Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has hailed the securement of the “loss and damage fund” at last month’s COP27 climate summit as a “significant achievement”.
He said this in an exclusive interview with Arab News published on Wednesday in which he talked about his recent seven-day visit to the United States.
FM Bilawal was in New York earlier this month to host a ministerial conference of the G-77 and China bloc — the largest negotiating bloc of developing countries within the United Nation network. It was also Pakistan’s last conference as the chair of the group as the leadership was transferred to Cuba for the upcoming year.
Talking to Arab News, he asserted that he was “proud of the fact that it was under Pakistan’s chairmanship of the G77” that this aim for the climate fund — which he said was something that climate activists had been struggling with for the past 30 years — had been achieved.
“I think we were very successful in creating that consensus.”
He said that “time and time again, the G77 has come together to take unanimous decisions. Every meeting that we chaired here has had an outcome document.”
FM Bilawal commended the unity among the G77 members, saying, “I don’t think it would have been possible to insist on loss and damage being part of the agenda or ultimately agreeing to get [it] … without consensus and unity across the board at G77.”
“In the past year, we managed to sustain that consensus and it’s incredibly encouraging,” the foreign minister commented.
Reflecting on Pakistan’s leadership position as the chair of the G77 for the past year, Bilawal said: “To say at the end of our one-year term that we managed to fundamentally alter the dynamics between the developing world, the global south and the global north, would not be correct. There is a lot of work to be done.
“But I do believe we’ve managed to highlight some of these discrepancies, some of these predictions and particularly within the context of COP27, the success of G77 to get loss and damage onto its agenda goes a long way to address this discrepancy.”
Aiming to bridge the conversational gap between the developed and developing nations, the foreign minister opined, “I feel that we’ve managed to achieve some common ground through the language incorporated in loss and damage.”
The foreign minister said that the loss and damage framework needed to be seen as “not just the developed world needing to give compensation or reparations to the developing world but as a more practical [and] realistic approach, that we have to work together”.
Calling for the global south and the global north and the developing world and the developed world to work together, FM Bilawal said: “Success is always the result of compromise.”
He remarked that climate justice and catastrophe knew “no boundaries, do not care whether you’re rich or poor, whether you contributed to climate change much or you didn’t”.
The foreign minister highlighted how climate change was impacting not just the developing countries but even the developed ones.
“It (climate change) is devastating lives in Pakistan. It is devastating lives here in the US, where recently you had Hurricane Ian. In China, the heat wave. Drought and forest fires in South Africa. In Europe, floods.
“Wherever we look, we see climate catastrophes catching up to us and we have to work together to address this issue,” he asserted.
The foreign minister said there were “different perspectives” on climate change with the developing world feeling that its carbon footprint was smaller and that it has not contributed to the climate crisis as much as the developed world has.
“They (developing nations) haven’t benefited in the same way the developed world has from industrialisation. And therefore, we have to find the middle ground between the two to address this issue,” he added.
“The art of diplomacy, of politics, is being able to find mutual ground. I am a strong believer [of that],” FM Bilawal said.
“I think the politics domestically in my country and internationally tend to be politics of division. I tend to believe that there’s far more that unites us than divides us.
“And we should seek common ground — areas in which we can work together — rather than find areas where we disagree,” the foreign minister said.
Regarding the country’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — Bilawal said, “I believe as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and a whole host of other factors, including the Ukraine war, we have not been able to make the necessary progress on SDGs.”
“If we do want to achieve that goal, then it requires quite an ambitious reform agenda that would endorse many of the suggestions of Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, who also calls for reforms of international financial institutions in order for us to be able to deliver on SDGs,” he explained.