Promised fund for climate change adaptation, mitigation


Shahiduzzaman Khan

PRIME Minister Sheikh Hasina recently requested the donors for quick disbursement of the climate change adaptation and mitigation fund to counter the adverse impact of the changing climate on Bangladesh. The country needs such funds quickly promised in the COP-15 summit in Copenhagen in December last for adaptation and mitigation, particularly for least developed countries (LDCs) and low lying coastal countries.

In Dhaka, the donors were briefed about Bangladesh government’s stance on facing the changing climate saying that Bangladesh had already taken different types of measures for environmental action to mitigate the adverse impact of the climate change. But it is now apparent that the donors were not providing assistance to the projects requiring big scale investments. They are giving funds for technical studies and planning only.

Addressing a recent meeting, Finance Minister AMA Muhith criticised the development partners for meager disbursement of Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds. He said the country needs substantial investment to adequately take care of the effluents and solid waste. These are all environment-friendly projects and the government sought funds from development partners for setting up effluent treatment plants. Unfortunately, for large effluent disposal plants and waste dumps, the government could not garner any support from any development partner. This is unfortunate. In fact, loss of biodiversity, and the scourge of poverty adversely affect the environmental balance, requiring attention and fund for amelioration. Since the issue of climate change has taken precedence in the global environmental discourse, other issues like rapid urbanisation and industrialisation are not getting adequate attention.

Bangladesh has sought funds for 12 different projects including reopening of jute mills shut down earlier. GEF, a multi-donor trust fund, finances government environmental projects having trans-boundary environmental impacts. It funds projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants — through World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and different United Nations organs like UNDP, UNEP and FAO.

British Minister Douglas Alexander said recently that Britain and other rich countries had a moral duty to help Bangladesh and other poor countries adapt their infrastructure, farming and economies to climate change. The world has now a duty to rise to the challenge and ensure that we support the poorest people of the world — least responsible for climate change — to prevent and prepare for its cruellest consequences, he added.

The country is now in the international spotlight on the adverse impacts of global warming. There is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions world-wide and enhance the country’s capability to adapt to perilous impacts of climate change. The adversities stemming from the changing climate under the impact of heavy carbon emission by developed countries are threatening to set back the impoverished nation’s efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, particularly through its devastating consequences for agriculture and food security.

Bangladesh is trapped between the Himalayas in the north and the encroaching Bay of Bengal to the south. The delta is most vulnerable to natural disaster due to the frequency of extreme climate events and its high population density. The predicted temperature increase will cause the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas. Bangladesh may lose one-third of its landmass due to the rise of sea level, which is the direct outcome of climate change. The impacts of higher temperatures and sea-level rise are already felt. The hazardous climate change will affect water resources, agriculture and food security, ecosystems and biodiversity, human health and coastal zones in Bangladesh.

These changes are already having major impacts on the economic performance of Bangladesh and on the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people. It was predicted by experts that a one-metre rise in sea level would inundate 17 per cent of Bangladesh, frequency of natural disaster is likely to increase during the present century. Two successive floods and deadly cyclone Sidr that caused heavy damaged to life, property and crops worth about $2.8 billion in 2007 are indications of the climate change.

According to Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the sea-level rise will be in the range of 15 cm to 90 cm by the year 2100. Even a 10-cm sea-level rise will inundate about 2500 square kms of land area of Bangladesh. A 30-45cm sea-level rise is likely to dislocate about 35 million people from coastal districts by 2050. Last year, two rounds of flooding and a devastating cyclone attacked Bangladesh, claiming thousands of lives and causing huge economic losses. The climate change has been blamed as the reason behind the disasters. Crop yields are predicted to fall by up to 30 per cent, creating a very high risk of hunger due to climate change.

A study by the World Bank, leading donors and the Bangladeshi government had found that the country urgently needed huge amounts of money to ensure its survival. It needs at least $4.0 billion by 2020 to build dams, cyclone shelters, plant trees along the coast and build infrastructure and capacities to adapt to increasing number of natural disasters.

Yet, a local environment scientist believes money is not enough and rich countries should feel obliged to offer assistance to Bangladesh which is facing devastating disasters, occurring for no fault of its own. The world should not stay indifferent when the country goes under the sea, he said. Bangladeshi government had launched an aggressive battle to fight climate challenges, but it should have started many years earlier. It is not too late but the country needs a lot of support — including funding and technical expertise — from the global community. The country especially needs help from those rich nations whose carbon emissions have created the problems — and they should also be prepared to open their doors to the millions of Bangladeshis who will become climate refugees.

Given these realities, the donors should spontaneously come forward to help Bangladesh’s efforts to combat the fallout of manmade climate change. It is important to remind them that climate funding was largely seen as a compensation for the industrial excesses of the west over the past century and the traditional donor-recipient formula was not acceptable under these circumstances.

Source: The Financial Express