Civil society activists, particularly those working in the field of environment protection, on Saturday expressed surprise at Pakistan’s exclusion from a virtual summit on climate change next month called by US President Joe Biden.
Biden ignored Pakistan at his government’s first summit on climate change to be held on April 22 and 23. The US president has invited 40 heads of state and government, who also include leaders of India, Bangladesh and Bhutan – from the South Asian region. According to a White House announcement on Friday, the virtual summit would be addressed by leaders of Russia, China, Argentina, Australia, France, Indonesia, Germany, Israel, Canada, Japan, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Denmark, Colombia, Congo, Chile, Jamaica and other countries.
Several Pakistanis took to various social media platforms to express surprise at the exclusion of Pakistan, particularly when the country is among the nations most affected by climate change. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is the fifthmost vulnerable country. Experts also pointed out that climate change is a key area of focus of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, as they mentioned that Prime Minister Imran Khan has initiated the Billion-Tree Tsunami project for the environment protection, besides several other measures.
Senior journalist Kamran Yousaf noted that the decision was not surprising if a recent statement of a former US diplomat is to be considered. “…ex-US envoy said at the Islamabad dialogue that Pakistan lost great deal of importance in the minds of leadership of Washington,” he tweeted.
US-based South Asian affairs expert Michael Kugelman acknowledged that the Pakistanis were unhappy at the exclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan from the invitees’ list but sought to explain why the US thought not to include Pakistan at this time. “It appears the main criteria for being invited are (1) close partner of the US or (2) a major polluter or (3) highly vulnerable to climate change or (4) some combo of 1,2,3. Pakistan certainly qualifies for (3),” he wrote on his twitter account.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Malik Amin Aslam said that the countries invited to the summit fell in two categories and added that Pakistan did not belong to any of those. He did not explain the two categories. He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been tasked to clarify the summit. Responding to query, the Foreign Office spokesperson stated that the summit hosted by President Biden reconvenes the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together leaders from countries responsible for approximately 80% of global emissions and GDP. “Pakistan, despite being among the top ten countries affected by climate change, is one of the lowest emitters – with less than one per cent of the global emissions,” the Foreign Office spokesperson said.
He added that the US summit includes representation from countries holding chairs of geographic regions and groups including leastdeveloped countries, small island developing states, and the climate vulnerable forum. Pakistan, the spokesperson emphasised, was also contributing meaningfully towards shaping a global climate change discourse, as the vice president of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
He reminded that Pakistan cochaired the multibillion-dollar Green Climate Fund, established to support climate actions in developing countries, last year. Pakistan’s commitment to addressing climate change and the prime minister’s leadership on this account “is well accepted and appreciated around the world”, he added. “The government’s landmark initiatives like the Billion Tree Tsunami have won international acclaim, including from the World Economic Forum,” the spokesperson said, referring to a documentary by the WEF earlier this month, highlighting Pakistan government’s environment-related initiatives. “Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our times that can only be countered through inclusive, cooperative and forward-looking policies.
Pakistan remains fully committed to play its due role in this fight,” the spokesperson added. The summit is taking place at a time when the United States has re-joined the Paris Agreement after the departure of former president Donald Trump and ahead of a UN conference on the issue in Glasgow in November this year. The White House said in a statement that the “virtual meeting” will focus on how to create better jobs by preventing climate change, adding that in this regard high technology would be developed and weak countries would be helped.
“The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action. It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow,” the statement added. (WITH INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)