut down on the need for public and private transport, thereby reducing petrol consumption and further contributing to climate change mitigation.
Secondly, remote work would lead to reduced paper usage. Traditional office settings often rely heavily on printed documents such as reports, work plans, letters, and financial sheets. Even routine items like daily schedules and reminders are printed and posted on office notice boards, resulting in excessive paper waste. Updates and revisions to reports and financial documents often necessitate the destruction of older versions and the printing of updated copies, further increasing paper consumption and waste. In addition, the disposal of obsolete office documents often involves burning, releasing toxic gases into the environment.
Remote work, however, primarily relies on electronic systems and the internet, reducing the need for paper. Reports and financial documents can be prepared and shared electronically, streamlining communication processes and minimizing paper waste. Moreover, by using less paper, fewer trees will be cut down, which is particularly important in a country where only 5.2% of the total land area is covered by trees.
Furthermore, remote work would lead to a decrease in electricity consumption. Office spaces typically require substantial electricity for centralized cooling and heating systems, as well as for computer servers and large-scale printing machines. These energy-intensive components strain the electricity production infrastructure, particularly in a country like Pakistan, where coal-fired power generation accounts for nearly 40% of total electricity production. Coal-fired power plants contribute significantly to radiation levels and carbon emissions, exacerbating environmental problems.
Remote work, with its reliance on personal computers and lighting, would demand significantly less electricity and alleviate the pressure on electricity production, particularly in regions where renewable energy sources are underutilized.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies worldwide have embraced remote work, offering convenience and flexibility to their employees. However, in post-pandemic times, many companies in Pakistan reverted to their previous office-centric policies. Yet, the world has irrevocably changed, with climate change and economic challenges looming large. In these circumstances, embracing remote work can not only stem the tide of brain drain in Pakistan but also contribute positively to the global environment.
The adoption of remote work is not only a pragmatic response to Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change but also a responsible and forward-thinking approach to reducing carbon emissions, curbing paper waste, and conserving electricity. By taking this step, companies can play a vital role in mitigating climate change, while also benefiting their employees and the broader community.