US ‘looks forward to working with Pakistan’ on climate crisis

Published April 2, 2021
People enter the State Department Building in Washington on January 26, 2017. — Reuters
People enter the State Department Building in Washington on January 26, 2017. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Thursday that Washington looked forward to working with Islamabad on the climate crisis at different levels.

The department announced earlier in the day that Special Presidential Envoy for climate John Kerry would travel to Abu Dhabi, New Delhi, and Dhaka from April 1 to 9 for consultations on the matter.

The schedule, however, does not include Islamabad. Mr Kerry, a former US secretary of state, will hold talks with Emirati, Indian and Bangladeshi leaders for “increasing climate ambition” ahead of two major international events, the State Department said.

Again, the statement did not mention Pakistani leaders among those who would be consulted.

US President Joe Biden will host one of those events -- “Leaders Summit on Climate” — on April 22 and 23. He has invited 40 world leaders, including those from India, China and Bangladesh, but not Pakistan.

The United Nations will hold the other event, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change later this year and Pakistan, as a UN member, will be invited to this event.

“The United States seeks to engage all countries to explore areas for cooperation on addressing the climate crisis, including Pakistan,” a spokesperson for the State Department told Dawn when asked why Pakistan was being ignored on such a sensitive issue.

“The Leaders Summit on Climate is only one of several major climate-related events in the run-up to COP-26, which will be a global event,” said the official while explaining why Pakistan was not invited to President Biden’s summit.

“We look forward to working with the government of Pakistan and governments around the world to raise the level of global ambition to meet the climate challenge,” the official added.

Pakistan’s omission from the summit and Mr Kerry’s consultations were felt strongly in Islamabad as Pakistan is one of the 10 most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.

Media reports, analysts and social media commentators, all questioned the US move, pointing out that Pakistan was not only vulnerable to global warming but was also among those few nations who were making concerted efforts to deal with this problem.

Commentators also noted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focus on the environment front and described the US move as a snub for the country.

Reacting to Pakistan’s exclusion from John Kerry’s planned Asia trip, Michael Kugelman, a scholar of South Asian affairs at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, said in a tweet: “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.”

Commenting on his remarks, an Islamabad-based Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon said she would not read too much into it.

“I feel it is likely more reflective of US lack of knowledge rather than Pakistan-specific. I feel with American efforts to get peace in Afghanistan the US would not intentionally snub Pakistan — at least not now.”

Mr Kugelman agreed, adding: “It’s an issue of a low priority on the US’s part, not an intentional snub.

But the optics of the summit exclusion and the Kerry trip will not be seen positively by some there...especially given how relevant Pakistan is to the climate story.”

Last week, the Foreign Office in Islamabad hinted that the country 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,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2021

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