Missed opportunity: Karachi mayor fails to attend global climate summit


Daily Times, San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO_Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial hub, Karachi, lost an opportunity to commit to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and highlight the challenges climate change imposes when Mayor Waseem Akhtar cancelled his attendance at an international climate summit due to political obligations at home.

More than 70 mayors from around the world committed to more ambitious action to reduce the emissions that contribute to global warming at the Global Climate Action Summit earlier this month.

Akhtar was officially listed as a speaker in the summit, but he told the Daily Times that he was unable to attend due to “an important meeting” with Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was in Karachi at the time of Akhtar’s planned departure.

According to a report by the medical journal, “Lancet,” each year in Pakistan around 22 percent of deaths are caused by air pollution. The World Health Organization’s urban ambient air pollution database ranks Karachi number 14 among the 20-most polluted cities in the world.

Sponsored by Google, Facebook, the United Nations and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the summit brought hundreds of businesses, state and local government officials, civil society organizations and citizens from across the world to San Francisco to highlight how cities are making commitments to deliver on the highest ambitions of the Paris Agreement, a global accord aimed at combating climate change. 

During GCAS, mayors of 72 cities publicly committed to developing and beginning to implement ambitious climate action plans by 2020, the year when countries that have signed onto the Paris Agreement will need to see their carbon emissions peak and start falling.

Delivering on those commitments could see many more cities join the 27 that have already peaked their greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by C40 Cities, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change.

Committing to renewable energy, electric buses and other measures that help reduce the amount of emissions from transportation and electricity generation would prevent 11,000 premature deaths per year from air pollution, C40 said in a press release.

Karachi is the seventh-most populous city in the world and frequently experiences extreme weather events, such as flooding and heat waves. Mayor Akhtar said his absence at GCAS didn’t mean Karachi was ignoring the challenges of climate change.

“We are working on the climate action and will soon send our pledges on climate actions to the GCAS secretariat,” he said. 

This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.