Climate change impedes ability to promote sustainable development: minister
As the Friday deadline for a climate agreement in Paris nears, the French hosts of the UN Climate Change conference are pushing countries hard to reach a deal by the end of this week, incorporating targets on global emissions and financial help for developing countries.
Ministers from over 190 countries have now arrived at the Paris climate talks and are getting down to business in high-level negotiation sessions. The draft text still contains a host of options through which ministers need to sift. Special working groups have been appointed with the aim of producing a revised draft text of a possible agreement as early as Wednesday. Ministers are expected to resolve the political decisions that still need to be taken and they spent the last two days giving speeches at the high-level segment of the conference.
The Pakistani delegation to Paris is headed by the Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid. On Tuesday morning he gave a speech noting that: “Pakistan’s per capita emission of green house gases is one of the lowest in the world. Yet it is placed in the extremely vulnerable category by a host of climate change indices”.
He pointed out that in recent years Pakistan has witnessed the “vagaries of climate change with growing regularity and destructive ferocity. Droughts, desertification, glacial melt, sea-level rise and recurrent floods are all manifestations of climate-induced phenomena”. All these impacts have impeded Pakistan’s ability to promote sustainable growth and development.
The minister reiterated the government’s commitment “to cope with the negative fall-outs of climate change”, referring to the Planning Ministry’s ‘Vision 2025’ document, which he called “our blueprint for a future-oriented and growth-centric roadmap for Pakistan” that “clearly recognises global warming and climate change as priority areas for effective action by the government”.
He added that the National Climate Change Policy and its Framework for Implementation for the period 2014-2030 “serve to integrate climate-friendly policies in our national economic and development planning”. However, the National Climate Change Policy, say critics at home, is yet to be implemented.
Pakistan’s homework for Paris, the submission of the one page long “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” document has also been criticised for not giving any mitigation targets. In his speech, the minister pointed out that: “Our mitigation measures cover all sectors of the economy… we are working to change the energy mix, develop renewable energy sources and increase the share of nuclear and hydroelectric power to reduce carbon emissions.
More than 2000MW of wind electricity will come on line next year. We have also established a 10,000-acre Solar Park, which will generate 1000MW, and will be one of the biggest solar power projects in the world. To offset carbon emissions in the transport sector, we have operationalised mass transit systems in two metropolitan cities of Pakistan”.
The agreement in Paris will hinge on the availability of adequate finance for developing countries and the minister described climate finance “as the core of the battle to confront the adverse impacts of climate change. In Pakistan alone, we require up to US$ 14billion annually to adapt to climate change impacts”. He added that a clear roadmap for delivering on the financial commitments of US$ 100billion by 2020 is therefore extremely important for an effective Paris Agreement.
He added that he was “pleased with the progress made by the parties thus far in reaching an agreement” and hoped for a win-win outcome in Paris that would “be holistic, covering both adaptation and mitigation aspects in a balanced manner. It should also provide for transfer of affordable technology to developing countries, along with capacity building, and incorporate an effective ‘loss and damage’ mechanism”.
According to Greenpeace which is monitoring the talks, “Paris needs to send a signal that the era of fossil fuels is coming to an end, so that businesses can plan for a carbon-free future. So the language in the agreement needs to be clear.
Once the direction is set, the agreement then needs to provide the means for getting there. That’s the mechanism to scale up ambition every five years”.
In the last final days before an agreement is launched, ministers have to make political decisions such as the level of ambition to be set in terms of emissions limits and mechanisms for reviewing emissions targets every few years. The Paris agreement will deal with goals from 2020 onwards, when current commitments expire.