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More than a war of words

  • Published at 12:20 am July 10th, 2019

Climate change policies continue to favour the richer countries

Bangladesh is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters and climate change. The country, with its low-lying geographic position combined with increasing population and poor socio-economic backgrounds of the people, is highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, cyclones, and other extreme weather events. 

Over the years, the magnitude and frequency of these natural disasters have intensified as a result of climate change and contribute to huge economic losses. Since 1980, the country has witnessed over 200 natural disasters, contributing to a total death toll of around 200,000 people and economic loss worth $17 billion. 

Given the poor economic development and financial support, the country experiences difficulty in minimizing loss and damages. For example, the natural hazard events in Bangladesh resulted in economic losses of more than $10bn from 2000 to 2013, but the total funding available for relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction for the said period was $2bn only. 

Every year, the Conference of Parties (COP), which is a decision-making body, takes place to review and monitor the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At COP21, held in 2015 in Paris, the developed countries pledged to provide $100bn of new and additional finance each year to developing countries by 2020. 

The latest report by the Standing Committee of Finance, which was submitted to the negotiators at COP24, estimated that $55bn climate fund was raised by developed countries in 2016. However, the report stated that only around a quarter of this amount was channeled towards adaptation efforts. 

The 24th session of the Conference of Parties (COP24) was held on December 15, 2018 in Katowice, Poland. Bangladesh, being a member country of the convention, expressed concerns about the climate-induced loss and damage. The said topic has always been hotly debated at the international climate change treaties/conferences. The reason could be attributed to the fact that there is no clear financial mechanism of addressing loss and damage. Also, the developed countries fear that the losses and damages incurred from the adverse impacts of climate change will be entirely borne by them. 

Climate-induced loss and damage are the manifestations of extreme climatic events as a result of persistent emissions of greenhouse gases contributed by the developed countries over the years. Hence, the developed countries fear that they will have to bear expenses of both current, past, and future climate-induced loss and damages. 

The provisions on loss and damage in the agreement of COP24 have not been given due consideration, and are not in favour of the vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh. The provision states that: “Each interested party may provide, as appropriate, information related to enhancing understanding, action and support, on a cooperative and facilitate basis, to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts.” 

The provision clearly indicates leniency in providing any kind of support to address loss and damage. The rules clearly stated “Each interested party may provide …” which indicates that the member countries or the developed countries have been given some privilege to decide on the amount of financial and technological resources. In other words, the developed countries may or may not provide the amount of financial support required by the developing countries.  

At COP25, which will be held in December 2019 in Santiago, Chile, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), which has been established to address climate-induced loss and damage, will be reviewed -- hence discussions will largely be centred on loss and damage.

Now, it is imperative for Bangladesh to strategically explore possibilities and avenues to address loss and damage. Also, it must create an enabling environment to attract climate funds and enhance budgetary allocations to adaptation efforts. 

Concerns over inadequate climate funds to address climate change adaptation and loss and damage are required to be re-emphasized. It must showcase mitigation efforts such as adoption of battery-run three-wheelers, solar energy, etc across the country. Such efforts would facilitate to uphold our image on the international climate change arena/platform.

COP24 was merely a war of words. It is imperative for Bangladesh to do some preparatory work for the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and put forward all its claims in an articulate and diplomatic manner at COP25. 

Tahmina Hadi is Deputy Manager, Knowledge Management, BRAC.