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EDITORIAL: Thanks to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s unremitting focus on mitigating the effects of global warming, Pakistan earned the privilege of hosting the main event of this year’s widely telecast World Environment Day in conjunction with the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. In his video message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the fact that the world is faced with a triple environmental emergency: biodiversity loss, climate disruption and escalating pollution. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s message read out by Ambassador Nong Rong urged the international community to play its role for sustainable development, noting that restoration of ecosystems is essential to live in harmony with nature. Participating in the discussion via a video recording, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was all praise for the ‘Ten Billion Tree Tsunami’ project, saying: “I salute what Prime Minister Imran Khan is doing. I think ten billion trees is a huge campaign.” He also opined that the Covid-19 pandemic is Mother Nature’s revenge on humankind which could not maintain balance with nature. All these words are important. But the problem is that major emitters lack the resolve to do their bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Pakistan is one of the countries that are most at risk of bearing the brunt of climate change even though its share in global emissions is just one percent. Yet as the PM said in his address on the occasion Pakistan is making efforts to further reduce its minimal emissions. Steps are being taken to ensure that 30 percent of transport sector comprises electric vehicles and 60 percent of power generated through renewable resources by 2030. He also mentioned some other environment-friendly projects such as 15 national parks which are creating jobs and also incentives for people to protect them. Other initiatives in the works include “Recharge Pakistan”. It is an important project aimed at diverting floodwaters to wetlands so as to recharge water table and reinvigorate ecosystems of mangrove forests and some other areas. But there are issues beyond the grasp of country-driven strategies that call for international attention. These include the need to reduce carbon emissions causing melting of glaciers that feed our river systems, threatening to disrupt lives and livelihoods on a massive scale. To tackle the challenge Imran Khan urged rich nations – responsible for the climate chaos — to support the developing countries fighting the “war of climate change.”

As a matter of fact, under the 2015 Paris Agreement, developed countries were to allocate $100 billion a year as climate finance for helping developing countries take mitigation and adaptation measures against climate change. So far, there is no action on that account. Last April, US President Joe Biden hosted a climate summit where various world leaders made commitments to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. Biden himself vowed to reduce the US’ emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030, which is a very welcome change from his predecessor’s policy who termed climate change a “hoax”. Unfortunately, however, Khan had to remind the wealthier countries that their commitment to mobilise climate finances remains unmet.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021