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Not a deal broker: Pakistan at the Bonn climate talks

November 15, 2017
Children are seen during a climate march prior to the opening session of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017 in Bonn, Germany. —Reuters
Children are seen during a climate march prior to the opening session of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017 in Bonn, Germany. —Reuters

Following a year of increasingly visible climate change impacts like frequent and intense hurricanes and wildfires across continents, government officials and delegates from over 196 countries have gathered from Nov 6 to 17 in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd annual UN climate change conference, also called 23rd session of the ‘conference of parties’ (COP 23) signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference is under the presidency of the government of Fiji this year. Pakistan’s delegation comprising officials from the foreign office and ministry of climate change, civil society and the media is led by Senator Mushaidullah Khan, the climate change minister. As a developing country more vulnerable to climate change, Pakistan will be pushing for the rapid operationalisation of the Paris Agreement effective in 2020. Although all countries have submitted their national plans to lower emissions, these do not currently reach the goal of limiting temperature increase to below 2°C.

“Pakistan is not a deal broker or game changer at these negotiations given its low emissions,” Abid Suleri, the head of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute explains. He says Pakistan’s position is to support like-minded countries in the group of developing countries (the G-77 plus China) and look at how best to make use of carbon financing possibilities.

According to Tariq Banuri, executive director at the government’s Global Change Impact Studies Centre, “Pakistan is already acting in ways that can contribute to the global climate goals by lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, in particular through the highly ambitious afforestation programs, significant investments in low-carbon energy generation (hydropower, solar, wind, bioenergy, and others), replacement of liquid fuels with imported LNG, and the raising of fuel efficiency standards. This needs to be highlighted as a demonstration of the country’s commitment, and an indication that more could be done with the provision of international financial and technical support.”

Meanwhile, COP23 is currently under the shadow of US President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Will the rest of the world decide to forge ahead with the global agreement by putting their houses in order? Or will other countries use the US as an excuse not to comply either? The US — the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China — cannot formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement until the end of 2020 so their delegation, albeit smaller, will be at Bonn. Analysts predict China will probably step in and fill the leadership vacuum.

(For more on government action on climate change, read Tariq Banuri’s interview on

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2017