With COP23 underway, what can we expect?
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) is currently ongoing in Bonn, Germany.
Two years ago, COP 21 in Paris was a huge success, where parties reached an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in such a way that at the end of the century, the global rise of the temperature will be below 2 degrees Celsius, and limit global temperature to 1.5C from pre-industrial levels.
So far, 193 countries have signed the Paris Agreement, and 163 countries have ratified it in their respective parliaments. Bangladesh signed the Paris Agreement and ratified it in 2016 as one of the first signatory countries. This year, COP has focused on devising the implementation plan of the Paris agreement. However, it also becomes very interesting, as a few developments have occurred over the last two years.
The two key things
One of them is that the US government formally wants to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, even though withdrawal till 2020 cannot be allowed as per the rules of the agreement. It will be interesting to watch the role of the US negotiators in the COP23 meetings.
The world will also expect the US to stay in the agreement, as it is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. It is very important that the US government tries its best to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Substantial mitigating efforts from the major polluters seem essential to combat the adverse impact of climate change, and allow this world to become safe, more sustainable, and green.
The second important aspect of the conference will be focused on reducing the vulnerability of the countries that suffer the most from climate change. These include LDC countries like Bangladesh and small island countries like the conference host country Fiji.
Climate vulnerabilities can be reduced by improving resilience of the society through different adaptation programs. The adaptation programs need national and global support through direct funding and/or through technological support.
Clarity is what we ought to seek
How this funding can be achieved and how can it be used to counter the loss and damage of climate change are still questions of global debate. It is noteworthy that the Paris Agreement is neither a legally binding document, nor is there closure on compensations for the losses and damages caused by climate change.
However, climate vulnerable countries are in need of enormous support from the countries responsible for the greenhouse gas emission.
Bangladesh will also hope that the disbursement of the funds from the Green Climate Funds comes as fast as promised in the Paris Agreement
This conference in Bonn under the presidency of Fiji will provide an opportunity for both the developing countries and developed countries to negotiate and reassure their promises by building clear implementation plans.
As Bangladesh is not a major contributor of greenhouse gases, we will mostly focus on adaptation. However, it is important that we get financial and technological support to move from generating energy from fossil fuels to low-cost green energy.
According to the National Determined Contribution (NDC) of Bangladesh, the country will cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 5% and 10% without and with additional supports respectively by 2030. Therefore, access to green energy-related technology will be one of our priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
What can we expect from COP23?
The major focus of Bangladesh will be to get support from the developed countries for its adaptation programs. Bangladesh is now preparing its National Adaptation Program (NAP) to mainstream climate change issues to build resilience in its sustainable development.
We also need support to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as set by the UN, well before 2030. As described in the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP), we must focus on the six major areas which include ensuring food security, comprehensive disaster management, climate resilient infrastructure development, capacity building, research and new knowledge generation, and low carbon development.
Despite many challenges, the country has been progressing quite well with an average GDP growth of more than 6% over the last decade.
However, climate-induced natural disasters pose a threat to our future development, and we must be prepared.
Thus, it is important for the country to prepare to face climate change-induced challenges. Moreover, this conference will also serve as an opportunity to learn from other vulnerable countries and gain support from developing countries.
Finally, unlike other parties of this UN conference, Bangladesh will hope that all the signed parties of the Paris Agreement will keep their promises even though it is not a legally binding document.
We will also hope that the implementation of the Paris Agreement will help to contain the threat of climate change and strengthen our effort in adaption. Otherwise, we might reach the tipping point and experience huge losses and damages.
In the last two years, we have already observed floods having a 100-year return period in terms of water level, flash floods that happened much earlier for the first time in 60 years, changes in rainfall patterns and heavy urban flooding, increase in lightning and thunderstorms, increase in cyclones and depressions, and unprecedented displacement of people due to river bank erosion, sea level rise, and increasing salinity in the coastal areas.
Bangladesh will also hope that the disbursement of funds from the Green Climate Funds comes as fast as promised in the Paris Agreement. Moreover, urgent adaptation funds need to be formulated for the most vulnerable countries and islands to improve the adaptive capacity of these countries.
It is only mutual trust and good will of the parties that can make COP23 in Bonn a success.
AKM Saiful Islam is a professor of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangladesh.