Expectations from Paris (1/2)
M Zakir Hossain Khan

A number of creases in the Paris Agreement need to be ironed out for COP21 to succeed. This is part one of a two-part long form

  • It is up to the whole world to shoulder our climate change challenges 
    Photo- REUTERS

Storms, floods, cyclones, river erosion, droughts, and extreme temperatures are on the rise in terms of frequency and magnitude in the least developed and small island countries including Bangladesh. These are the most vulnerable to climate change, although 48 of the least developed countries that are affected by climate change emit only 1% of the total greenhouse gas emission globally.

Scientists believe that an increase in the global temperature by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius would cause irreversible damage to climate-vulnerable countries.

Although the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth Assessment Report in 2014 predicted a rise in global sea levels from one to three feet by the end of the century, a report by NASA has warned that the sea level would rise as much as 10 feet by the end of this century.

It is estimated that the projected global warming will lead to about 14, 32, and 88 centimetre rises in sea level by 2030, 2050, and 2100 respectively, which would cause inundation of about 8%, 10%, and 16% of total land masses in Bangladesh (Govt of Bangladesh, FPMU, 2010).

By 2050, 150 million people globally including 27 million Bangladeshis may become environmentally displaced due to coastal flooding, bank erosion, drought, and agricultural inversion (IPPC, fifth Assessment Report, Chapter 13). However, there is a gap between commitment and reality.

Limiting global temperature

In order to tackle the detrimental effects of global climate change, there is no alternative to ensuring that commitments made by all countries, especially the industrialised nations at the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992, UNFCCC the Cancun Agreements, Bali Action Plan, and Rio +20 United Nations Sustainable Development Conferences, are properly met.

In this context, a global demand needs to be raised in COP21 (Conference of the Parties) being held in Paris for a legally binding long-term agreement that would ensure that the rise in global temperature is restricted to 2C above the temperature that prevailed in the pre-industrial period, based on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” as laid down in Article 3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Providing ‘new’ and ‘additional’ development assistance

Under the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, the industrialised countries are supposed to provide $100bn in long-term compensation each year to least developed economies as “additional” and “new” development assistance up to 2020 for both adaptation and mitigation purposes, and subsequently, until 2030, they are supposed to provide climate funds.

However, in reality, the industrialised countries have so far (from 2010 to September 2015) disbursed a total of only $2.6bn (7.5%) against the committed amount of around $35bn.

According to the information released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2014, at least $150bn is needed annually up to 2025 for adaptation globally. According to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), 34 industrialised countries and countries of emerging economy have given only 50% of the committed amount of $10.2bn to the GCF until August, 2015.

Moreover, many industrialised countries are reducing development assistance on the pretext that they are providing climate finance, which is not acceptable.

This contribution, even if properly made, would still be negligible compared to the potential damage resulting from climate change.

Grant vs loan

According to “polluters pay” principles in environmental law, which have been agreed upon in different declaration like Copenhagen and Cancun agreements, the affected country will get compensation-based climate finance and it should be a grant.

The fact that Para 6(4) and 6(9)(a) of the Paris Agreement draft refer to loans as sources of climate finance is unacceptable as climate funds provided by industrialised countries as compensation are supposed to be given as grants from public sources only.

It may be mentioned that there is no legally binding provision in the draft Paris Agreement to the effect that priority will be given to grants for adaptation. The use of climate funds for profit-making or doing business is a clear violation of the commitment.

Meagrely focused adaptation fund

In affected countries like Bangladesh, finance for adaptation is more required than mitigation. Performance of the industrialised countries in mobilising the committed funds to least developed countries has fallen short of expectations in mobilising required adaptation funds as public grant. 

Although France, UK, and Germany have pledged $19bn every year up to 2020 and China has pledged $3.1bn up to September, 2015, the amount committed is inadequate compared to the need of vulnerable countries like Bangladesh for implementing adaptation projects.

According to the INDC report submitted to the UNFCCC in September 2015 by Bangladesh, it was estimated that a total of $40bn (around $2.5bn per year) is required for adaptation for the period 2015 to 2030.

However, in reality, Bangladesh received only around $ 1.074bn of which 64.2% came from the contribution of the industrialised countries from Fiscal Year 2009-2010 to 2015-2016 (up to August).

Disturbingly, fund flow to the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund developed from the government’s own fund and the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund created with funds from industrialised countries and budgetary allocation, has alarmingly decreased and has created uncertainty about fund allocation for adaptation.

The shortfall in the “new” and “additional” development assistance required for adaptation as committed by the industrialised countries will increase if a universal carbon reduction agreement based on scientific data is not reached at COP21 in Paris.

It is important to note that, although the Adaptation Fund, established to help least developed countries adapt to climate change and the LDCF are currently blank, there is no indication of this in the Paris Agreement draft.

 

The concluding part of this long form will be published tomorrow.

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M Zakir Hossain Khan

M Zakir Hossain Khan works for Transparency International Bangladesh on climate finance governance.