The United States has invited Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam to be a distinguished speaker at the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate being hosted by President Joe Biden later this week, it emerged on Monday.
The US president had last month invited 40 world leaders, including those from India, China and Bangladesh, to the summit. It was understood at the time that Pakistan had been skipped from the conference despite being one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
However, Aslam on Monday confirmed that he had been invited to participate in the summit, saying permission will be sought from Prime Minister Imran Khan to attend it tomorrow.
In a letter dated April 17, addressed to Aslam, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said: "On behalf of the President of the United States, it is my pleasure to invite you to be a distinguished speaker at the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate. We would like to ask you to join other ministers and leaders on April 22 in a discussion focused on climate adaptation and resilience."
According to the invitation, the Leaders Summit will bring together "the world's major economies and other partners for an urgent and open dialogue on ways to strengthen our collective efforts to confront the climate crisis".
It noted that one of Biden's very first actions after assuming office was to return the US to the Paris Agreement — the global framework for guiding the members' collective climate efforts, saying Washington was fully committed to working with all countries to strengthen climate ambition heading into the UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for November in Glasgow.
"Our guiding aim is to keep within reach the vital goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius," the letter read.
It said by the time of the Leaders Summit, the US will put forward an ambitious climate target for 2030 as our new nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement. "The President is urging other leaders to also come to the Summit prepared to share how their governments will contribute to keeping the 1.5 degree Celsius goal within reach.
The summit will reconvene the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together the 17 countries responsible for nearly 80 per cent of global emissions to seek common ground on climate solutions.
"To ensure the Summit includes other voices, the President has also invited the heads of additional countries that are especially vulnerable to climate impacts or are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy," the letter said.
Kerry told Aslam that "It is our hope you can contribute Pakistan's valuable perspective to a session focused on climate adaptation and resilience, to be hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
"President Biden and I very much hope you are able to participate in this timely gathering."
US ‘looks forward to working with Pakistan’ on climate crisis
Pakistan's initial exclusion from the invitation list for the summit hosted by the US had raised eyebrows, with several analysts questioning the move given the country's vulnerability to global warming and Prime Minister Imran's focus on the environment front. Others perceived it as a snub for the country.
However, the US State Department had said that Washington looked forward to working with Islamabad on the climate crisis at different levels.
“The United States seeks to engage all countries to explore areas for cooperation on addressing the climate crisis, including Pakistan,” a spokesperson for the State Department had told Dawn when asked at the time why Pakistan was being ignored on such a sensitive issue.
“The Leaders Summit on Climate is only one of several major climate-related events in the run-up to COP-26, which will be a global event,” the official had said while explaining why Pakistan was not invited to President Biden’s summit.
“We look forward to working with the government of Pakistan and governments around the world to raise the level of global ambition to meet the climate challenge,” the official had added.
The Foreign Office in Islamabad had hinted that the country was not invited to the White House summit because it was “one of the lowest emitters — with less than one per cent of the global emissions”.
Responding to a question on the alleged snub by the US, the FO spokesman had said: “The Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change hosted by President Biden reconvenes the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together leaders from countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of global emissions and GDP."