By Iftikhar Ali

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 (APP): The Climate Action Summit wrapped up Friday evening after some 70 world leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, delivered a raft of new measures aimed at making a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that the warming of the planet is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres especially mentioned the announcement by PM Khan that Pakistan was scrapping plans for new coal power plants.

“Pakistan announced no new coal power plants,” the UN chief said, as he recounted the number of countries coming forward with strengthened national climate plans (NDCs), with commitments covering some of the world’s biggest emitters on display.

Pakistan has seen coal power capacity increase from very low levels to a substantial 5 gigawatts over the past five years. But in his address to the online summit, Prime minister Imran Khan said that 60% of all energy by 2030 will be from renewables and 30% of all vehicles will be powered by electricity.

On his Twitter account, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram drew attention to Pakistani premier’s ambitious plan as part of country’s unwavering commitment toward combating climate change.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to make new concrete announcements on the climate ambition of the world’s third-largest polluter. Modi only reiterated commitments announced in previous months, including increasing the country’s renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts before 2022 and to 450 gigawatts by 2030.

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China’s President Xi Jinping committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption to around 25% by 2030.

Britain, which is hosting next year’s UN Climate Conference, announced that it will cut emissions by 68 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, within the next five years, and the European Union bloc committed to a 55 per cent cut over the same time period.

Small island nations are not among large emitters of greenhouse gases, but they’re among the most affected by global warming, said Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. This year’s hurricane season has ended with a record of 30 named storms.

The survival of these nations depends on other countries raising ambition in their emissions pledges, she said. Without more ambition “There will be no build-back-better for countries and economies like mine.”

Italy will donate 30 million euros ($36 million) to the UN Adaptation Fund, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

France will introduce a new climate law over the next few weeks which will include specific measures proposed by citizens to help the economy transition toward climate neutrality, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Measures to transition toward a low-carbon economy include halting all support toward the exploration of new fossil fuel deposits within the next five years, not building new coal plants and forcing financial firms to disclose financial risk, he said.

UN Secretary-General Guterres called on governments to declare a climate emergency to accelerate efforts toward carbon neutrality. That’ll be the UN’s central objective for next year, he said.

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“Five years after the Paris Agreement we’re still not going in the right direction,” Guterres said. “Commitments made in Paris were far from enough — we are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 degrees.

At least 24 countries announced in the Summit new commitments, strategies or plans to reach carbon neutrality, and a number of states set out how they are going even further, with ambitious dates to reach net zero: Finland by 2035, Austria by 2040 and Sweden by 2045.

Officials see these announcements are a sign that there is real momentum as the member states head towards the next big step on the road to carbon neutrality, the COP26 UN Climate Conference, in November 2021.

The Summit has been labelled as the starting gun for the “the sprint to Glasgow”, referring to the delayed UN Climate Conference (COP26) which is scheduled to be held in the Scottish city in November 2021. The year-long sprint is a push for countries to announce even more ambitious and wide-ranging plans to curb emissions and make their economies “greener” and more sustainable.

The coronavirus wrought economic havoc on the world but, with the release of COVID-19 vaccines expected in 2021, these officials hope that economies will begin opening up, and the UN is spearheading attempts to ensure that the world will “build back better”, rather than returning to a fossil-fuel dependent business as usual.