Pakistan’s perspective

December 17, 2023

Compared to last year, Pakistan played a somewhat muted role at the COP

Pakistan’s perspective


he 28th Conference of the Parties concluded in Dubai on the morning of December 13, a day after it was scheduled to end – an indication of the work left outstanding as well as a commitment of many countries and delegates to find an outcome acceptable to ensure a sustainable future.

The COP, as it is known, is convened under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The main objective of the convention is to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions before they reach a level that will threaten the earth’s ecosystems; and their ability to provide a stable environment conducive to survival of human civilisation.

The GHG emissions in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution have raised global temperatures by approximately 1.2 degree Celsius. At only 1.2-degree Celsius warming, just this year we have seen not only the hottest year ever recorded, but also unprecedented floods, heatwaves, hurricanes and droughts that have devastated almost every country on the planet. Unless these COPs succeed, this will have been the coolest summer of the rest of our lives.

Pakistan’s perspective

In order to stabilise GHG emissions under the UNFCCC, it is necessary for developed countries to dramatically reduce or mitigate their emissions. Equally, it is necessary for developing and less developed countries to prepare for or adapt to the impact of climate change. It is also crucial for developed countries to provide developing countries and LDCs the finances and technology transfers necessary to build such adaptive infrastructure.

Despite efforts by thousands of fossil fuel lobbyists and countries like Saudi Arabia and Iraq, whose incomes and economies are dependent on those, this year’s COP has delivered a promise – albeit imperfect, with many loopholes and lacunae – to “phase out” fossil fuels – the cause of GHG emissions.

Developed countries were expected to ramp up their climate finance pledges. This year, the pledges rose to $80 billion, still less than the $100 billion promised by 2020, and a pittance compared to the $75 billion and $14.5 billion paid just by the United States to the Ukraine and Israel, respectively.

There has been much criticism of the COP28. Being the CEO of the Abu Dhabi Oil Company, its president, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, was accused of conflict of interest. There were restrictions on entry and permitted activities. In the middle of the conference, it was leaked that the OPEC had written to member states to resist pressure for an agreement to the phase-out of fossil fuels. Former US vice president and climate leader Al Gore called this COP the biggest failure and described the agreements reached as if dictated by the OPEC itself.

Compared to last year, Pakistan played a somewhat muted role. At COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Pakistan had not just held the presidency of the G77+China block of countries – from which it could leverage great support – but it was also the poster child for the Loss and Damage Fund. The fund is a new form of climate finance meant for countries devastated by the impacts of climate change, as was Pakistan after the 2022 floods. Pakistan had then not only had the L&D Fund put on the agenda of COP27 but also leveraged its position to have it established at the outcome of that conference. It was quite a diplomatic coup. (The L&D Fund was pledged a measly $700m after it was operationalised at this year’s COP – a mere pittance against the hundreds of billions of dollars it needs.)

This year, Pakistan stood as an individual country and seconded the positions of its various allies. Its focus was to engage in the coalition of High Level Multilateral Partnerships, Gender Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership, Ambition for Melting Ice, the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Foods Systems and Climate Action, Renewables and Energy Efficiency, the Global Cooling Pledge and the Mangrove Alliance for Climate Action and Mangrove Breakthrough. It aligned its diplomatic agenda through bilateral meetings highlighting the need for climate finance and its position on the L&D Fund.

The Pakistan Pavilion hosted a number of events each highlighting its various positions and strengths. Senator Sherry Rehman, the former climate minister, spoke of the need of climate finance and pointed out the hypocrisy of countries willing to finance wars and genocide but not the legitimate needs of the Global South. The caretaker chief minister of the Punjab also made a brief appearance to speak about the impacts of climate change (Punjab, the bread basket of the country, still doesn’t have a climate plan of action) and concerns about air quality in the province.

One highlight of the conference was the attendance and participation of youth activists and delegates. Pakistani youth delegates distinguished themselves by displaying a remarkable amount of passion and energy, participating and speaking at panels and events, carrying out protests to exhort negotiators to take the high ground. They remain an inspiration.

The writer is an environment lawyer and member of the Pakistan Climate Change Council

Pakistan’s perspective