FeaturedNationalVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 3

COP28: meeting the challenge of climate change

The United Nations Climate Change Conference titled COP28 held in Dubai last week was a watershed event in the history of mankind’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climatic trauma.

As is well known, UN Climate Change conferences, which take place every year, constitute a highly effective multilateral decision-making forum on climate change with inputs from all countries of the world. The forum represents the unanimous opinion of the community of nations as to the ways to address the climate crisis, including limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, helping vulnerable communities adapt to the impact of climate change and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

It is an indication of the global commitment to the fight against climate calamity that more than 70,000 delegates attended COP28, including the member states of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), business leaders, young people, climate scientists, Indigenous Peoples, journalists, and various other experts and stakeholders. COP28 is the 28th UN Climate Change conference, which has been held annually since the first UN climate agreement in 1992. The COP conferences are intended for governments to agree on policies to limit global temperature rises and adapt to impacts associated with climate change.

In September 2023, ahead of the opening of COP28, the United Nations published the first two-year assessment of global progress in slowing down climate change, called the “global stocktake”. According to the report, the world is not on track to reach the targets set in the Paris Agreement and more effective international cooperation and collaboration are needed to reach the goals outlined therein. Also, trillions of dollars are needed for limiting warming to 1.5°C.

In his speech at the UN Climate Change Conference, caretaker PM Anwarul Haq Kakar, referring to the severity of climate change, called for urgent action to address this existential threat. He highlighted the devastating floods that Pakistan experienced last year and the record-breaking heat witnessed this year as stark reminders of the impacts of climate change. In this context, he highlighted Pakistan’s role in advocating for a global Loss and Damage Fund and emphasised the need to activate this fund with adequate financing.

He also underscored the importance of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building for developing countries, based on the established principles of equity. He said climate justice demanded that rich countries should support developing ones in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Kakar reiterated the necessity of developed countries fulfilling their commitment of providing US$100 billion in climate finance. He emphasised that this finance should not come at the expense of development finance or worsen the debt burden of developing countries.

The Prime Minister called for a global “course correction” to keep the 1.5 °C temperature goal within reach. Kakar urged participants at COP28 to make it a “COP of action, not just words”. He highlighted Pakistan’s efforts towards meeting the climate challenge, such as presenting a comprehensive National Adaptation Plan, launching the Living Indus Initiative, and preparing its first Biennial Update Report.

One of the major outcomes of COP28 is that leaders from around the world committed to tripling global nuclear capacity by 2050 as part of the transition to net zero. The Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy Capacity by 2050 was endorsed by the Heads of State of nine countries with declaration endorsements from 21 countries, including Canada, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

The declaration emphasizes the importance of nuclear energy as a clean, reliable energy source and the imperative for accelerating the development of nuclear energy in order to meet energy needs, including clean electrons and clean molecules such as steam and hydrogen, as well as process heat, to meet climate goals. The Declaration recognises the importance of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, emphasising that nuclear is already the second-largest source of clean, dispatchable baseload power globally, and the largest source of clean electricity for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations. The Declaration encourages partnerships, commitments, and innovations from additional governments and financial organisations, including the World Bank, to unleash the political will and resources required for such an expansion.

It is an irony that countries that are the least responsible for the climate crisis are suffering the most. They need immediate help to adapt and recover from the damage already suffered. This is basically an issue of equity and justice which requires immediate attention from governments and international financial institutions. Pakistan’s case illustrates the point. Despite contributing less than one percent to global emissions, Pakistan ranks among countries most vulnerable to climate change. As a result of last year’s unprecedented floods, Pakistan suffered more than $30bn in economic losses. Yet, global responses have been insufficient. As things stand, while urging the international community to fulfil its pledges, Pakistan on its own should develop a comprehensive indigenous plan of action to tackle the effects of climate change.