By Senashia Ekanayake
The twenty-first session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) kicked off Monday November 30, 2015 with the highest number of country leaders attending a COP. The first day saw many heads of state delivering statements on their country positions and commitments. Given below are consolidated and summarised statements from country leaders from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in South Asia.
India to cut down emissions by 35%
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Developing countries are seeking ways to grow economically while protecting the Earth. The choices are not easy. India must not only grow rapidly to meet the aspirations of over a billion people keeping but also be guided by an ancient belief that ‘people and planet are inseparable’ and ‘human well-being and nature are indivisible.’ By 2030, India will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 33-35 per cent from 2005 levels by removing fossil fuel subsidies, transforming cities and improving public transportation.”
India believes that combating climate changes and keeping global temperature at bay goes beyond historic responsibilities. In reality, it is developing countries that are capable of facilitating emission cuts and developed countries, oft guilty of being historic emitters must make clean energy available, affordable and accessible to the developing world and financing available to developing countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Speaking on the Sri Lankan stance was President Maithripala Sirisena. This was not only the first COP of the present head of state but also the first for a Sri Lankan country head to attend the Conference.
Countries must Embrace CBDR
“Sri Lanka is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change. Changes in temperature, rainfall variation and sea level rise will directly impact almost all sectors of our economy, including agriculture, fisheries, livestock, water, biodiversity, health, human settlements, tourism and transport and we need to embrace the principle of common but different responsibility,” said President Sirisena.
Speaking on a similar train of thought was Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who noted that while Pakistan’s contribution to climate change is minimal, the country was highly susceptible and vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.
“We must as countries respond to the reality of the situation by embracing “common but differentiated responsibilities” to tackle the climate challenge. There must be an agreement that is realistic in scope and ambition and that takes a balanced view on mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. Pakistan as a developing nation has incorporated renewable energy, mass transport systems and hydropower as part of its development strategy,” said Prime Minister Sharif.
The Call for Regional Collaboration
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani voiced support for low-carbon infrastructural development, citing dual benefits of cost savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
“Developed countries must work with developing countries on driving low-carbon infrastructure changes and developing countries should be seen as ‘frontiers of innovation’ rather than places for recycling old technology. Regional collaboration too has never been more important. While it is vital for countries to meet their respective development and climate goals, we must work in unison, especially as a region by providing renewable and low-carbon energy supplies,” said President Ghani.
Websites containing information on COP21 carried a statement from UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, “The co-operation of over 190 countries in securing many positive outcomes owes much to the patience and persistence of the COP President—Manuel Pulgar-Vidal—and the spirit of Lima as we look forward to Paris—the city of lights and the city of love for our shared future and shared environment.”
The 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.
About the Author:
Senashia Ekanayake is a writer, an advocate of Arts, Education and climate change activist. She read for her degree in English, dabbled in the corporate world and is now involved with CANSA Communications.