Petersberg Climate Dialogue XI: Pathway to post COVID and pro Climate Future

by Ishani Palandurkar - 15 May, 2020, 12:00 3387 Views 0 Comment

Petersberg Climate Dialogue (PCD) was founded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in collaboration with 30 member countries including India, Japan, Chile, Marshall Islands, Egypt, the Gabonese Republic among others and has been hosted annually by Germany since 2010. The objective is to collaborate and discuss implementable climate policies and strengthening countries’ industrial commitment through strong climate investment and financing mechanisms.

This year’s PCD XI was co-hosted by the German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Ms. Svenja Schulze, and the UK Secretary for the State of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy and the incoming COP 26 President Mr. Alok Sharma. With the COP-26 being postponed to 2021 due to the current global crisis of COVID-19, PCD decided to remain committed to climate action and hosted this dialogue through a series of virtual conferences on April 27th and April 28th 2020. Some of the key speakers of PCD XI are Nicholas Stern – British Economist and Academician from London School of Economics, Sharan Burrow – General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Antonio Guterres – United Nations Secretary, and Angela Merkel – Federal Counsellor of Germany.

Figure 1: Ms. Svenja Schulze during Q&A

Why is PCD XI unique?

COVID-19 is one of the unprecedented global crises of modern times. It has left nations helpless and economies dried out. Under these circumstances, ensuring climate commitment is not only motivationally challenging but making sure that the tools, mechanisms, and finance supporting climate action remain in force and rather are further enhanced poses a great challenge to the world leaders. PCD XI identifies that the damages from climate change are far more severe and irreversible than the current pandemic, thus, aims to stay committed to the goal of carbon-neutral economies by 2050. Setting the Paris Agreement Targets as the ‘compass’, PCD XI indicates nations to navigate international and national developments accordingly.

Some of the insights from PCD XI are:

No going back to the normal

Professor Stern asserted in his statements why it is not ideal to go back to ‘old normal’. The economies globally were fragile that reduced the countries’ resilience to face this shock hence what was normal was also problematic and didn’t prepare the economies. He draws the comparison of global systemization after both World Wars and explains the world today needs rebuilding the way we had it after World War II where global powers came together and committed to working towards joint solutions and peace. That intention is required to find analytical solutions to our problems pertaining to climate and sustainable development.

People and Climate Action

PCD emphasised on the importance of the ‘right’ kind of employment. People and climate have to be integral in designing recovery packages for different nations. Private sector investment should be assigned as the fundamental driver of green investment and should be incentivised through the right pricing policies that set as a clear goal for the industries to move towards zero-carbon economy by 2050.

The recovery packages suggested are of two categories – short term, that provides immediate reliefs to the countries providing financial support to the businesses and labour that has lost its jobs and long term, that ensure sustained economic development by creating greener jobs through investment in renewable energy and mobilizing climate finance mechanisms.

Developing “Vaccine” for Climate Change

It was acknowledged that like COVID-19, the world must invest in developing “vaccine” for climate change through the right kind of investments. Energy Efficiency, Public Transport, Rethinking Cities, Lands and Forests, Natural Resources and Human Resource were identified as seven primary areas of investment whose development will prove to be a vaccine to counter climate change.

One important takeaway from initiatives taken to combat COVID is stepwise articulation of actions that are mutual and comprehensible and can be applied to the society at large (such as hygiene directions). Similar to COVID, countries are facing the same climate crisis which is affecting them differently and they are to commit themselves to design solutions in customized ways.


About 200 million jobs are lost during the pandemic, more than 5000 million people were thrown into poverty, and 250 million people are starving. Current multinational companies and businesses were not resilient to hold jobs and economy and a more integrated approach of policy designing is required in the future.

Additionally, countries must not be excused from fulfilling their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and in fact pose more ambitious NDCs in the year 2020. While public finance remains a challenge, it is encouraged to not reduce or withdraw funds from climate-oriented initiatives. Challenges such as air pollution damage the lungs and make people more vulnerable to the virus. Thus, reducing funding can accelerate the pandemic in the future. To set forth examples, Germany doubled its contribution to the Green Climate Fund to 2 billion euros while Chile came forward with its more ambitious NDCs for the year 2020.

A common dialogue with countries and multilateral institutes is the key to mutual growth. For instance, while G20 countries collectively produce 80 percent of the global emissions, they also make 85 percent of the global economy. Such collaborative efforts will be crucial in achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Integrating Biodiversity with Climate

In the past few years, there is a 60 percent increase in animals to humans diseases due to increased exposure of humans to wildlife habitats and vice versa. Islands across the world are the beholder of the biodiversity and at the same time more vulnerable to climate anomalies than other countries. Such vulnerabilities will be essential to account for and give due importance amidst the current COVID crisis. At the same time, it is also crucial to introduce climate reforms that integrate with biodiversity protection.

India’s Remarks on PCD XI

Hon’ble Minister of Environment, Prakash Javadekar, explains the importance of affordable technology in combatting climate change just as it is proving to be effective in containing COVID in the nation. Additionally, common but differentiated responsibility of climate action is one of the key drivers of action and investment among developing countries in the global climate collaborations.

Antonio Guterres summarises the Dialogue with six clear action points:

  • Providing support for immediate recovery and investing in decarbonization
  • Rescuing business and help them create green jobs
  • Making economies more resilient while moving them from grey to green
  • Ending subsidies towards fossil fuel-driven industries
  • Incorporating cost of climate
  • Encouraging transboundary efforts

Figure 2: Antonio Guterres at the PCD XI

What does it mean for policymakers?

While the countries struggle to procure relief funds and aid to the COVID affected areas, they have to ensure that their commitment to the climate in terms of work progress and financial contribution remains intact. More robust long term and short-term funding mechanisms can be designed integrating public, private and international funds that support economies especially at the time of such shocks.

Creating sustainable livelihoods, especially, for people from low-income segments will remain the core issue for policymakers to solve. Once the lockdown lifts and industrial demand rises, it is important to move that demand in a sustainable direction. For some industries, the complete lockdown might help them transition to greener methods and reduce the environmental burden. Due to financial and knowledge support from state and central authorities can further encourage this transition.

NDCs introduced in 2015 were a great way to kickstart the transition to carbon neutrality. Many countries, including India, committed NDCs in 2015 that were broad and achievable, while some of them had a clear pathway to the development, others struggled with mobilizing natural, human and monetary resources to achieve the targets. However, 2020 expects more ambitious and clearer NDCs that direct development in a more focussed and quantifiable manner.

Biodiversity is often discussed as a separate challenge and rarely integrated with the global climate-economy dialogue. But it is time to start aligning climate policies with wildlife preservation goals. Climate change has a direct impact on biodiversity and that is visible among coral reefs, polar bears, bees, etc. With increasing anthropogenic and natural accidents such as Australian Fire we are already losing our limited biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, therefore, it is essential to take quick and serious actions that integrate climate – wildlife at regional and global levels.

Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals are acknowledged as strong frameworks to guide ‘green’ recovery from the pandemic and encourage a transition that is more ‘fair and inclusive’. With the 2050 vision of carbon neutrality, PCD XI encourages global and regional climate policies to be more specific, directive, actionable and quantifiable.

Ishani Palandurkar
Author is a Consultant with a Delhi based waste management NGO and has worked on sustainable livelihood, climate-resilient practices, waste management, and environment and health.

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