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‘From 2020 onward, there will be a global transformation in climate change’

  • Published at 11:53 pm January 23rd, 2020
Dr Saleemul Huq
Dr Saleemul Huq Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The sixth Gobeshona International Conference on Research into Action in Bangladesh is being held at the Independent University Bangladesh. The five day event has introduced many notable researchers from all over the country on climate change and its effects. In an interview with Dhaka Tribune, Dr Saleemul Huq, one of the world’s 100 most influential people in climate policy 2019 and director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), addressed many important queries

There are discrepancies in the amount of money given by donor countries and the money received by developing countries, as you wrote in your article in this month's Climate Tribune. Could you explain in layman’s terms why does this happen?

The issue of providing funding to the most vulnerable developing countries for tackling climate change, which is of their creation (by the wealthy and developed countries) is there, but the developing countries are the ones to suffer. So under the UN framework convention for climate change, there is an obligation for rich countries to provide such funding. This is a perpetual area of negotiation where we want to get more and they keep giving us less. We are now agreed that, from 2020 onwards, they have to pay a collective amount of 100 billion dollars a year for developing countries to tackle climate change. There are two ways to tackle this problem -- one is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which we call mitigation, is more appropriate for countries like India and China since they are large contributors of these gases. On the other hand, there is the adaptation of the impacts of climate change for the most vulnerable countries and Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable ones. So we expect a fair amount of international funding to come to us for adaptation. Unfortunately, at the global level, instead of a $100 billion a year, not sure how much exactly, but only half of that amount comes through, which is around 50 billion. Of the amount that is coming through, 80% is going for mitigation and only 20% is going for adaption. We think it should be at least 50-50.

Once the national governments get the allotted funds, it’s still far from reaching the vulnerable communities. Without good governance, how can the benefits reach the communities?

From the already small amount that is coming for adaptation, an even smaller portion is going to national governments, but not trickling down to the most vulnerable communities in those countries. The estimate by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) shows that only 10% of the adaptation money is going to the most vulnerable, so that is something we want to challenge. First of all, more money should come for adaptation at the global level and more of that should go to the most vulnerable, and that is not the fault of the global community alone but also the governments’. Governments got the money but did not give it to the most vulnerable people. So we are fighting a two-tier advocacy battle on behalf of the most vulnerable communities, that they should be prioritized both within their own government’s budgeting, as well as the global level resource allocation. This is a fight that is ongoing; we will continue to fight, but unfortunately events are overtaking our ability to fight. Since climate change is already happening and we are now going beyond our ability to stop it through mitigation and deal with it through adaptation, we are now going through loss and damage with impacts already happening. And now we need compensation for it. That’s another fight we are engaged in. 

Tell us a little about inclusion in climate negotiations and discussions. Scientists of the elite club and out of reach politicians talk to each other and make policies. How can ordinary people from local communities be involved (for example, they may demand to know where the funding is going)?

One has to understand the architecture of global governance and decision making -- it is not a local government. It is the United Nations which consists of 200 countries. So 200 countries have to come together on any global issue to decide what to do. That’s 200 different opinions and views, so we have to come to a consensus and it is not easy. However, we have the UN framework convention, we have the Paris Agreement, and now it is about implementing those agreements, and in the implementation we are having difficulties. Some countries want to go faster, some want to go slower. The agreement of 100 billion has been made but the implementation of it, like I said, they say they’ll give it but are not necessarily delivering. Well, now the decision making is by the governments. Some governments are very responsive to their citizens who are vulnerable communities and some governments just don't simply care about what their citizens want; the ruler does what he wants. So it varies a lot in terms of government structures within countries and if the governments are not representing us, then there is not much we can do about it but on the other hand, at these global events, we also have a lot of observers and young people who can raise voices in the public domain, where the media comes in. We can influence thinking through the media, and therefore it has a big role to play.  It can observe and criticize the government if it is not doing enough.

The scientific community is very well organized. It has its own structure called the inter-governmental panel on climate change. We bring together scientists from all over the world and report periodically and have very thorough scientific reports which are giving advice on what needs to be done. Unfortunately, politicians are not following our advice. 2020 onwards, there is going to be a transformation in the world of climate change -- every week, every month, somewhere in the world there is going to be something unprecedented that has never been seen before. 

Tell us about the award for outstanding young researchers. When will this start and who will be considered?

We started Gobeshona six years ago, trying to bring the scientific communities in Bangladesh together who are doing lots of research but separately. So we felt like we should gather together and form this group called Gobeshona, where we now have more than 50 universities and research institutes which are part of this platform. Now we want to improve the quality of research done in Bangladesh and unfortunately a lot of “so called research” is not quality research. In the global scientific domain, there are very strict criteria of what qualifies as quality. What we did initially for the first few years is that we had a young researcher mentoring program where we not only helped them to do research, but also helped to get it published. This year, we are awarding prizes for those who have been able to publish. We organized an open competition where applications came in, where 15 were shortlisted among 30. The idea is to encourage and celebrate quality research by young researchers.