Is Bangladesh prepared enough for climate negotiations at COP23?

by AKM Saiful Islam | Updated at 10:55pm on October 30, 2017


THE 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in Bonn, Germany from 6th to 17th November 2017. Every country out the 195 UNFCC countries is now preparing their strategy for the upcoming meetings and shared with major stakeholders and policymakers. I am sure Bangladesh Government is also preparing our strategies for the upcoming meetings in Bonn. In the past, Bangladesh was the leader of the Least Developing Countries group and now a member of that Group. Bangladesh also in the many important UNFCC bodies such as the Green Climate Fund Board and the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage etc. Our prime minister Sheikh Hasina has attended the last the 22nd Conference of Parties at Marrakech, Morocco and raise the issues of climate change Bangladesh is going to face and emphasise on the importance of dealing the challenges of climate induced migration and displacement. Bangladesh is the first countries prepared its Climate Strategy and Action Plan in 2009, one of the first countries signed and ratified Paris Agreement in 2016 and prepared its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions documents in 2015. Bangladesh also created a separate national trust fund known as Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund and allocated more than 0.3 billion US dollars over the last 10 years. Despite all these efforts made in the past, can we surely tell that we are able to make this world safer? Can we surely tell that we are able to tackle the challenges of climate change in the upcoming years? The right answers of both these questions are not giving us enough hope despite the progresses made by the country over the last 45 years.
First of all, Bangladesh and many developing countries are not the root cause of the anthropogenic climate change due to global warming. Developed countries emit greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for industrialisations and other development activities over the last century at an alarming rate. The amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are putting in the atmosphere much more than it can be captured and returned to the land or ocean from atmosphere. These greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere more than 100 years and causing global warming. In the last Assessment report (AR6) of IPCC, it is evident that the global mean temperature has already increased more than 1 degree by this century and continuing to rise. At the end of the century, it will cross more than 3 degrees if we continue emitting greenhouse gases at the present rate. In 2015, the UNFCC parties came to a consensus to sign an agreement known as ‘Paris Agreement’ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such a way to keep the global rise of mean temperature well below 2 degree centigrade from the pre-industrial level (between 1850 and 1880 average global land and ocean temperature level) and also pledge to make additional effort to reduce it further down to 1.5 degree centigrade. However, recent change of political leadership of USA, the one of the most emitter countries, USA doesn’t want to be part of this commitment anymore and even wants to withdraw from this agreement. We sincerely hope that the present leadership of USA will realise the importance of reduction of greenhouse gas emission to make the net zero emission (balancing outgoing and incoming emission) by the end of the century. The developed and developing countries must be work together to reduce greenhouse gas emission as well as provide necessary support to the nations that are going to be victim the adverse impact of climate change will help us overcoming these global challenges.

What will happen is we continue emitting greenhouse gases as the same way we are doing it now?
THE anthropogenic climate change impact in every sector is yet to be understood by the scientific community. So far, we have understood that if we continue to increase our emissions, we’ll continue to warm, sea level will rise, polar ice will melt, and the hydrological cycle will intensify, natural disasters such as floods and cyclones will be more intense, energy demand will be high during summer, vector borne diseases will be increased etc. However, full scale of impacts of climate change on bio-diversity, fisheries, agriculture, ecosystems needs further investigations and perhaps very hard to quantify due to the uncertainty of the processes, lack of knowledge on the interactive process and their feedbacks. Even at a limited scale of investigations using global climate model and impact models, scientists are presenting scary scenarios and warned the policy makers to take necessary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Recent catastrophic cyclones like Harvey or Irma and flooding in South Asia or drought in African regions are giving us signals.

What are the probable climate change-impacts that Bangladesh likely to experience?
IN THE past, many research organisations and universities including BUET are conducting scientific studies to assess the possible impact of climate change on Bangladesh. A recently conducted study High End Climate Impact and Extremes funded by European Union showed that country will be severely affected by the adverse impact of climate change. A summary of the research has been presented below:
The average Bangladesh summer temperature will continue to rise and likely to be between 3.24°C and 5.77°C by the end of the century. This will put stress on the health particularly for the elderly, children and pregnant women. Vector borne diseases such as Dengue, Malaria and Diarrhoea will like to increase. It will also like to increase energy consumptions.
The mean sea level rise of one metre by the end of the century will permanently inundated 8.4 per cent of the coastal areas of Bangladesh. The 43 per cent of the Sunderbans may undergo in the water if one metre sea level will rise by the end of the century.
The yield of Boro rice is to gradually decrease from 5 to 20 per cent for 2°C and 5 to 25 per cent for 4°C rise of the global warming by the end of the century.
We will be experiences more severe floods in the future. Both high flows and low flows for the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and the Meghna river are to increase. Changes in percentage for variation of high flows for the Brahmaputra are to be between 7 per cent and 10 per cent for 1.5° C and 8 per cent and 11 per cent for 2°C rise of global temperature.
The coastal Bangladesh is one of the hot spots of climatic variability, where already climate change impacts are being felt by the coastal community comprising mostly of poor layers of the society. The vulnerability of coastal Bangladesh will be ten folds more by the end of the century. Out of 140 upzilas in19 coastal district, severely vulnerable upazilas, considering their exposure to climate, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, will be about 93 upazilas.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to investigate climate change impact in all the possible sectors due to the limitation of resources, time and man-power. However, further investigation is needed to identify the possible impacts of extreme climate change which will happen if we are not limiting the greenhouse gas emissions.

How prepared climate negotiators of the vulnerable countries?
UNLIKE many countries, our climate negotiators are mostly lead by bureaucrats and depend on the information available from global and regional sources. However, it is important to improve their negotiation skills by informing them with latest scientific findings and research focusing on Bangladesh. Government, on the other hand, has responsibilities to generate new knowledge by supporting the universities and research institutes which can assist the negotiations. National policy, strategy and plans to combat the upcoming risks of climate change must be developed based on the scientific evidences. Scientists and Researchers from universities, national research institutes, NGOs and other relevant organisations should be play a vital role for the process developing our climate strategy. How can we claim the liabilities of the developed nations to compensate our losses due to climate change unless we are not able to attribute the losses with climate change?

AKM Saiful Islam is a professor of the Institute of Water and Flood Management at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.