A high-profile conference on climate change begins in London today to focus on the need for an agreement on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and enhance Bangladesh’s capability to adapt to perilous impacts of climate change.
Britain and Bangladesh have jointly sponsored the conference titled “UK-Bangladesh Climate Change Conference: Bangladesh Facing the Challenge” at Royal Geographical Society, which is being attended by environment scientists, experts, officials and civil society.
Douglas Alexander MP, Minister for UK Department for International Development, and Bangladesh Finance Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam will jointly inaugurate the conference, first-ever international meet exclusively designed for Bangladesh, a worst victim of the erratic behaviour of nature causing frequent cyclones, floods and prolonged droughts.
The adversities stemming from the changing climate under the impact of heavy carbon emission by developed countries are threatening to set back the impoverished nation’s efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals by 2015, particularly through its devastating consequences for agriculture and food security
A 39-member Bangladesh delegation, led by Finance Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam, will present national climate change management strategy at the conference.
Last year, two rounds of flooding and a devastating cyclone, codenamed Sidr, attacked Bangladesh, claiming thousands of lives and causing huge economic losses. The climate change has been blamed as the reason behind the disasters.
Britain will give Bangladesh at least £50m to adapt to climate change in the first big attempt by a rich nation to stave off environmental catastrophe.
Other European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as the World Bank, are expected to contribute to the new Bangladesh fund, which will be launched this week in London at a conference of the Bangladesh government and donor countries.
Bangladesh has pledged to contribute £25m a year to the new fund, which, it is hoped, will attract nearly £100m within three years.
The Daily New Age, 10 September 2008
Atiq Rahman, one of the lead authors of the influential IPCC reports which established the scientific basis of climate change last year, tells New Age what Bangladesh will be seeking to achieve at the UK-Bangladesh climate change summit that kicks off today
Interviewed by Mahtab Haider
New Age: What are the key goals Bangladesh will look to achieve at the UK-Bangladesh climate change summit?
Atiq Rahman: One of the key goals of the summit will be to establish Bangladesh as a country with a high degree of resilience to some of the most devastating outcomes of climate change – floods, cyclones, and other extreme weather events – and experience in developing adaptations measures. This is our first opportunity for a bilateral meeting on climate change funding, and although the discussion will be between the UK and Bangladesh, the aim is the creation of a multilateral fund. We also want to demonstrate that we are capable of handling a large multilateral fund, and that we have a strategy of good governance to achieve results.
What amount of money are we talking about when we look to the West for funding?
It’s likely that at this summit the UK will commit about US$ 85 – 100 million to the multilateral fund, and a number of other countries are also showing their interest. Overall, it’s difficult to estimate the total amount we need, but it is huge. Think that the quoted damage from Cyclone Sidr was about US$ 3-4 billion – and that was just one night. To that we have to add the damage it did to our food security, and given the current market situation, what price do we put on food anyway? Given the rising intensity and frequency of floods, cyclones and other extreme weather events, the money we need to adapt to these changing conditions is huge.
And countries of the West are obliged to pay this money?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the first document in which the industrialised countries have admitted that, knowingly or unknowingly, they have achieved tremendous economic growth during the last century at a terrible price. Their use of energy resulted in heavy emissions of greenhouse gases making the world vulnerable to extreme weather events. Now, if we pursue the same course of development, the ecological damage will continue. So it is only fair that those who have benefited from these emissions that must now be stopped or curbed, must compensate those who played no part in it but are suffering the sometimes dire or fatal consequences. Some of this compensation can come in the form of fund transfers, others in the form of technology transfer, but if there are ten criteria to qualify for this compensation, Bangladesh fits seven of those. We are at the frontline, the ground-zero, of climate change.
Controversies have emerged over who will manage this fund in Bangladesh with a section within the government under pressure to assign the World Bank as the manager, while others oppose this. Why is that?
Yes the issue of the fund manager hasn’t been resolved yet. Since the fund will be owned by the government of Bangladesh, perhaps a new entity could be created and a committee formed to oversee the fund. Some donors have suggested that a multilateral agency be the manager. The problem with the World Bank managing the fund is that it comes with its historical baggage of imposing counter conditionalities on client governments. There is also a question of how much we will have to pay out as the Bank’s commission for managing the fund. Whoever is the manager though, the key will be the strength of an oversight committee that we should create to be the custodian of the fund.
There are tensions between the environment ministry and the external relations division over a number of climate change issues but principally that the ERD thinks it is acceptable that climate change funding comes in the form of loans. Are loans acceptable?
Let me be very clear on this: the entire climate change fund transfer issue is embedded in the framework convention and is part of the UN negotiations. Given our leadership role in the group of least developed countries, and in the G77, if we do a side deal, say accepting a loan as a climate change fund transfer, we will jeopardise the entire group’s position. We must not do anything, at this summit, or after, that will jeopardise our negotiations position. Our head of state said at the climate change conference held at the Dhaka University recently that we should get compensation for the harm that the industrialised north has caused. Our central point of loyalty must be to the framework convention.
The Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2008 document, which Bangladesh is presenting at the UK summit is facing harsh criticism on the grounds that it was hurriedly put together and does not deserve national ownership. Do you think these criticisms are valid?
Well, it is a living document and not set in stone, so there will be plenty of opportunities to incorporate more issues in it as we go along. But it is true that it was not circulated widely enough in preparation, possibly because time did not allow it. It was created from the need to present such a document at the London conference.
Why is it that there is no mention of climate refugees in the whole document? In the past you have been quite outspoken about the need to address that issue.
I can’t defend that – I admit that there should at least have been a mention of climate refugees in the preamble, if nothing else. The climate refugee issue is a human rights issue. We have to apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle to the problem. In a world where economies are becoming globalised, and the problem of climate change is globalised, the recognition of the right to survival should also be globalised. It is clear that money will not be sufficient compensation for climate change when countries like Bangladesh become saddled with millions of climate refugees. Where will we accommodate them? The west must share responsibility for this. There is no ethical or scientific reason why they shouldn’t.
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