Mostafa Kamal Majumder
The climate change conference that concluded late last week in Bonn, Germany, upheld the global alliance of nations, environmental workers, activists and scientists to remain committed to Paris Climate Agreement despite US President Donald Trump’s rejection of the same even in the face of strong resistance from his nonconformist constituents.Yet the Trump factor widened the gap between the developed countries and the developing ones in financing the combat against global warming by the latter group. The number one economy of the world made it more than clear that the US$100 billion agreed in Paris for payment to developing countries every year was not a binding commitment and thus not a matter of right for any country. This has also cast a shade on the Green Climate Fund which is to help speed-up the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
For Bangladesh and other developing nations, that have little contribution to be global greenhouse gas emissions and the resultant buildup of atmospheric heat and are among the most affected victims, the decisions and the initiatives launched in Bonn will have an important bearing on their development policies and decisions in the years to come.
Global warming monitors have recorded a number of warmest years on record in very recent times, with several years proving to be warmer than the year before. Not only that, climate-induced disasters have set the agenda for the entire current year 2017 for Bangladesh as well as the rest of the world. Floods, super sea storms like cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes as well as droughts were reported from all corners of the globe throughout the year.
The fortnight-long 23rd conference of parties ended on last Saturday, one day behind schedule – as has been seen in most climate negotiations for far – with an understanding that the nations would make stocktaking of their contributions in reducing fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide emissions as per their Paris Deal commitments.
Although the performance of the host head of government, German Chancellor Angela Markel, was considered not up to the mark for her failure to announce a timetable for phasing out the use of coal, considered one of the worst polluters of the environment, the emergence of a new alliance to quickly phase out coal spearheaded by UK and Canada enlisting the support of 17 other nations, was a clear signal of a renewed fight against the dirty fuels of conventional energy.
The European Union remained loud and clear about its resolve to uphold the Paris Deal and promote the use of cleaner fuels. Acknowledging the difficulties facing the implementation of the Paris Deal, Estonia told the meet on behalf of the EU that the group would not walk away from its commitments.
It is believed that the “One Planet Summit” convened by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on December 12 will serve his purpose of giving the Paris Deal a new momentum after its desertion by Donald Trump. Macron has invited some 100 heads of state or government to discuss funding of climate projects. Trump is not one among them.
So the danger of the Paris deal breaking apart has been averted. The unprecedented rivalries and antagonisms that have developed around the glove, the new wave of terrorism and hate crimes that have spread because of the withering away of a set global order could have only been exacerbated in the absence of these initiatives to salvage the Paris Deal.
Bangladesh Environment Minister Anwar Hossein told the Deutsche Welle in Bonn, we alone are not using coal. There are big countries like the US and Germany which are using the fuel in bulk. An environmentalist asked the minister how wise it would be to plan and install imported coal-based industries at a time when a global war has started against the fuel.
Mexico, New Zealand, Denmark and Angola have expressed their oneness with UK and Canada and have made new pledges to quickly phase out coal. The alliance against coal has set a target to have 50 members by next year. There is no country which can morally speak against the members of the alliance as air pollution caused by coal, it is believed, is causing about a million of deaths worldwide every year.
(First Published in The Asian Age, Dhaka on 23 November as front page commentary)
Mostafa Kamal Majumder