US climate envoy John Kerry will hold talks with Indian, Emirati and Bangladesh leaders during an Asian tour starting on Thursday in an effort to narrow differences on climate change goals to slow global warming.
Notably, Kerry is not scheduled to hold talks with the leadership of Pakistan, which is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
The development comes on the heels of the announcement of a climate summit called by US President Joe Biden later this month (April 22-23) for which he has invited 40 world leaders, including those from India, China and Bangladesh, but not Pakistan.
Pakistan's exclusion from the invitation list for the summit had raised eyebrows, with several analysts questioning the move given the country's vulnerability to global warming and Prime Minister Imran Khan's focus on the environment front. Others perceived it as a snub for the country.
Reacting to Pakistan's exclusion from Kerry's planned Asia trip, Michael Kugelman, a scholar of South Asian affairs at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, said:
"First Pakistan was left off the invitation list for the White House's upcoming global climate summit. Now US climate czar John Kerry is headed to India and Bangladesh for consultations. Ouch."
The Foreign Office had last week hinted that Pakistan was not invited to the White House summit because it was "one of the lowest emitters – with less than one percent of the global emissions".
Responding to a question on the alleged snub by the US, the FO spokesman had said:
"The Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change hosted by President Biden reconvenes the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together leaders from countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of global emissions and GDP. The Summit also includes representation from countries holding Chairs of geographic regions and groups including Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, and Climate Vulnerable Forum. Pakistan, despite being among the top ten countries affected by Climate Change, is one of the lowest emitters – with less than one percent of the global emissions."
Kerry's visit to India comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is facing calls from the United States and Britain to commit India, the world's third biggest carbon emitter, to a net zero emissions target by 2050.
India, whose per capita emissions are way lower than that of the United States, European countries and even China, is concerned that binding itself to such a target could constrain the energy needs of its people.
Kerry kicks off his trip on Thursday that will also take him to the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh, which experts say is especially vulnerable to climate change as it has large numbers of people living in areas barely above sea level, and lacks infrastructure to protect them.
“Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry will travel to Abu Dhabi, New Delhi, and Dhaka April 1-9 for consultations on increasing climate ambition...” the State Department said.
Kerry is leading efforts to get countries to commit themselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by about the middle of the century.
Later this year world leaders will gather for the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow to build on a 2015 Paris accord to halt the increase in global temperatures at levels that would avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
“Looking forward to meaningful discussions with friends in the Emirates, India, and Bangladesh on how to tackle the climate crisis,” Kerry tweeted.
India says it will not only stick to the Paris accord to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35 per cent from its 2005 levels by 2030 but will likely exceed those goals as it ramps up use of renewable energy.