Pakistan will attend the UN Climate Conference (COP27) at Sharm El Sheikh (November 6-18) in a highly visible manner. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will co- chair, along with the Egyptian President and Norwegian Prime Minister, the deliberations of heads of state and government on key climate-related issues at the high-level segment of the conference.
Equally important is Pakistan’s position as current chair and spokesperson of G77 and China, the largest group of developing countries numbering more than 135 belonging to different regions.
Pakistan’s record as chair of G77 and China on two previous occasions has been stellar. A handful of Pakistani diplomats, led by the legendary Jamshed Marker, successfully navigated the complex negotiations in the runup to the UN Conference on Environment and Development, aka the Earth Summit, held in Rio in June 1992, ensuring the adoption of the UN Climate Convention. At COP13 held in Bali (Indonesia) in 2007, Ambassador Munir Akram, then, as now, chairing the G77 and China, salvaged the conference by securing at the last-minute consensus on compromise wording on the vexed question of carbon reduction obligation of developing countries demanded by developed countries.
The compromise made carbon reduction commitments of developing countries contingent on the quantum of financial and capacity-building support received by them from the developed countries thereby reconciling the interests of both categories of countries.
The challenges facing the Sharm El Sheikh climate conference are dire. Global carbon emissions and de- forestation, the two main drivers of climate change, have never been higher. The world’s temperature has already increased by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius and climate experts say that in a business as usual scenario it is likely to touch 1.5 C within a few years, the guardrail set in the Paris Agreement before the planet becomes too hot for humans and other species!
At the Sharm El Sheikh meeting, governments will have to summon the political will to pledge sharp and rapid emission cuts amounting to 45 per cent of the accumulated carbon stock, prescribed by climate science.
Rich countries must also assure poor and vulnerable states of their readiness to give adequate support to developing countries, in particular the least developed and most climate vulnerable countries to cope with the unavoidable adverse effects of climate change.They would have to contend with demands for fulfilling their pledge to mobilize funds amounting to $100 billion for climate related initiatives of developing countries as well advance the date for earmarking 50 per cent of the funds for adaptation.
A hotly contested issue that can ignite fireworks right at the outset of COP27 is Loss and Damage, specifically the establishment of a financial mechanism for addressing the irreparable losses and damage caused by climate-induced extreme events in least developed countries and small island developing states. The voting on the agenda of the COP on Day 1 can create tension. The UN Climate Secretariat has responded to the demand of the G 77 and China by including an item L&D as an item on the provisional agenda of COP27.
Strenuous efforts by the conference presidency and recent positive statements of US Climate Envoy John Kerry offer hope of a breakthrough on the issue and a smooth start of the conference, given the fact that the US has been the most stubborn opponent of recognition of any liability for compensation for weather disruptions attributed to climate change. The US was singularly responsible for adding a sentence to the text of the Paris Agreement categorically ruling out invoking L&D for any compensation on account of climatic events.
The main objective of the high-level segment attended by heads of state and government are to highlight support for climate action at a time of a discernible erosion of political will on behalf of global causes and multilateral institutions in general and pro-climate initiatives entailing sacrifice at the domestic level in particular. The presence of leaders is also proposed to encourage their negotiators to redouble efforts to find the requisite compromises for resolving contentious issues.
Prime Minister Shehbaz must eschew the temptation of carrying out his government’s spirited campaign at the UN General Assembly and other relevant multilateral forums for securing assistance for the victims of the horrendous monsoon rains. COP27 is dedicated solely to promote global efforts to avert the worst destabilization of the climate and promoting cooperation for assisting the casualties of extreme weather events to adapt to the negative fallout of global warming. The COPs of Climate Agreements have never been used for resource mobilization for those adversely affected by climate-induced disasters. The prime minister’s meetings with counterparts and heads of multilateral agencies will provide opportunities to review and strengthen bilateral cooperation in all spheres.
The Pakistan delegation, led by Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, will be expected to first harmonize the views held by a large bloc comprising countries belonging to diverse constituencies and then effectively push for the common positions. Ambassador Munir Akram’s team includes several ace negotiators like Farrukh Iqbal Khan, a key architect of the Adaptation Fund, and several other experienced multilateral diplomats.
The Ministry of Climate Change is fielding a large team (relative to previous conferences) of senior officers of the ministry and representatives of other ministries and statutory agencies who would be presenting the common positions of G 77 and China at the numerous negotiations taking place simultaneously. The officials could also support consultations by contact groups entrusted to articulate common stands on contentious issues.
The Pakistan Pavilion at the COP venue will be invaluable for projecting Pakistan’s environmental agenda, in particular the massive tree planting campaign, the new Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy, the Electric Vehicles Policy and, above all, Pakistan’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution to Climate Action( NDC) developed last year.