The Paris Conference ended on December 12, 2015 with the adoption of the first ever global agreement on climate change. Around 195 nations attended the conference and agreed on a text which was ambitious, fair, united and dynamic.
The text sought to reduce global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, aiming for 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also aimed to support developing countries in adapting to the impact of climate change and help them develop without causing further warming. There was also a provision that $100 billion would be provided by developed countries annually from 2020, and each country made a commitment to reduce GHG emissions – to be revised upward every five years.
The Paris Agreement was officially opened for signatures on April 22, 2016, and 175 countries signed the agreement at the UN Headquarters on the same day. Signing the agreement is a step prior to ratification and reflects the country’s intent and political will.
On October 5, the double threshold for ratification was achieved and on November 4 the Paris Agreement entered into force, making it the fastest ever entry into force of an international treaty.
Climate change once again became the focus of global diplomacy as countries gathered in Marrakech to participate in COP22, referred to as the COP of Action. While the Paris Agreement set the overarching framework for dealing with climate change in the decades to come, in Marrakech the focus was on the nuts and bolt of the deal.
Negotiations involving hundreds of countries, each with their own set of problems, constraints and approaches, attempting to build a convergence of views acceptable to all is never easy. However, the spirit of Paris prevailed over the pall of gloom cast by fears of president-elect Trump’s intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement. In Marrakech, the resolve remained strong and the will to act resolute.
The Pakistan delegation comprised officials from the Ministry of Climate Change, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and members from the civil society. The Pakistan INDC positioned its negotiating stance and provided guidelines for talks. Pakistan was able to hold its position and present its case convincingly.
The pathways to low carbon emissions and support for adaptation are realistic concerns embedded in the principle of common but differentiated responsibility recognised in the Paris Agreement. In Marrakech, Pakistan maintained policy alignment with G77 and LMDC in the negotiations. Finance, technology, compliance, capacity-building and adaptation remained the focus of engagement for developing countries, while issues of responsibility and vehicles of support and resource mobilisation occupied the agenda of developed countries.
The Pakistan Pavilion showcased the diversity of our land, people, culture and biodiversity, attracting many visitors and providing space for consultations. This hub was a welcome improvement from Paris and must be made a regular practice.
Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid participated in the high-level plenary and highlighted steps taken by Pakistan to move towards climate-friendly approaches, including the bill recently approved by the cabinet; the bill authorises the establishment of a Climate Change Authority. He delivered talks on subjects ranging from sub-national governance to the National Action Plan and held consultation meetings with ministers from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco and Iran as well as with the secretary general of the Commonwealth.
Climate negotiations have now gained urgency as the physical manifestations of the impacts of change are hitting home. These are addressed by and through the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted by each country to lower its Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Each country develops its own INDC based on its socio-economic capacity and taking into account its growth and development needs.
The bottom line, however, is that the level of climate action in the INDCs will not keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius with an almost 10 percent risk of temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius by 2100. The key to success will depend on mobilising finance to unlock action on climate change across the world with clearly defined responsibility of developed countries and role of developing countries.
More needs to be done before 2030 and accelerated action is urgently needed. The momentum for change must be maintained both at the local level and at international forums with complementarities that help to achieve the overarching goal of keeping temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.
It is evident that local action at country level is needed to put in place mitigation and adaptations measures, but it is also equally clear that without financial support developing countries will not be able to adopt low-carbon emission pathways. Finance, therefore, will play a major role in shaping the future and determining the plight of vulnerable countries and ecosystems.
Pakistan has a growing population and a shrinking resource base, posing multiple risks to all its people – rich or poor, rural and urban. Pakistan urgently needs to put its house in order and make preparations that are realistic and achievable to safeguard the future of its present and future generations.
The writer is CEO of the Mountain and Glacier Protection Organization (MGPO) and coordinator of the Civil Society
Coalition for Climate Change.