‘Bangladesh well prepared for climate change negotiations’

Climate change expert Saleemul Huq tells the Dhaka Tribune's Meer Saiful Islam that Bangladesh has done its homework ahead of the COP21 climate change conference, saying the country's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a good one

What do you think about Bangladesh’s greenhouse emissions reduction plan submitted under the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution?

Saleemul: I would say Bangladesh’s INDC plan is positive. There are two sides – the LDCs, including Bangladesh – and the rest of the world.

What the LDCs have achieved this time was not the case in the past. They have initiated a national debate. In every country, people have had discussions about what they are going to do, what their energy future will be, what the industrial future will be, what level of emissions are acceptable, what should and should not be done.

This debate is also taking place in Bangladesh. This is a good sign. Of course there will be differences of opinion – some will favour coal, others will favour fuel oil.

We are against fossil fuels ... let us have a debate to decide what is best for the country. What INDCs do is align national interests with global interests. We are doing this for our well-being.

India and China are also doing the same. We all want to safeguard our own interests. The good thing is that we have started a debate about the future trajectory of Bangladesh’s industrialisation and development.

There is no doubt China is a big polluter and they recognise this. They are now thinking about energy alternatives. In theSaleemul_huq post-fossil fuel era, China will be a leader.

India is also polluter, but their per capita pollution is very low. India is also debating energy – they are working on energy efficiency and renewable energy. What they are saying is that they need development, so they want to go slow as far as reducing carbon emissions is concerned.

What should Bangladesh’s energy path be?

Saleemul: If we do not give priority to change, no path will open up. Our economy is still based on fossil fuels and it will not be easy to come out of this arrangement because of world politics and vested interests. The energy efficiency issue should be given the highest priority. At the moment, we waste energy from the household to the industrial level.

How do you see Bangladesh’s preparations for the crucial negotiations at COP21 in Paris?

Saleemul: Bangladesh is well prepared as the prime minister, foreign minister, finance minister, environment minister and senior officials concerned are all well briefed. The world now wants to hear Bangladesh’s views as it is a vulnerable country. We have adopted projects worth $500 million from our own resources.

It should be kept in mind that climate change is now a diplomatic issue. We will have to coordinate with groups like the LDCs and the Climate Vulnerable Forum.

What do you say about the debate over the conditions of the climate change fund?

Saleemul: We don’t want loans, we want grants. We have to make clear that whatever we have done on the home front, we have done with our own resources. We could have achieved thrice as much if the resources were available.

The developed countries pledged to provide LDCs with 0.7% of GNI, but have not followed through. There is no obligation for them to meet their commitment. But climate change funding will fall under an international treaty, making it legally binding for developed countries to finance climate change projects.

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The developed countries have promised to provide financing of $100bn annually until 2020 to be mobilised from both the public and private sectors.  They are saying that 16% of the fund will go to adaptation projects and the remaining 84% to mitigation projects.

However, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board recently took the view that funds should be equally distributed between adaptation and mitigation measures. The board said the adaptation fund should come from the public sector.

How do you see Bangladesh’s negotiation preparation for the conference?

Saleemul: The Bangladesh delegation and experts are now skilled negotiators. They exchange views, they share thoughts and they gain from the feedback.

Bangladesh is recognised by other LDCs and G77 countries who support points put forward by Bangladesh during negotiations.

Will Bangladesh’s plan to develop coal power weaken its position in the negotiations?

Saleemul: There is no relation between coal-based power plants and the negotiations. Bangladesh, as an LDC, can take this course of action for the sake of development. But it is high time for the country to consider alternatives for the sake of its own interest.

Bangladesh has taken a number of energy efficiency, conservation and alternative energy initiatives of its own. How can the country take advantage of these initiatives?

Saleemul: The government aims to improve efficiency of old power plants by replacing them with new ones, reducing inefficiency. Bangladesh has also developed a model for commercial solar home systems, that is well acclaimed abroad.

A programme was also taken to convert diesel-driven irrigation pumps to solar power. Bangladesh deserves GCF funds to implement these programmes.

What should Bangladesh do to make a case for getting grants from the climate fund?

Saleemul: We have to design appropriate projects. The Economic Relations Division, which is the national designated authority for the GCF has to ensure that institutions are able to access the GCF and mobilise funds. There are allegations that projects funded by the government lack transparency.

We must make sure that implementation is transparent, be clear about why a project is undertaken, how the project will be of benefit and how much it will cost. There may still be lapses in implementation and these should be acknowledged. 

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