The Climate Vulnerable Forum-2011 in Dhaka

The Climate Vulnerable Forum-2011 in Dhaka

Bangladesh is one of the 26 countries vulnerable to climate change and these countries have constituted a Forum to raise a common voice on the havoc created by the polluter industrialized countries on them.

The Third Climate Vulnerable Forum-2011 will take place in Dhaka on 13-14th November. Representatives from 26 vulnerable and other countries will participate in the conference which is being organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will inaugurate the conference and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will attend the conclusion session. Bangladesh will hold the chair of CVF until another conference is held.

The meeting is expected to issue a Dhaka Declaration to make the developed countries extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 and sign a legally binding deal to reduce carbon emission. The Declaration would be presented at the UN Conference in Durban this December.

Climate change, in fact, is considered to be an injustice to people of Bangladesh because it contributes very meager to the carbon emission but they’re the worst victims of the climate change.

Per capita emission of carbon in Bangladesh is only 0.25% while India’s is about 2%, the US 20.4%, Canada 20%.and Australia’s 25.9%. (India is the third on the top of carbon polluters, after China and the US.)

The main objective of all climate change discussions in regional and international forums including the forthcoming Durban UN Conference in December is :
• to reduce carbon emission under a legally –binding regime
• to extend the time-period of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 after 2012
• to raise adequate funds for climate change adaptation and mitigation
• to establish climate justice tribunal for the victims of climate change.

Due to its geographic location, high population density and extreme pressure on natural resources through development,. They range from long standing environmental degradation to modern environmental hazards and natural disasters.

The primary environmental problems in Bangladesh are water supply, land degradation, air pollution, and loss biodiversity. It is reported that the total emission is likely to increase 70 million metric tones by 2015 in Bangladesh and 150 MT by 2030.

Bangladesh’s 55 to 60% food production depends on energy, and due to agriculture intensive economy the energy demand for agriculture is on the rise. In this area Bangladesh cannot afford to compromise in the interest of food security of people.

Migration & Climate Change:
World Vision Chief Economist, Brett Parris reportedly said that “climate poverty” in Bangladesh is on the rise and stated: “ the convergence of poverty and climate change will be catastrophic for Bangladesh.
One of the adverse impacts of the Climate Change is the disappearance of low-lying coastal lands and islands. That will lead to thousands of environmental refugees and in other words they will be displaced and many of them will have to migrate to other countries.

Another concern is the vanishing size of coastal islands of Bangladesh. In 1965 Bhola comprised of about 3,970 square miles; it is now half of its original size. In the early 50’s Sandwip island which was about 150 square miles has now shrunk to about 80 miles. Kutubdia, a small island in Cox’s Bazar has also been reduced to half of its size. Hatiya off the coast of Noakhali, has lost nearly one-fourth of its land area over the last 30 years.

By one estimate, Bangladesh is losing about 100 square kilometers to coastal and river erosion every year. River erosion is a problem which displaced about 6 million people each year.

During the last decades, nearly 200,000 islanders displaced by erosion have fled to the mainland of Bangladesh.

A recent report of UK Department for International Development (DFID) of 2007 presents a bleak picture of Bangladesh by 2030.

The Report predicts that the population will be nearly 200 million by 2020, with 40% under the age of 15 years of age. An additional 6-8% of Bangladesh will be permanently under water and flood-prone areas will increase (from 25% to 40% by 2050).

One third of Bangladesh territory is near or a few metres above sea level, with much of its land being only about 10 metres above the sea. If the sea level rises to one metre, according to a recent report of Climate experts, 17% of Bangladesh’s territory would likely to be submerged under water. As a result, much of the coastal areas in Bangladesh will disappear and about 35 million of people will be homeless and destitute.

Environmental refugees from rural areas will be flocking to the cities. Dhaka will be one of the megacities with 30 million people.

A report on human migration or environmental refugees has been released in 2010 and the report is styled as “In Search of Shelter” prepared by NGOs, CARE International, Columbia University and the UN. The report states “ The impacts of Climate Change are already causing migration and displacement and the prospect for the scope and scale could vastly exceed anything that has occurred before.”

The report assumes that the worst impact will fall on poor nations including Bangladesh, where adaptation resources are scarce and where larger numbers of people live off the land or by the whims of the weather or both.

On 21st April, 2009, a BBC report quoting U.K.-based charity Oxfam says that the number of people hit by climate-related disasters (such as floods, tornadoes and droughts) is expected to rise by about 50%, to reach 375m a year by 2015.

The number of migrants or environmental refugees world wide could rise to one billion people by 2050 according to International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Christian Aid of Britain

Action to combat environmental degradations in Bangladesh:

On 10th June, 2009 the Prime Minister told parliament the country would be able to pool the resources it would need to tackle the impact of global warning.

For the future of Bangladesh, it is necessary that every person and agencies incorporates the impact of climate change into their thinking and operations and commits to taking action on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The energy sector of Bangladesh which represents highest 31% of the country’s total annual emission of around 50 million MT has immense potentiality of mitigation actions replacing obsolete plants and clean coal technology development.

Bangladesh can reduce its total emission up to 14 to 15 MT% through immediate response with funding support from international community.

The government has adopted plans to formulate a long term vision “ The Bangladesh Delta Plan-2100” for 50-100 years to address the country’s climate change related issues of water safety, food production, salt intrusion, land shortage and environmental and ecological problems. A Delta Plan Preparatory Team with Bangladesh and Dutch experts has been formed for the purpose.

A Multi-Donor Trust Fund was formed to cope with the climate change. Although the development partners of Bangladesh has promised US$ 100 million fund to help the country face the climate change impacts, Bangladesh will need several billion dollars (at least $2 billion per year) to successfully tackle the issues of environmental degradation.

That is why it becomes more obligatory on the part of the developed and rich countries to come forward and boost this national fund of Bangladesh with their financial and other forms of support. Although Bangladesh has received a pledge of funds of $115 million from donor countries, they are yet to clear the process of providing assistance to the country.

Finally, Bangladesh has become a model in handling typhoons and tidal waves through its innovative methods. Bangladesh people are resilient to any adversity. To quote, National Geographic magazine “ One commodity that Bangladesh has in profusion is human resilience. Before this century is over, the world rather than pitying Bangladesh, may wind up learning from her example.” I am confident that with dedicated efforts of all people, Bangladesh can meet the challenge.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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