The Paris Agreement will have been for nothing if it isn’t backed up by concrete actions
COP-23 negotiations to bolster the climate-saving Paris Agreement came to an end on November 18 in Bonn. 196 countries, including Bangladesh, participated. Despite Trump’s rejection of the accord, negotiations were partially deflated but not completely derailed.
The US approach, nevertheless, cast a long shadow on the proceedings.
The media, always alert about the evolving dynamics regarding climate change, did not fail to draw attention to the fact that White House officials had hosted a sideline event with energy company bosses to defend the continued use of fossil fuels that emit planet-warming and climate-altering gases when used. It may be recalled that the Paris treaty calls for limiting average global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius.
It is understood that over the next year a series of discussions will take place to help countries review the promises they made earlier under the Paris pact. Results from such review will eventually be discussed in next year’s Climate Conference to be held in Katowice, Poland in December 2018.
There is general agreement that many governments can now see a clean energy future that might not only be achievable but also be affordable. A gulf, however, remains between aspiration and action. It may be mentioned here that most industrialised countries — from Europe to Japan to the US — are not on track to meet their emission goals. This in turn is creating the risk of destabilising ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, drastic sea-level rise, and more destructive heat waves and droughts.
Judged by history
This anxiety has been reflected in comments made by Maldives Environment Minister Thariq Ibrahim. While addressing the Plenary he stated: “While the Paris Agreement represents a remarkable diplomatic achievement, it will be judged by history as little more than words on paper if the world fails to take the level of action needed to prevent the loss of entire island nations.”
The conference saw developed and developing countries butt heads on several issues, mainly financing of operations related to adaptation and mitigation of the after-effects of climate change. Developing countries demanded detailed progress reports on the execution of promises made earlier by rich, developed nations to boost climate finance to $100 billion per year by 2020.
Many poorer countries also pointed out that they need cash to make the costly shift away from atmosphere-fouling coal and also to shore up their defenses against extreme weather.
This feeling resulted in 20 governments, on November 16, from both wealthy and developing nations, led by Britain and Canada, to openly promise a coal phase-out initiative.
This was also followed by French President Macron announcing the hosting of the One Planet Summit in Paris on December 12. Nearly 100 heads of state as well as business leaders have been invited to this meeting, President Trump has, however, been left out.
The summary of the outcomes titled “Bula Momentum for Implementation” agreed on many aspects, but was unable to agree on how to cover climate change-induced loss and damage in vulnerable developing countries. The media reported that instead of arranging financing from the funds promised by developed countries, a proposal was put forward that would provide 400 million poor and vulnerable people with insurance.
There is general agreement that many governments can now see a clean energy future that might not only be achievable but also be affordable
It’s the poor who suffer the most
Such a step, as expected, has been received with severe criticism from activists who have pointed out that poor and vulnerable people, who have done nothing to cause this climate crisis, should not have to pay for the climate insurance. As part of the criticism, some activists have also suggested that a climate damage tax should be introduced to help out the vulnerable, and this should be paid for by the fossil fuel industries.
The participants agreed on one simple fact: They stressed that the world needs Germany, France, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan to step up and provide real leadership. They felt that this would actually help deliver the ambition unfurled earlier in Paris.
Bangladesh Environment Minister Anwar Hossain Monju drew attention to some important points in this conference. He correctly noted that Bangladesh was looking forward to a simple procedural format regarding the adaptation fund and underlined that “the fund would be very important for the vulnerable developing countries and particularly LDCs and the SIDs.”
In this context, he also reiterated the need for countries like Bangladesh to be able to address the issues of adaptation with the technologies that can deal with protecting its population by providing early warnings and by minimising the potential economic and livelihood damages from the extreme climate change impacts that Bangladesh is already facing.
Consequently, effective implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions by developed countries is critical.
It was also stressed that Bangladesh on a priority basis was focusing on energy efficiency, energy conservation, and use of renewable energy.
We have difficult days ahead in resolving the differences of opinion among states regarding how to tackle climate change and what measures need to be taken to avert this growing crisis.
However, we should also try to work out a functional matrix through which this global partnership can make a practical response to the needs of those who suffer loss because of climate change.
This will enable countries like Bangladesh to make a more resilient form of development and also be able to adapt to the great challenge of climate change.
Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador and Chief Information Commissioner of the Information Commission, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance, He can be reached at [email protected]