Saturday, December 3, 2011

The UN Conference on Climate Change in Durban

This article was originally published on The News International and

The United Nations Climate Change Conference that commenced day before yesterday in Durban, South Africa is scheduled to continue on till December 9, 2011. The conference holds much importance, seeing as a number of countries, including Pakistan, have recently faced extreme weather conditions which have disrupted the lives of millions of people across the globe. Pakistan has been victim to two recent climate catastrophes: the massive floods of 2010 and 2011 that impacted about 25 million people. Although weather related disasters have significantly increased in different parts of the world, it is unfortunate to note that the Durban conference is unlikely to reach any binding agreement due to the absence of strong political will. This situation is particularly alarming for the countries that are at the mercy of climate change. Many countries, including Pakistan, simply can’t afford any further delay in reaching a binding agreement amongst nations of the world to stop global warming.

Science is very clear in explaining the impact and cost that we will bear if world politics does not take concrete action to fight global warming. Ignoring the burning of fossil fuels, allowing industrial pollution and leaving deforestation unchecked is making the world a dangerous place to live in. We are already witnessing floods, rising sea levels, droughts and diseases due to global warming. The role of developing countries thus, becomes very vital during the two week negotiations taking place in Durban. Furthermore, it is very important that Pakistan also supports the new slogan emerging from pro-environment groups that: science, rather than politics should lead the conference.

We have observed during past UN conferences (such as those in Copenhagen and Cancun) that both the developed and developing nations failed to reach binding agreements. These conferences have always remained under the political influence of a few powerful nations that refuse to recognize the vulnerabilities of poor countries as a result of climate change. Representatives from developing nations can really make a difference in these negotiations. Recall the historic words from the representative of Tuvalu (the fourth smallest country in the world), who very boldly rejected the Copenhagen non-binding agreement. Representatives such as these give other developing nations the courage to stand up for themselves.

Following suit, Pakistan should play a stronger role in influencing the conference by demonstrating the same courageous attitude which Tuvalu showed during the Copenhagen conference in 2009. Pakistan has to take many steps on its part and to be honest we are not fully prepared, as we lack measures at a core national level. The truth is we have to go beyond the measure of just passing our recent National Climate Change Policy by the cabinet. We need not only participate in such conferences, but also need to make climate change our key priority and take practical steps to prove it.

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