Bangladesh, China India at the Climate Summit at the UN

by Barrister Harun ur Rashid | October 1, 2014 7:30 am

The UN climate summit was held on 23rd September which was the largest high-level climate meeting since 2009. Hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, it aimed to encourage 120 member states to sign up to a comprehensive new global climate agreement at talks in Paris next year. As he closed the summit, Ban hailed the meeting, saying “never before have so many leaders gathered to commit to action on climate change”

On 21st September, it was reported that spurred chiefly by China, the United States and India, the world pumped an estimated 39.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air last year by burning coal, oil and gas. That is 778 million tons or 2.3% more than the previous year.

Statistics shows emissions in 2014 were dominated by China (29 percent), the USA (17 percent), the EU (11 percent), and India (7 percent), meaning that the top four polluters account for 64 percent .

“It’s in the wrong direction,” said Glen Peters, a Norwegian scientist who was part of the Global Carbon Project international team that tracks and calculates global emissions every year.

Bangladesh’s position:

Given the physical characteristics of Bangladesh, it is extremely vulnerable to global climate change and the total environment of soil, air and water will degrade so much that the country is in danger of being a text book example of what global climate change could bring adverse impact on a country. A 2007 report of UK Department for International Development (DFID) of 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).

At the summit, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the large carbon emitting countries to make their robust voluntary carbon reduction commitment to save the motherly earth from onslaught of climate change. “It’s our commitment to low-carbon and climate-resilient development path. The large emitting countries should reciprocate by robust voluntary commitments like ours,” she told the National. Action and Ambition Announcement session of the UN Climate Summit-2014 at the UN headquarters in New York.

She assured that Bangladesh as a responsible member of the international community would never exceed the average per-capita emission limit of the developing world.

Adaptation, said Sheikh Hasina, is the key for vulnerable countries like Bangladesh. “We can’t be left to adapt to ‘degradation’ because of climate change” she added. The PM said the issues of “adaptation” and “loss and damage” are also crucial for Bangladesh for sustainable development. Critical balance should be maintained between adaptation and mitigation. Support to finance, technology development and transfer and capacity building is also important as well, she observed.

She said every country should have a clear, measurable and verifiable Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Bangladesh is working on her possible INDCs, but new and additional resources would be needed for their implementation, mentioned the premier.

Urging the world leaders to pay attention to “Carbon budgeting” and “de-carbonisation pathways”, the prime minister said robust and early capitalisation of Green Climate Fund (GCF) is crucial for us.

Highlighting Bangladesh’s constant endeavour to green economy, she said Bangladesh in recent years has undertaken significant steps in this regard.The country now has 3.2 million Solar Home Systems (SHS), over 1.5 million Improved Cook Stoves (ICS), she said adding a 10-year Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan is under implementation. Under the action plan, Bangladesh has already developed varieties of stress-tolerant crops, noted the PM.

Though Bangladesh is a climate-vulnerable LDC, the country so far allocated $385 million from own resources for adaptation and mitigation, as climate change continues to affect the lives and livelihood of millions in our unique and active delta.”she said.

She said climate change may threaten the production of Bangladesh’s wheat and major rice crop (Boro). In addition, many people may have to move out, changing their traditional living and livelihood. Studies suggest that two to three percent of our GDP may be wiped out because of climate change, mentioned the PM.

China’s position

China is the world’s largest carbon polluter. It is good to note that China has pledged for the first time to take firm action on climate change, telling a UN summit that its emissions, the world’s highest, would soon peak. Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said China would make its economy much more carbon efficient by 2020.

Zhang told the summit that by 2020, China would aim to reduce its emissions of carbon per unit of GDP by 45%, compared with levels in 2005. “As a responsible major country, a major developing country, China will make even greater effort to address climate change. All countries need to follow the path of green and low carbon development that suits their national conditions, [and] set forth post-2020 actions in light of actual circumstances.” M Zhang said.

India’s position

India is the third- largest carbon polluter, behind China and the US. Indian Minister of state for environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar said that Prime Minister Modi’s absence from the summit did not mean that India was not serious about climate change.

“We are serious. (Modi) is committed (on climate change issues). We are doing our action but it is not at somebody’s dictation, it is on our own volition,” he said.

In New York, he said to the media the government would provide access to electricity to 20% of India’s population in the coming decades and experts say as India would provide access to electricity to more than 300 million, its emissions are projected to double, surpassing those of the US and China.

Javadekar stressed that India demands that the developed world “should not come out with new terminology” every time but “now walk the talk” on tackling climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “What we expect from the world is that the developed world must walk the talk on the Green Climate Fund as well as cutting their own emissions,” he said adding that for India, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the real mandate.

Indian minister said that the moral principle of historic responsibility of those countries which have historically emitted the most cannot be washed away.”

In addressing the UN session of the General Assembly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also did not show his hand on how his country would commit to cutting its future emissions at a time when pressure is increasing for countries worldwide to agree on how to tackle climate change. He spoke about “shouldering our responsibilities” without describing what those responsibilities were and reminded rich countries that they had promised to bear the costs.

Experts say Indian position appears to be a blow to American hopes of reaching an international treaty to cut its greenhouse gas emissions at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.

On Indian position, media says while India champions historic responsibility abroad, it an instrument of eroding historic justice at home. India argues beneficiaries of past pollution have to bear the responsibility of mitigating climate change. But at home, it shows its hypocrisy by insisting that historically disenfranchised forest dwelling citizens bear the cost of conservation and development.

Reality check:

Experts say if you add up everything that countries are already doing on emissions, we’re on pace for between 3.2°C and 5.4°C of global warming — far above the target: The world isn’t doing nearly enough right now to meet its own climate goals. Emissions in the United States and Europe are falling slightly, but they’re soaring in countries like China and India:

Climate politics & conclusion:

This is a deep and longstanding disagreement in global climate politics, and no one seems to have figured out how to solve it. . One detailed recent UN report on “deep decarbonization” found that the world’s 15 largest economies would have to cut their emissions in half in the next four decades if the world wanted to avoid 2°C of warming.

Although rich countries except Australia are using less and less coal each year, coal isn’t just sitting in the ground. Instead, mining companies are shipping it off to Asia, where it’s getting burned in their power plants.

So any serious attempt to mitigate global warming would have to involve all the major emitters —-the United States, Europe, China, India, and others. That’s the aim of ongoing international climate talks which will lead to a global treaty on carbon emission in Paris in 2015, to be effective from 2020.

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