Saturday, 27 November, 2021

COP-26 and Bangladesh: Time to Act Now or Never!

Hassan Ahmed Shovon

COP-26 and Bangladesh: Time to Act Now or Never!

As Glasgow hosts the most important climate conference, the Conference of Parties (COP-26) from October 31 to November 12, under the mandate of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), anticipation is building for the states to agree to even deeper cuts to carbon emissions to fend off the catastrophic effects of a warming planet. This year, COP-26 is receiving a greater salience due to the perils we suffer from one of the greatest human tragedies, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the bleak picture of climate catastrophe and environmental degradation in the recently published sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

According to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is in constant increase, and in some cases irreversible, changes to rainfall patterns, oceans and winds in all regions of the world. More frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as heat-waves, floods and forest fires are experienced around the globe. The findings of the IPCC assessment report are far bleaker than ever, and a wake-up call for the global leaders is imperative to take meaningful actions. Therefore, COP-26 is a unique window of opportunity for global leaders, institutions and civil society groups to act together and promptly to increase their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to strike a deal on how to implement aspects of the Paris Agreement such as financing for energy transitions in developing countries.

As of 03 November 2021, at the end of top leaders' summit, the COP26 managed to show some light. The world leaders reached two major agreements: one to end deforestation by 2030 and other to reduce emissions of methane 30 per cent by 2030. Unfortunately, the absence of China and Russia in the leaders' summit has significantly weakened these initiatives at the very outset. Moreover, the promise made more than a decade ago to provide developing nations like Bangladesh with US$ 100 billion a year to fight and adapt to global warming has remained unfulfilled.

Bangladesh’s Expectations from COP-26

This highest-level climate talk bears a lot of significance for a country like Bangladesh, which is highly vulnerable to climate change. Though Bangladesh accounts for less than 0.35% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the country is regularly experiencing floods, cyclones, storm surges, droughts, and other extreme climate events. Bangladesh faces the risk of sea-level rise due to global warming. A recent International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) study unravels that the least developed countries (LDCs) like Bangladesh are the worst victims of climate change vulnerabilities. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic has put enormous pressure on climate vulnerable countries. The study unearths that in Bangladesh, annual average temperatures increased by 0.64 per cent in 2018, which was 10.20 times faster than the annual average temperature increase of 0.06 per cent in 1961. Due to flood, Bangladesh is expected to incur losses equivalent to 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, Annual Flood Report by Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre Bangladesh (2018) further suggests that negative consequences of floods in Bangladesh have affected a greater percentage (75 per cent of total population) of people in Bangladesh with an estimated damage of 68 per cent.

Against the backdrop of perilous aftermaths associated with climate disasters, Bangladesh, therefore, has an active interest in the outcome of COP26. In the broad spectrum, there are at least five specific agendas, as stipulated by Dr. Fatema Khatun, Executive Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), which are critically important for Bangladesh. First, it is a ‘now or never’ call to ensure the commitments of major carbon emitting countries to limit carbon emission and adhere to the mitigation in line with the 1.5-degree global goal. Second, there is an urgent need to scale up climate fund of USD 100 billion to support climate vulnerable countries. Third, it is a far cry to ensure the bigger share of climate fund towards adaptation by channelizing the global goals adaptation in concentration with protecting communities and natural habitats. Fourth, robust partnership and collaboration among the government, private sector and civil society is needed to finalise the Paris Rulebook to ensure the accountability. Fifth, COP-26 must speak of the establishment of the mechanism for loss and damage. In addition, the parties should emphasise the need for assistance from financial institutions for sustainable climate financing and to ensure the investment in renewable energy and energy infrastructures in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Call for Climate Emergency Pact

On September 7, Bangladesh as the current Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) president envisioned Climate Vulnerable Manifesto, which calls every country to adapt “Climate Emergency Pact”. We hope to see the outcome of COP26 will rebuild confidence in global climate cooperation by enhancing its effort on emission reduction to keep 1.5°C goal alive and 50 per cent of the $100bn climate finance to go to adaptation actions in the most vulnerable developing countries.

More significantly, Bangladeshi Premier and the current chair of CVF Sheikh Hasina aptly articulated in her recent noteworthy article on global news magazine Newsweek, “Our climate emergency is global, yet it does not affect everyone equally. For the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) – a group of 48 countries spanning four continents – climate change is quite simply an existential threat.” According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), between $6 trillion and $10 trillion is needed to be invested over the next decade to green our economies. Yet most CVF members are least developed, low or at best middle-income developing nations. They need support through both funding and expertise to help devise adaptation strategies to counter the effects of climate change.

Henceforth, there is an urgent need for greater ambition from the world to ameliorate the climate crisis by ensuring funding for vulnerable countries to transform the climate vulnerability to climate prosperity. The ongoing climate summit is going to be a defining moment in this regard to materialise the promise into actions. It is the time to act – ‘now or never’!


The writer is a Research Assistant at Central Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS)