Bangladesh and Poznan Climate change Conference

by Barrister Harun ur Rashid | December 14, 2008 4:45 pm

Bangladesh attended the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.(UNFCCC) and the 4th meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol which were held from 1st to 12th December at Poznan (Poland).

Bangladesh presented a few imaginative proposals that will go a long way to combat the ill-effects of global warming in the country.

A recent report of UK Department for International Development (DFID) of 2007 presents a bleak picture of Bangladesh by 2030.

The Report predicts that the population will be nearly 200 million by 2020, with 40% under the age of 15 years of age. An additional 6-8% of Bangladesh will be permanently under water and flood-prone areas will increase (from 25% to 40% by 2050).

Furthermore three quarters of the Himalayan glaciers may have vanished with disastrous consequences for areas dependent on the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Environmental refugees from rural areas will be flocking to the cities. Dhaka will be one of the world’s largest cities with 80 million people (currently 14 million

The people of Bangladesh find themselves forced to confront the following environmental challenges:

• Melting of Glaciers in the Himalayas
• Massive deforestation in India and Nepal
• Diversion of water from rivers by upper riparian countries
• Dying Rivers ( about 100 died)
• Intrusion of salinity into rivers and farming lands
• Arsenic contaminated underground water in more than 50 districts out of 64
• Reduction of agriculture, livestock & fishery because of intrusion of salinity

Besides these, population growth and poverty added to the degradation of the environment in the country.

In simple terms, the more people there are, the more land is cleared and the more soil is eroded. The country is losing one per cent of its agricultural land every year because of human settlements, according to experts. Moreover the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture are posing extra challenges to the survival of millions of the landless and marginal farmers whose livelihood almost entirely depends on agriculture.

Population density is increasing in the most vulnerable coastal regions. It is reported that greater number of people are moving to areas of climate risk areas for economic reasons.

Poverty leads to recourse of activities that pollute the environment, for example domestic fuel in the countryside comes from forests. Unhygienic living conditions in slums of cities and of countryside people lead to pollution of air, soil and water.

To cut the greenhouse emission, Bangladesh has to explore the source of energy from renewable resources that are easily available in Bangladesh, such as, solar, tidal waves, wind power and biomass at an affordable cost.

Bangladesh will have to confront the dilemma: how to reduce poverty without degradation of environment in the days of soaring food prices, global financial crisis and climate change with economic constraints.

Poznan Conference:

Almost 11000 participants, including government delegates from the 187 Parties to the UNFCCC and representatives from business and industry attended the conference.

The two-week meeting is the halfway mark in the negotiations on an ambitious and effective international climate change deal to be clinched in Copenhagen in 2009. Parties have little more than a year to agree on strengthened action on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.

Environmental non-government organisations in the US had hoped – against the odds – that President-elect Barack Obama might defy convention and turn up at the Poznan conference this week to tell the world in person that the US would soon be doing everything in its power to combat the increasingly dire threat of climate change.

That did not happen but Obama did ask John Kerry, who is leading the Senate’s delegation in Poland, to be his ears and eyes, if not his mouthpiece. Kerry is certainly keen (“We intend to pick up the baton and really run with it here”), and no doubt he will be doing a lot of behind-the-scenes reassuring. But there is something extra – and hugely important – that he could get sorted too

Discussion at Poznan:

All the discussions in Poznan are based on the scientific consensus that emerged at the end of last year from the fourth assessment report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

That consensus was hammered out between the scientists and the politicians as “the best available deal”, reflecting both the political realities of world powers at that time, and the work done by more than 2500 scientists between 2000 and 2005 – the cut-off year for the IPCC’s rigorous peer-review process.

A lot has been going on out there in the natural world since 2005. There is three years’ worth of published peer-reviewed evidence, a lot of it from the frontline of the ecosystems most directly affected by climate change.

Those whose job it is to take account of all that new evidence (universities, think tanks, government departments and so on) have a common message to pass on: the vast majority of those studies tell us incontrovertibly that the impact of climate change is more severe and materialising much more rapidly than anything reflected in the fourth assessment report.

It is much worse out there, and is getting even worse even faster. This presents a paradoxical challenge for national delegations in Poznan. Even if they wanted to draw on that new evidence base to justify more progressive policy positions, they would technically be out of order.

This is particularly surreal in terms of all the evidence coming in from the Arctic, which has seen a 4 degree rise in average temperatures over the past few decades. Arctic sea ice reached an all-time low in 2007, the Greenland ice cap is undergoing accelerated melting and there are growing worries about the melting of the Siberian permafrost, which has the potential to release huge volumes of extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Consensus at the conference:

(a) Agree on a plan of action and programmes of work for the final year of negotiations after a year of comprehensive and extensive discussions on crucial issues relating to future commitments, actions and cooperation
(b) Make significant progress on a number of on-going issues required to enhance further the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, including capacity-building for developing countries, reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD), technology transfer and adaptation.
(c) Advance understanding and commonality of views on “shared vision” for a new climate change regime
(d) Strengthen commitment to the process and the agreed timeline .

Such an outcome will build momentum towards an agreed outcome at Copenhagen Conference in December 2009

Bangladesh at the Conference

Bangladesh presented the following proposals at the conference:

(i) Separate climate change funding must be provided to developing countries apart from the existing official development assistance of 0.7% target of gross national product
(ii)Current arrangement of responsibility based mechanism must be revised to make contributions of industrialised countries (polluters) mandatory.
(iii)To develop a mechanism with the help of UNIPCC to create an index on the vulnerability of people in each country to climate change
(iv)Setting up a long-term global goal on the basis of undertakings of industrialized countries on emission cuts, technology transfer, finance and capacity building.
(v) Creation of an effective environment for climate change adaptation, nationally, regionally and internationally with the support of appropriate institutions.
(vi) Establish the Head office of International Adaptation Centre in Dhaka.

Meanwhile Oxfam International in a report on 30th November estimated that more than $50 billion could be raised each year if industrialized countries buy in auction, the right to only 7.5 % per cent of their emission units. The money according to Oxfam should be handed to a multilateral Adaptation-finance mechanism under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The government may help create public awareness and motivation through mass media—TV, radio, mass rally, advertisement, meeting and festivals on environmental issues. Curriculum in text books on environmental issues may be included in the textbooks for schools and colleges.

Bangladesh’s survival is dependent on appropriate policies to cope with the security threats of global warming. .To reverse the process of global warming, much depends on government, NGOs, academic institutions and people, working toward it together to combat the effects of global warming with the assistance of international community. In this respect BEN Australia has been doing commendable activities with the government and civil society in Australia.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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