Has the climate crisis reached the point of no return?
This Conference of the Parties, or COP25, was due to be held in Chile but was cancelled by that government due to weeks of civil disturbances. Spain subsequently stepped in to host the event in Madrid. It has been estimated that nearly 29,000 persons attended the talks. Environmentalists noted with regret that although US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attended, the reality was underlined through the absence of President Donald Trump -- participation was consequently seen as symbolic.
This meeting in Madrid signaled the start of a frantic 12 months of negotiations that will culminate in Glasgow with COP26 in November 2020.
The seriousness of the existing situation pertaining to climate change, adaptation, and mitigation measures was outlined through a comment made by UN Secretary General António Guterres: “The point of no return is no longer over the horizon.”
The world has watched with concern the deleterious effects of climate change over the last two years. We have seen floods, landslides, drought, and cyclones affecting countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia. Hundreds have been killed and nearly 50 million people in different countries have been affected.
The Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2020 that analyzed data from 1999 to 2018 revealed that Bangladesh is seventh among the 10 countries worst hit by extreme weather.
According to this survey, the total loss suffered throughout the world between 1999 and 2018 amounted to around $3.54 trillion.
It was very important that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could attend the meeting in Madrid and reiterate her concern and anxiety over the possible after-effects of the evolving climate variability dynamics.
She was able to effectively convey to the participants the different dimensions of this issue and how Bangladesh, seriously affected by climate change due to extraneous elements, was trying to overcome the growing challenges.
She asked the global community to take the responsibility for climate migrants, as they would be forced to leave their homes and seek new places of habitation for no fault of their own. She also underlined that all funds to fight climate change must be replenished as per agreement, including the $100bn annual contribution.
She also noted that Bangladesh, a firm believer of collective efforts and understanding to fight climate change, believed that the UN is the most appropriate platform for this purpose.
She drew the attention of the participants not only to the principle of “loss and damage” within this equation but also urged all to agree to this principle. She also mentioned that the Warsaw International Mechanism must be given a much stronger mandate to explore financing losses and damages through its review.
The prime minister also termed that climate change had now become an existential threat for climate-vulnerable countries like Bangladesh which was fighting the battle on two fronts: Firstly, mitigation measures to reduce and eventually reach zero emission in future and secondly, undertaking implementation of adaptation measures in areas where irreparable damage had taken place. She also observed that “up to 2050 from now, our annual GDP loss will be 2% and at this rate, by 2100, the loss will be a staggering 9%.”
She also drew the attention of the participants to the continuing presence of the 1.1 million Rohingya who were now causing environmental and social havoc in Cox’s Bazar with the loss of forests, hills, biodiversity, and livelihood of locals. In this context, the PM urged the international community to initiate discussions on creating an appropriate framework to address the needs of the people who became displaced due to climate change.
There was also general consensus that the vulnerable countries suffer the most due to their limited financial capacity to cope with the problem, and also because of their specific geographical features. As a result, they have to bear the brunt of the damage, though they made negligible contribution to the menace. Sheikh Hasina correctly asserted that this constitutes a serious injustice, and must be acknowledged as such by the global community.
It was also suggested that there should be accountability for inaction by countries who are adding to the problem. This was mentioned in response to revelations that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases once again had reached new highs in 2018.
Muhammad Zamir is a former ambassador. He is also an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]