How bangladesh should deal with climate change realities - Badiuzzaman Khan
If we go by the IPCC predictions for the next few decades, at the current rate of greenhouse gas emission (GHG), the temperature in the atmosphere is likely to increase by up to 4 degrees Centigrade by the end of the twenty first century translating roughly into a sea-level rise of 3 meters. This projected upward trend in the temperature and the resultant sea-level rise could be reduced if we are able to bring down the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from the current 389 ppm to below 350 ppm.
Due to the assumption of Presidency by Barack Obama in the US, hope had been raised all over the world and particularly in countries like Bangladesh, expected to be worst hit by the ever-mounting climate change, about the success of the last Copenhagen Summit (COP 15 ) which, to the great disappointment and utter dismay of most of the post conference analyses by world leaders, environmental activists, participants, academicians, journalists and news commentators had turned out to be chaotic, insufficient and disastrous to meet the challenges that lie ahead of us. The world had been watching the Copenhagen summit with great anticipation, with the hope that everyone involved in climate negotiations would realize the dire consequences of global warming and would be instrumental in working out a binding global agreement to ensure the stability of our planet for coming generations. To the greatest regret of the suffering mankind scattered all over the world, the leaders had not lived up to the responsibility reposed on them and thus belied the expectation of the majority of mankind.
During the summit, it had appeared to its watchers that the participants had got divided into the following groups:
- The US led coalition of the major GHG emitters, namely, China, India, Brazil & South Africa;
- The European Union led minor emitters; and
- The most vulnerable countries (MVCs) and the least developed countries (LDCs), namely, Bangladesh, Maldives and some African countries.
It had appeared to the watchers of the summit that the major emitters, during the long and arduous negotiations with the victim countries had adopted the policy of ‘divide and rule’ thus succeeding in making substantial inroad into a possible united position of the MVCs and LDCs. Consequently, these countries acceded to the offer of a non-binding political accord in lieu of a binding agreement made by the US led coalition of major emitters, which promises to the keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Centigrade and to adopt voluntary measures to cut down on GHG emissions! Besides, compensation of $ 10 billion per year had been committed for nearly a billion of direct victims from the MVCs and LDCs for adaptation measures. This amount works out to a ludicrous amount of $10.00 per affected person per year! Nevertheless, Bangladesh, threatened by submergence of 20% of the country and displacement of over 30 million people, had expressed satisfaction with the accord!
Though the COP 15 had been far away from achieving the desired goals, the final accord had been deemed to be the first step in the right direction. The main accomplishment had been that all parties involved including the USA and Australia had recognized climate change as the greatest challenge of contemporary time, thus making a paradigm shift in their erstwhile policies, and had agreed to do something about it. Even a few countries like the US, China and India had agreed voluntarily to cut down on their GHG emissions by as much as 25% on 1995 levels. The EU and Japan had been the front-runners in terms of their willingness to reduce GHG and provide assistance to MVCs and LDCs with adaptation funds and technology transfers and they are already on their way to make good on those promises as indicated by the EU Commissioner on Climate Action Ms Connie Hedegaard during her recent visit to Dhaka when she exhorted the LDCs to specify their demands during the upcoming Cancun Meeting on Climate Change scheduled between November 29 to December 10, 2010.
Among major unresolved issues, resettlement and compensation for climate refugees remain the most unsettled aspects of climate action debate. Bangladesh needs to make unremitting efforts to strike acceptable settlement of these issues. President Obama understands the magnitude of the issue and is willing to do the necessary work towards finding solutions in line with recommendations made by the scientists. That was why, on conclusion of COP 15, he had told the press of his understanding of the frustration of most people with the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit. As long as he can garner the support of his political adversaries and the corporate world, he should be able to lead the world out of this crisis and can truly earn the prestige showered on him by the Noble Peace prize of 2009.
For Bangladesh, we need to work out our strategy to fight for justice against the consequences of climate change imposed on us by the GHG emitters. Although Bangladesh had not gained much in terms of receiving financial compensation for mitigation or adaptation measures like other MVCs and LDCs, it is now well-established that Bangladesh is the most affected country from climate change and the GHG emitters should deal with the needs of compensation and re-settlement issues of Bangladesh accordingly. President Obama already recognized this fact in his climate action related speeches. A number of climate action meetings already took place after COP 15. In preparation for COP 16, Bangladesh may consider the following:
- Form partnerships with other MVCs and LDCs and represent them in future negotiations;
- Never abandon the climate friends and partners for national gains;
- Invest in developing domestic capacity in dealing with consequences of climate change in terms of adaptation and mitigation measures;
- Adopt an ecological and open approach as against the current cordon approach in all adaptation measures in coastal areas;
- Being a small part of the Ganges-Bramhaputra-Meghna watershed and since water-related problems, namely, drought in winter months and flooding in rainy season, salinity ingress due to reduced river flow from upstream regions, river-bank erosion and siltation of riverbeds due to unstable inflow in rivers will continue to remain as the main concern in foreseeable future, Bangladesh needs to sit with India and other co-riparian countries to work out an integrated water resources management plan for all shared rivers;
- Invest in research and development of sediment capture technologies in coastal areas to accelerate coastal land reclamation process;
- Desist from building new embankments in coastal areas as adaptation measures against sea-level rise, as such measures are likely to reduce vertical land growth by cutting down sediment deposition from natural tides and flooding in the coastal areas. Building of such embankments will deprive the land from its natural coping mechanism against sea-level rise, resulting in permanent water-logging.
- Adopt best management practices in all spheres, including domestic capacity building that will allow it to better cope with adverse effects of climate change.
- Hold periodical interactive educative sessions/seminars with relevant scientists, academicians, journalists, environmental activists and everyone involved in the climate change mitigation process to build capacity to absorb climate change funds usefully, review accord to assess strength and weakness, train and improve manpower to implement projects beneficially, prioritize adaptation, mitigation areas and to ensure accountability, transparency in using climate funds;
- Work out re-settlement of future climate refugees with friendly countries keen on helping such refugees.