Doha climate Conference Bangladesh

by Barrister Harun ur Rashid | December 9, 2012 5:10 pm

The two-week conference 18th UN Conference on Climate Change (Conference of Parties- COP 18) in Doha which ended on 8th December was divided into two phases:

The first one ran from 26th November to 3rd December and the second phase started from 4th December to 7th December in which heads of states /government or minister participated from over 190 countries including Bangladesh.

What better place to host a global climate conference than in Qatar, the world’s highest per-capita greenhouse gas emitter? One delegate posed the question.

Furthermore the time was not appropriate for commitment to funding when Europe and the US have been going through economic slowdown, high unemployment rates and social unrest.

Purpose of the Conference:

The main purpose of the Doha conference was as follows: (a) commitment of the nations to a binding agreement to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions. (b) extension of the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol, after December 31 2012, (c) funding support together with technology transfer for the developing countries and (d) to set a timetable with a concrete work plan for a new global climate change treaty to be concluded by 2015, (take effect in 2020)

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, reminded the delegates that “the eyes of the world” and “the urgency of the science” are upon them, encouraging them to improve long-term global adaptation and mitigation responses and chart the course of future efforts.”

Agreements at Doha:

After protracted negotiations among delegates of 200 nations, often stalled because of disagreements between rich and poor nations, finally it was agreed as follows:

· The agreement on a Kyoto “second commitment period,” for 8 years pending a new global pact due to enter into force in 2020, concluded 12 days of tough haggling in Doha. The extension of the Kyoto Protocol was supported by the 27-member European Union, Australia, Switzerland and eight other industrialised nations signing up for binding emission cuts by 2020.

· It was agreed to have work plan for the new global treaty to be concluded by 2015, (take effect from 2020) which will bind all countries-developed and developing nations including emerging economies led by China and India that have no targets under Kyoto Protocol

· In a blow to the demands of developing nations for a clear timetable for a promised tenfold increase in aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, it merely agreed to put off decisions until 2013.

Grim UN Study of global warming:

At the commencement of the conference, the latest U.N. study said the world was on target for a rise in temperatures of between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 9F) because of increasing emissions. That would cause more diseases, floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

A U.N. conference two years ago agreed to limit any rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times. But greenhouse gas levels hit a new record in 2011, despite the world economic slowdown.

Whether one agrees or not with the fact that human activities are the cause of warming the Earth, one fact seems to be certain that freak weather pattern has occurred in different parts of the globe.

Floods in Britain, droughts and Sandy storm in US, floods in China and Japan, extreme droughts in Brazil, typhoons and floods in the Philippines, earthquakes in Latin America, Japan, Indonesia and New Zealand have given a wake-up call to all of them of the sort of extreme event predicted by climate scientists in a warming world. In South Asia monsoon has been delayed causing distress among farmers.

Debate on Funding in Doha:

Since the process of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change began about 20 years ago, countries have been split into two often-warring camps: the small number of rich states that provide money to help deal with the effects of global warming and the much larger group of poorer states that receive it.

The financial aid of $10 billion a year for adapting to climate change over the following three years after 2009 promised by developed countries at the Copenhagen to help the world’s most vulnerable countries cope with climate change has not been fully delivered. Out of $30 billion, only $2 billion has reportedly been disbursed to developing nations.

Also, more specific plans need to be set out for the long-term Green Climate Fund, whose aim is to ramp up annual provisions of $100 billion U.S. dollars beginning from 2020 as agreed in the Copenhagen Conference in 2009 but now remains an empty shell.

The Doha Conference took place at a time when commitment to funding has been particular difficult for donor nations to find new money. Apart from Britain and a few other European countries, there was no commitment to funding by other rich nations.

Europe and Japan are going through their financial crisis and the US which traditionally provides about a quarter of international finance, is teetering on a “fiscal cliff”.

The oil and gas rich nations including Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also failed to put any money on the table.

Environmental woes of Bangladesh:

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

· Massive deforestation in India and Nepal

· Diversion of water from rivers by upper riparian countries

· 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

Increased temperature has added twin problems for the country. While a torrent of melt-water from the Himalayan glaciers flow to the rivers, causing soil erosion, at the same time coastal zones are being gradually flooded by rising sea-levels.

Our Bangladesh’s rivers are snow and rain-fed and if there is no snow in the Himalayas, our major 56 rivers will die during winter months. It is a dreadful scenario for 160 million people.

According to recent estimates of the World Bank released in December this year, 14.6 million people in the coastal areas of Bangladesh are vulnerable to inundation due to increased cyclonic surges, and this number will increase to 18.5 million by 2050 under moderate climate change scenarios, said a World Bank press release.

Where will the displaced people go? There will be influx of “boat people” from Bangladesh moving to other countries for shelter as environmental refugees.

Bangladesh’s action:

Over the last decades, it is reported the Bangladesh government has invested more than US$10bn to make the country less vulnerable to natural disasters. Measures as strengthening river embankments, building emergency cyclone shelters, and developing world class community based early warning system have significantly reduced the loss of life and livelihoods and property damages caused by extreme weather events.

The World Bank has said the high level event was organised to show-case the proactive responses of extremely vulnerable nations toward climate resilience as the nations are beginning to experience the early impacts of global climate change.

To supplement its national programs, Bangladesh has successfully aligned its development partners to address the climate change challenge and established an innovative financing mechanism – the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BBCRF).

So far, the BBCRF has channeled US$ 170 million in grant funds from seven development partners, namely Australia, Denmark, the EU, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA to strengthen the resilience to climate change.

On an interim basis, the World Bank is playing the role of trustee – conducting fiduciary transparency and accountability due diligence of the BCCRF, the World Bank press release added.

The government of Bangladesh has also created a separate “Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund” and allocated US$ 350 million from its own resources for the last four years consecutively – 2009 to 2012. Bangladesh has been implementing 106 projects to address climate change including better adaptation and mitigation.


The consolation prize for developing nations is that the Doha conference has established for the first time that rich nations should move towards compensating poor nations for losses due to climate change. Developing nations hailed it as a breakthrough, but condemned the gulf between the science of climate change and political will to tackle it. At the end of the day, it is a dilemma for leaders to strike a balance between economic growth and reduction of greenhouse gases.

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

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