In early December nearly 27,000 delegates arrived in Madrid, the Spanish Capital, hoping to finalise the operating manual of the Paris agreement, the ‘Paris Rulebook.’ As the days unfolded, the world observed parties, despite spending the longest time on record, being fraught in negotiations without any consensus. In the end, the Climate Conference in Madrid, COP25 failed to deliver, raising serious concern over the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Bangladesh’s COP25 started with enthusiasm as for the first time the country had a pavilion in the COP venue. The Pavilion was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Apart from the prime minister, several ministers, parliamentarians and high-level government officials attended the conference, sending a message that the country considers the COP to be an important platform and is also willing to play a greater role to facilitate achievement of the global climate commitment.
However, as time went by hopes turned into ‘disappointments.’ Towards the end of the second week, at a press conference Bangladesh expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of the negotiation: “The status of negotiation, we are a bit disappointed with the progress made so far. Most of the agenda items under adaptation, mitigation and finance have not made good progress. These have been forwarded to either COP26 or next SBs sessions.”
The final topics involved the discussion of Article 6 on allowing trading of carbon credits, where some countries such as Brazil and India wanted their old carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol to be counted under the Paris Agreement. Even after two days of non-stop negotiations, this topic remained unresolved and was finally moved to COP26 for discussion.
Among other unresolved topics include long-term finance for developing country parties, transparency issues for the Paris Agreement, report of the Adaptation Committee, and separate finance mechanism for loss and damage.
On the issue of loss and damage, Bangladesh along with other vulnerable developing countries demanded the addition of an implementation financing wing to the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) which remained unresolved. As negotiators could not agree on many topics, in an unprecedented manner the negotiations went on for two additional days beyond the official two weeks. This had an extremely hindering impact on vulnerable developing countries. Most of their delegates had to leave Madrid and could not make sure that their text does not disappear in the final version.
Despite the disappointments, there were several milestones for Bangladesh towards strengthening its global climate leadership. One of the significant features of Bangladesh's participation during the Madrid COP was visibility because of having a pavilion for the first time.
This time it was easier for the Bangladesh delegation to meet and reach a wider audience. The pavilion also allowed the delegation to hold a daily debrief every evening where other Bangladeshis were also invited to attend and provide inputs to the official delegation.
Among other important milestones, during the first week, Bangladesh was handed over the Chairmanship of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) from 2020 for the next two years. This role is significant as the CVF is not just a negotiating group, it is rather a leadership group that can change the narrative of the most vulnerable countries from emphasising their vulnerability to developing their resilience.
Another substantial initiative was the sharing of Bangladesh’s declaration of climate change to be a “planetary emergency.” While countries such as Britain, France, Canada, Portugal, and Argentina have declared climate emergencies, the Bangladesh parliament is indeed the first to declare a “planetary emergency.” Bangladesh is also the first among developing countries to issue such an alert and call for action.
During the Madrid COP, high-level Bangladesh delegates highlighted this declaration in different platforms. The motion calls on countries to step up their commitments under the Paris climate agreement and highlights that developing countries require assistance to build up the resilience from climate-induced disasters.
With the evolving landscape of global climate change discourse, and the changing leadership role of Bangladesh, the following suggestions should be taken up for consideration in the upcoming years:
• As this was the first year of hosting a pavilion for Bangladesh, there is room for improvement to make the best use of this opportunity in the future. For example, side events should be carefully planned, and information should be well disseminated to cater to greater international participation. Also, the pavilion could be designed to display the country’s unique achievement and products, such as to reflect the country’s ‘Digital Bangladesh’ identity. Moreover, dissemination materials and side events information should not be provided as hard copies from the next COP.
• There is also scope for better coordination amongst Bangladeshi delegates from different ministries and departments. In order to ensure a stronger presence more pre-COP training programs and coordination meetings could be useful.
• Over the years, Bangladesh has nurtured some highly skilled climate change negotiators. These negotiators are our leading climate warriors who not only represent the country’s interests at the helm of the negotiations but also are fighting to secure a safer future for humanity. Thus, we need to invest in building a legion of skilled young negotiators in order to carry over to the future, especially considering the country’s evolving global climate leadership.
• The government should also allow some of the senior negotiators for an extra two days beyond the official end, in case the negotiations go into overtime. But more importantly, Bangladesh along with other vulnerable countries should demand that COP presidency must finish on time and not allow extension beyond the two-week timeline.
It is also important to recognise that with the heightened expectations for the upcoming discussions in Glasgow, COP26 has the potential to initiate the start of a much more successful global effort to tackle climate change led by Bangladesh among other vulnerable countries. The country needs to think about its strategies well ahead of the game.
Naznin Nasir is a PhD Researcher in the Department of Geography at Durham University, UK.
M Feisal Rahman is ICCCAD’s Research Coordinator.