Munir Ahmed

President Joe Biden has invited 40 world leaders to the ‘Leaders Summit on Climate’. The two-day conference will start on 22 April – the Earth Day, and will come ahead of a major UN meeting on the crisis, scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland. The conference will be entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will be live streamed for public viewing.

Some of the top leaders including President Xi Jinping and President Putin have been invited. Some of the most climate vulnerable countries from Asia and Africa have also been on the list of invitees. Bangladesh, Bhutan and India are from South Asia. Exclusion of Pakistan from Biden’s list of invitees is a clear denial of Pakistan’s vulnerability to the climate crisis. It may also be termed as the failure of Pakistan’s balance of diplomacy in the recent years – the most vulnerable turn in 73 years of diplomatic relation between the US and Pakistan. A point to ponder for Pakistan to urgently review the diplomacy tracks and to take remedial steps accordingly to balance the sides.

Pakistan is no longer on the priority list of the US for many years now but we had seen no tangible efforts by the country’s foreign office to address the challenges. Same is the case with other long-standing friends. Pakistan has to take note of this alarming diplomacy deficit that could turn to be more vulnerable than the climate vulnerabilities the country is already confronting.

Coming back to Biden’s very important climate event that has given a hope to the Paris Agreement again. By organizing the ‘Leaders Summit on Climate’, the President Biden has shown his sincere commitment to taking up the climate vulnerabilities to calamities. The president kept his campaign pledge to rejoin the Paris climate agreement on his first day in the White House, after Trump pulled the US out of the deal after he was sworn in.

The return of the world’s largest economy and second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide became effective on 19 February and means almost all countries are now parties to the agreement signed in 2015.

President Biden took action on his first day in office to return the United States to the Paris Agreement.  Days later, on January 27, he announced that he would soon convene a leaders’ summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.

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.

In recent years, scientists have underscored the need to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.  A key goal of both the Leaders Summit and COP26 will be to catalyze efforts that keep that 1.5-degree goal within reach.  The Summit will also highlight examples of how enhanced climate ambition will create good paying jobs, advance innovative technologies, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts.

By the time of the Summit, the United States will announce an ambitious 2030 emissions target as its new Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement.  In his invitation, the President urged leaders to use the Summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries also will contribute to stronger climate ambition.

The Summit will reconvene the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together 17 countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of global emissions and global GDP.  The President also invited the heads of other countries that are demonstrating strong climate leadership, are especially vulnerable to climate impacts, or are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.  A small number of business and civil society leaders will also participate in the Summit.

Key themes of the Summit will include galvanizing efforts by the world’s major economies to reduce emissions during this critical decade to keep a limit to warming of 1.5 degree Celsius within reach. Mobilizing public and private sector finance to drive the net-zero transition and to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts. The economic benefits of climate action, with a strong emphasis on job creation, and the importance of ensuring all communities and workers benefit from the transition to a new clean energy economy.

Spurring transformational technologies that can help reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, while also creating enormous new economic opportunities and building the industries of the future. Showcasing subnational and non-state actors that are committed to green recovery and an equitable vision for limiting warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, and are working closely with national governments to advance ambition and resilience.

Discussing opportunities to strengthen capacity to protect lives and livelihoods from the impacts of climate change, address the global security challenges posed by climate change and the impact on readiness, and address the role of nature-based solutions in achieving net zero by 2050 goals.

Convincingly, a positive step of President Biden towards realization of the urgency of addressing the emergency on planet earth if facing right at the moment. Getting the world leaders together before the 26th Conference of Parties in Glasgow in the coming November may deliver a phenomenal outcome.     

The writer is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, Director Devcom-Pakistan, a policy advocacy and outreach think tank in Islamabad. His email: Twitter Handle: @EmmayeSyed