The Climate Action Summit wrapped up Friday evening after some 70 world leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, delivered a raft of new measures aimed at making a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that the planet’s warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius. He announced that Pakistan will not be creating any more coal power plants.
Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres especially mentioned the announcement by PM Khan that Pakistan was scrapping plans for new coal power plants.
“Pakistan announced no new coal power plants,” the UN chief said, as he recounted the number of countries coming forward with strengthened national climate plans (NDCs), with commitments covering some of the world’s biggest emitters on display.
No more coal power plants
“We have decided we will not have any more power based on coal,” Khan told the summit.
“We have already scrapped two coal power projects, which were supposed to produce 2,600 megawatts of energy, and replaced it by hydroelectricity.”
Pakistan has seen coal power capacity increase from deficient levels to substantially 5 gigawatts over the past five years. But in his address to the online summit, Prime minister Imran Khan said that 60% of all energy by 2030 would be from renewables and 30% of all vehicles will be powered by electricity.
The prime minister said that while Pakistan accounts for less than 1% of global carbon emissions, it is the “fifth most vulnerable” to effects of climate change, citing data from the 2019 Global Climate Risk Index report.
“I assure you that Pakistan will be doing its best to make its contribution to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Khan said.
On his Twitter account, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram drew attention to the Pakistani premier’s ambitious plan as part of the country’s unwavering commitment toward combating climate change.
India fails to make concrete commitments
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to make new concrete announcements on the world’s third-largest polluter’s climate ambition. Modi only reiterated commitments announced in previous months, including increasing its renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts before 2022 and to 450 gigawatts by 2030.
China’s President Xi Jinping committed to increasing non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption to around 25% by 2030.
Britain, which is hosting next year’s UN Climate Conference, announced that it would cut emissions by 68 percent, compared to 1990 levels, within the next five years, and the European Union bloc committed to a 55 percent cut over the same time period.
Small island nations are not among large emitters of greenhouse gases, but they’re among the most affected by global warming, said Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. This year’s hurricane season has ended with a record of 30 named storms.
The survival of these nations depends on other countries raising ambition in their emissions pledges, she said. Without more ambition, “There will be no build-back-better for countries and economies like mine.”
— Permanent Mission of Pakistan to UN, NY (@PakistanUN_NY) December 12, 2020
Italy will donate 30 million euros ($36 million) to the UN Adaptation Fund, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
France will introduce a new climate law over the next few weeks, including specific measures proposed by citizens to help the economy transition toward climate neutrality, French President Emmanuel Macron said.
Measures to transition toward a low-carbon economy include halting all support toward exploring new fossil fuel deposits within the next five years, not building new coal plants, and forcing financial firms to disclose financial risk, he said.
UN Secretary-General Guterres called on governments to declare a climate emergency to accelerate efforts toward carbon neutrality. That’ll be the UN’s central objective for next year, he said.
Munir Akram (ECOSOC President) on the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD + 25) https://t.co/TTjoMvH9QK
— EcologyAfricaFoundation(E.A.F) (@EcologyAfricaF1) December 13, 2020
“Five years after the Paris Agreement, we’re still not going in the right direction,” Guterres said. “Commitments made in Paris were far from enough — we are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 degrees.
At least 24 countries announced in the Summit new commitments, strategies, or plans to reach carbon neutrality. Several states set out how they are going even further, with ambitious dates to reach net-zero: Finland by 2035, Austria by 2040, and Sweden by 2045.
Officials see these announcements as a sign that there is real momentum as the member states head towards the next big step on the road to carbon neutrality, the COP26 UN Climate Conference, in November 2021.
The Summit has been labeled as the starting gun for the “the sprint to Glasgow,” referring to the delayed UN Climate Conference (COP26), scheduled to be held in the Scottish city in November 2021. The year-long sprint pushes countries to announce even more ambitious and wide-ranging plans to curb emissions and make their economies “greener” and more sustainable.
The coronavirus wrought economic havoc on the world but, with the release of COVID-19 vaccines expected in 2021, these officials hope that economies will begin opening up, and the UN is spearheading attempts to ensure that the world will “build back better” rather than returning to a fossil-fuel dependent business as usual.
GVS News Desk