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Green diplomacy

The UN Conference of the Parties (COP-26) taking place in November 2021 in Glasgow, UK, is drawing near and the world’s nations are preparing their agendas for this summit.

This conference will assess the findings of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) titled, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis-A Summary for Policymakers, which has categorically issued a Code Red warning that if the business continues as usual then we won’t be able to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.

In this backdrop, four goals have been underlined for the summit: first, to secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach; second, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats; third, mobilise finances; fourth, work together to deliver. These are very ambitious targets but to realise these goals, green diplomacy among the nations is needed.

It has been obvious now that climate change is a reality and one of the biggest threats to the globe, having a huge impact on ecosystems, habitats, health and food security.

Scientists predict that unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be impossible. If this trend continues, it will result in the extinction of 1 million species and put 800 million people at risk just in Asia, which is considered a hotspot of climate change. It will also result in changes in the water cycle, like availability, timings, quality and quantity and will cost $7.9 trillion to the world till 2050. These startling statistics warrant that climate action should be taken as a collective aim. Only a collective endeavour can bring the desired results.

Out of the four targets set for the COP-26 Glasgow summit, the last one, which is to “work together to deliver” must be acted on the earliest. Keeping in view the urgency of the climate change huddle and the need of prior campaigning the role of diplomats cannot be ignored.

The lukewarm response of the diplomatic community is because climate is seen to be in the realm of ‘low politics’, the activism that is needed for coping with the vagaries of climate has remained negligible. Yet, human rights, trade, security, macro-economics, and sustainable development are directly linked with the sustainability of the environment.

Cooperation on climate change among the countries otherwise hostile to each other, can be a great start to provide an opportunity for a broader engagement in the international dispute resolutions.

The role of diplomats in this regard becomes of great importance. The green concern needs to be very much at the heart of their priorities and multi-lateral engagements. It is indeed a new track in which the world diplomatic community will act as an ambassador of ‘change’ and actively engage in sensitising the world community regarding the perils of climate change.

Green diplomacy is preventive diplomacy that seeks to build resilience and harmonise the interests of the state with the interests of every human being on the planet, concerning the conservation and development of natural conditions of life.

Diplomats can only play a stronger and effective role in crafting a climate change policy at the national level by learning from the experiences of others.

Green diplomacy is preventive diplomacy that seeks to build resilience and harmonise the interests of the state with the interests of every human being on the planet concerning the conservation and development of natural conditions of life.

Advocating for an enhanced multi-lateral climate cooperation and accelerating global awareness and domestic action can be the core parameters of green diplomacy.

It is heartening to note that US President Biden has made climate change diplomacy the central pillar of his Build Back Better campaign and designated former US secretary of state, John Kerry, as a special presidential envoy on climate change.

The foreign secretary of the UK has appointed four regional ambassadors to work closely with the COP26 Unit, the foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and other stakeholders and help develop regional and country-level support for COP26. All states need to include such commitments and realise the centrality of the issue in their foreign policies.

States dealing with climate change adaptation, like Pakistan, need to actively pursue their case by engaging the diplomatic community stationed in their states and designate climate change ambassadors in their embassies all around the world.

The civil society also needs to make a coalition on the issue and engage with the governments and international stakeholders working on the issue of climate change. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute Islamabad has taken the lead in this regard by engaging the parliamentarians and diplomats on the issue of climate and clean energy transition.

Speaking at a conference organised by the SDPI, COP26 regional ambassador mbassador Ken O’Flaherty said that it was a great initiative engaging not only the parliamentarians but also waking up the diplomatic fraternity about the grim realities of climate change.

He urged that the voices of civil society – women, young people and indigenous people – are all heard. “They must join us in pressing for climate ambition ahead of COP26”, he said. He also appreciated Pakistan’s response in seeking nature-based solutions for climate change and adaptation and transition to green energy.

Every individual who cares for the future of the planet and its inhabitants should wear the green diplomat badge. The job should not be left to just the governments. We need to encourage everyone to play their part in delivering action at the local level and pressing governments, businesses, diplomats and the global community to accelerate campaigns against climate change and sort out ways and means to make this planet sustainable and livable for all.

The writer is an advocacy officer at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute