The UN Climate Change Conference of Parties, COP 23 at Bonn has ended, and it has been has been a fascinating and eventful 12 days, where more than 20,000 people including world leaders, delegates, NGOs, and indigenous groups from 193 countries attended.
The conference was held in two zones: Bula zone and Bonn zone. The Bula zone was designated for the actual negotiations among the parties and also for conducting the high-level events. The Bonn zone is for various side events, exhibitions, discussions, and many other activities. The primary focus of this conference was on the urgency to set up the guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement, which was signed by almost all the parties of the conference.
On the last day of the conference, it was made clear to everyone that one more year would be needed to reach the clear-cut implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement. One of the challenges was to find alternative way to fulfill the Paris Agreement, if and when the US pulls out of the Paris Agreement.
Everyone still hopes that the US will keep its promises and reduce its greenhouse gas emission, when it, alone, emits about 14% of the global emission, which has to be immediately reduced, and replaced by renewable energy to reach the target of the net zero emissions by the end of the century.
The second challenge of the conference is getting the fund for both mitigation and adaptation as promised in the Paris Agreement. While many island nations, developing and vulnerable countries, wanted to get support for their adaptation programs to mitigate the loss and damages caused by climate change, there was not much consensus from the developed countries.
While negotiators may need more time to prepare the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement, scientists will continue providing warnings about the consequences of following the high emission pathways
In the opening ceremony of the conference, Germany alone pledged to provide an additional 50 million euros to the Least Developed Countries Fund, which will be used to finance adaptation in areas such as agriculture, climate information systems, and catastrophe risk management. Germany has already committed 240m euros in 2014, which is the biggest bilateral contribution to the fund.
However, this contribution is still far too small to help all the countries to carry out their adaptation programs. Another point of disagreement was on introducing insurance as a tool for climate change risk management. Insurance can help to minimise loss from natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, or droughts, which have become frequent events. However, for the slow and inevitable processes like sea level rise or salinity intrusions will not be covered by insurance. Sadly, it was not possible by the UNFCC parties to prepare implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement during the COP23 meetings, and it seems like they still need one more year to complete the task.
While UNFCC parties need more time to reach a consensus, there was not much debate on the scientific facts about the climate change. Many scientists around the globe presented the possible impact of climate change beyond 1.5 degree Celsius, 2C, or 4C of global warming in the side events of the conference.
Climate change and its adverse impact on water resources, fisheries, livelihood, ecosystems, agriculture, human health, bio-diversity, food, droughts, cyclones, and so much more, from the global to regional scale, were presented and discussed. More than hundreds of scientific presentations and talks were conducted during the conference.
Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research mentioned that a number of scientific facts on climate change: Evidence shows that Earth has entered a new geological epoch -- the Anthropocene – with profound implications for humanity and the relative stability of the Earth system; the Earth is approaching tipping points due to human pressure, risks of extreme weather are increasing; rising sea levels and ocean acidification are growing threats; the costs of climate change are already being felt today and will increase in the future; human health is at risk from air pollutants that alter the climate. This list goes on.
Professor Richard Betts of the University of Exeter, and lead of the EU-funded HELIX project, mentioned that “CO2 emissions have already crossed the 400-ppm level in the last year, and if we continue to follow this high emission pathways, we will face the impact of climate change, through the enhancement of extreme events, like floods, droughts, cyclonic storm surges, etc.”
The biggest success of this conference is that more than 20,000 people around the globe have directly participated in the conference in order to express their opinions on making the planet safer and greener by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While negotiators may need more time to prepare the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement, scientists will continue providing warnings about the consequences of following the high emission pathways.
AKM Saiful Islam writer is a Professor of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangladesh.