On Earth Day, April 22, 2016, Pakistan raised its level of commitment to climate action by signing the COP21 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Signature Ceremony was hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Pakistan was represented by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN.
I had the opportunity to attend on behalf of the American Pakistan Foundation and witness this historic day. In order to attend, I went through a lengthy application process expressing my personal and professional passion for climate change. As an architect working directly in the field of building sustainability for the City of New York, I engage with energy efficiency standards on a daily basis. Additionally, I am Pakistani-American, and was proud to see Pakistan making bold advances on this momentous occasion.
New York City’s Signature Ceremony comes after international recognition of the Paris Agreement in December of 2015, when nearly 200 countries gathered to establish the framework of international climate cooperation. The Paris Agreement falls within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was established in 1992. The UNFCCC was the first large-scale recognition of the adverse effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
Both Khan and Lodhi were present in the General Assembly Hall for the ceremony and the day’s accompanying seminars, along with the delegates of 174 other countries who had flown in to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, for the second phase of this commitment- the signing of the document. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the delegates and thanked each of them for their leadership. He invited several delegates and human rights activists to speak, including award winning actor, environmentalist, and UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio.
The United Nations tweeted a video of Ambassador Lodhi during the day’s events. She proudly stated, “As a developing country, we [Pakistan] are affected by global warming and climate change, so we will do everything to make sure that the world stands by these commitments.”
Urdu Voice of America also broadcast a brief interview with Ambassador Lodhi at the UN Headquarters, in which she stated that Pakistan has allocated funding specifically to mitigate the effects of climate change. Ambassador Lodhi also recognized that the natural disasters Pakistan has seen in recent years, including disastrous flooding, were a result of global warming. Lodhi kept Pakistanis informed of the day’s happenings through her Twitter account, even publishing a photo alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, UN Messenger of Peace, tweeting that she had invited Leonardo DiCaprio to Pakistan.
Chaudhry Nisar also delivered a national statement on climate change, emphasizing Pakistan’s willingness to partake in the fight against global warming. He stated that Pakistan has a plan for climate action and fully supports the United Nation’s implementation of the Agreement.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry delivered an impassioned speech, reminding everyone that each year has been warmer than the last and highlighting the ‘urgency’ needed to battle the climate crisis.
In the coming year, countries can further cement their commitment to the Paris Agreement, by formally submitting their instruments of ratification, or plans for climate action. As DiCaprio stated to the delegates, “We can congratulate each other today, but it will mean absolutely nothing if you return to your countries and don’t take action to implement the deal.”
Farah Ahmad, LEED AP BD+C, is a Pakistani American, born and raised in New York City. She is a Sustainability Professional in Architecture. Since graduating with a B. Arch, she has worked for the public sector. Her work has revolved around energy efficiency projects for several city government agencies. Farah has a passion for the environment and renewable energy. When she isn’t working on a green building, Farah enjoys networking, travel, exploring different cultures, and journalism.
You can check out her work on www.farahnazahmad.com, or follow her on Instagram (@greenexplorations) or on Twitter (@farah_arch)!