Indeed the delegation received a lot of international media coverage due to the devastation caused by the historic floods. Pakistan’s country pavilion, a spacious meeting place with the slogan “What Goes On In Pakistan Won’t Stay In Pakistan” remained a bustling corner inside the Blue Zone, where the conference was held in the center of town. The pavilion hosted a number of talks highlighting the floods and Pakistani youth and civil society participation at the COP.
This year in total, despite the expensive hotels (the locals jacked up the hotel prices to around 350-1000 US dollars a night) around 33,500 people attended the conference, including 16,000 delegates from Parties, 14,000 observers, and 3,350 members of the media. Unfortunately, there were also more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27, a rise of more than 25% from last year, which shows the growing influence of oil and gas interests at the UN climate talks.
However, far from the hectic country pavilions area (about a km walk) were located the serious negotiations areas and it was here that Pakistan’s Foreign Office diplomats emerged as the unsung heroes of COP27. The country pavilions and media briefings are after all a side show – the real work of the COP takes place inside the closed negotiations for which you need a special “Party” badge.
Led by Chief Negotiator Nabeel Munir (currently Pakistan’s Ambassador to South Korea) the competent and hard working team of negotiators comprised Ali Waqas (Deputy head of Mission in Embassy of Pakistan, South Korea), Nauman Bhatti (Director General SP in Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistan’s Board Member to the Green Climate Fund), Jawad Ali (Director UN in Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Imran Khan (Counsellor in Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the UN in New York) and others like climate finance expert Kashmala Kakakhel, one of the few Pakistani female negotiators (not from Foreign Office).
This team of experienced negotiators held the G-77 group of developing countries together, did not allow rich countries to break the grouping and in the late hours of Saturday night after spending two entire nights pushing hard, helped establish an international Loss and Damage Fund. Pakistan, as Chair of the Group of 77 and China negotiating bloc, galvanized support for the establishment of the Fund, first by having it placed on the Agenda of the Conference, and then pushing for a consensus agreement.
the developing world needs as much as $340 billion a year by 2030 for adaptation to climate change. Developing countries known as the Global South have long been demanding a fund to help vulnerable countries worst affected by climate change.
Arguably COP27 had little else to show for itself, coming on the heels of an energy price crisis driven by the Ukraine war. Little was achieved in getting the world on track to meet the warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius that was agreed to under the Paris Agreement of 2015. The planet is currently around 1.2 degrees warmer than pre industrial levels and if drastic action is not taken, UN scientists say we could hit the safety rail of 1.5 degrees of warming as early as 2030. Warming beyond 1.5 degrees would mean many small island states would simply drown and vulnerable countries like Pakistan would experience unbearable heat-waves and extended droughts.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s latest report, the developing world needs as much as $340 billion a year by 2030 for adaptation to climate change. Developing countries known as the Global South have long been demanding a fund to help vulnerable countries worst affected by climate change. Vulnerable countries and campaigners for the Global South have argued that rich countries that caused climate change with their historical greenhouse gas emissions should pay into this fund as compensation for poor countries like Pakistan reeling from the impacts of climate change.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office’s modest statement given out shortly after the COP concluded stated: “The consensus decision taken to this effect by the COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh (Egypt) is a momentous achievement, especially for the Group of 77 and China, as the developing countries have been demanding such a fund for the past 30 years”.
Pakistan went to the COP holding the Presidency of G-77 plus China negotiating bloc. The Group of 77 plus China is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the UN, which provides the means for the countries of the South to promote their collective interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity. The one-year presidency (which will expire in December this year) was hard won in New York in 2021 by the efforts of Pakistan’s ace diplomat Munir Akram, Pakistan’s current Ambassador to the UN.
Global warming beyond 1.5 degrees would mean many small island states would simply drown and vulnerable countries like Pakistan would experience unbearable heat-waves and extended droughts.
Pakistani diplomat Nabeel Munir was appointed Chair of G-77 and China in late 2021 and in the lead up to COP27 (before the floods hit Pakistan in August), Ambassador Munir in June at the Bonn Intersessional (a two-week long conference at the mid-point between COPs) wrote to the UNFCCC. He formally asked for “Matters relating to funding arrangement for addressing loss and damage” be placed under the Agenda item “Matters Relating to Finance” on the provisional agenda of the COP.
The developing countries of the world had left Glasgow at COP26 a year earlier upset that they did not get an agreement on loss and damage and were determined to push through an agreement on a Loss and Damage Finance Facility in Egypt. However, all that had been promised to them was a vague three years long “Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage”, a conversation space about how to technically look at loss and damage instead of actually setting up a fund itself. According to Kasmala Kakakhel, “this coming on the formal agenda of the COP (by Pakistan) was what allowed for the outcome to be what it was”.
She pointed out that in 2007 it was also Munir Akram, then Chair of the G77 and China who was responsible for keeping G-77 together and helping to push through the Bali Action Plan when the UN climate talks were in danger of collapsing. The adoption of the "Bali Roadmap" set the agenda for two years of negotiations leading to the Copenhagen Summit of 2009. That in turn led to the Paris Agreement of 2015.
In Bali the G-77 bloc managed to exert pressure on the US, with one member saying that if the US was not willing to provide leadership in tackling climate change, it should "get out of the way and leave it to the rest of us". In the end the US relented and the Bali Roadmap was born. Even earlier during the Earth Summit of 1992, it was Pakistan’s top diplomat, Ambassador Jamsheed Marker who was responsible for inserting the word ‘Framework’ into the UNFCCC. The late Ambassador Jamsheed Marker was one of the country’s most distinguished diplomats. Pakistani diplomats have always shined these climate negotiations whenever given a leadership role.
“COP27 is great example of how Pakistan can position itself to deliver not only for itself but lead the voices of developing countries at the international level. It requires three ingredients: pre-alignment by securing a leadership seat in the technical process, political push, and razor-sharp focus on the outcome. Before landing at COP27, Pakistan secured the Chair of G77+ China (representing 134 countries). Realizing the growing challenge of climate impacts as displayed by the catastrophic flooding this year, a clear political will was created. Finally, the clarity of establishment of Loss and Damage Fund allowed all technical and political capital to focus on one outcome, which was finally gaveled in after a long negotiating fight”, explained Kakakhel who was up all night with the negotiating team and stayed in Sharm El Sheikh until Sunday morning. The conference was supposed to have ended on Friday afternoon but was extended for almost 40 hours.
The fund does not have any money in it as yet and it will take at least a year if not longer for the ‘Transitional Committee’ to deliver in line with its needs when it presents the structure of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28 to be held in Dubai in the UAE next year. However, a start has been made in the march towards climate justice.
The conference was supposed to have ended on Friday afternoon but was extended for almost 40 hours.
According to Kakakhel, “How much money will ultimately come to Pakistan through the Loss and Damage Fund is one conversation, but the fact that it can play a winning hand at climate diplomacy is another feat to appreciate. Pakistan must consolidate its position and use its relevance in the international climate policy space for other foreign policy objectives.”
Another good news is that Ambassador Munir has been elected as Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) for two years at the COP. The SBI and its work have been at the heart of all implementation issues under the UNFCCC. Pakistan’s Foreign Office will now be shaping the direction of the negotiations for the next two years and the election of Ambassador Munir is a testament to his credentials.
For now, according to the Foreign Office: “Pakistan looks forward to the early operationalization of the Fund, with the hope that the Fund would bridge a major gap in the climate finance architecture”. Pakistan, along with the Global South, has demonstrated great determination in acquiring this finance facility given that their losses have been much more than they can handle on their own. In the end, the longer big emitters delay climate mitigation, the more costly it will be for everyone.