It’s reading between the lines for Pakistan when it comes to climate talks
The 24th edition of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), held in Katowice, Poland this year, was particularly crucial because 2018 was the deadline for the signatories of the Paris Agreement to adopt a program for the implementation of the commitments agreed upon.
The UN’s climate change talks, which were long, exhausting, and fractious, ended with a deal to set the wheels of the agreement in motion.
As part of the deal in Paris, the world had decided to cut emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2 degree Celsius with each country’s voluntary Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). A crucial element in the Paris Agreement is the Global Stock take which is meant to assess collective efforts of the climate action in 2023.
At the heart of the talks in Poland was the Paris “rulebook”, mandated in 2015 and meant to be finalized by the end of COP24. This rulebook is the detailed “operating manual” needed for the Paris Agreement to be implemented in 2020.
The rulebook covers a multitude of questions, such as how should countries report their greenhouse gas emissions or contributions to climate finance and what rules should apply to voluntary market mechanisms, such as carbon trading.
The Paris Agreement mandates for developed countries to take the lead role, which has become a bone of contention between the developed and developing countries, stalling any meaningful outcomes on finance.
Two themes emerged in each of these areas. First, whether the countries should agree on a single set of rules for all – with flexibility for those that need it – or to maintain the current divide between rules for the rich and poor. This is referred to as “differentiation.”
The second theme was the provision of climate finance to help developing nations adapt to the impacts of global warming, mitigate their emissions, and participate completely in the process.
It can be surmised that the COP24 has crucial implications for Pakistan, a country which is faced with droughts, floods, heatwaves, melting glaciers, water and food shortages, and shifting weather patterns.
Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba
What was agreed at the COP24? The participating countries agreed on most of the tricky elements of the rulebook, including on how governments will measure, record, report, and verify their emission-cutting efforts. The move was aimed at making it harder for countries to backtrack on their commitments.
The parties at the conference agreed to record the pledges in a public registry, with an agreement that all future pledges should cover a “common timeframe” from 2031.
However, many difficult matters could not be reached in the deal. Some member states such as Russia, the US, and Kuwait did not agree to “welcome” the IPCC report on 1.5 degree Celsius, leaving certain deliberations for future negotiations.
Developing countries such as Pakistan, which are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, were pretty much left on their own to tackle the problem with inadequate finances and no additional budget allocations.
While addressing the high-level ministerial meeting, Malik Amin Aslam, Adviser to the PM on climate change reiterated that “the reality of climate change has been ferociously manifesting itself across the world, and especially in Pakistan, which is ranked 135th in terms of its contribution to global GHG emissions but ranked in the top 10 most vulnerable countries consistently over the past two decades.”
Hence, it can be surmised that the COP24 has crucial implications for Pakistan, a country which is faced with droughts, floods, heatwaves, melting glaciers, water and food shortages, and shifting weather patterns. Pakistan has pledged to revise its NDCs which will now account for actions and programs initiated by the new government such as investments in renewable energy and the Billion Tree Tsunami projects.
On a positive note, Pakistan has been elected as the vice president and rapporteur of COP.
If we extrapolate from the IPCC’s findings, the world has little more than a decade to bring emissions under control in order to stabilize the climate.
Finally, a few wise words from Al Gore: “Future generations will ask us one of the two questions: Why didn’t we act when we had the time or how did we find the moral courage to do the right thing?”
“The choice is ours which of the two questions we want to answer.”
– Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba is a freelance consultant working in the areas of environment and health.