Thursday, December 15, 2011

Economy and the environment

By Dipu Moni and José María Figueres, Financial Times December 12, 2011

The global climate talks in Durban have demonstrated that those most responsible for climate change feel least responsible for the problem, despite possessing the greatest capacity to address it, writes Dipu Moni.

The flip side is that those worst affected are taking high degrees of responsibility for a problem they had little role in creating, and possess the least capacity to resolve.

In the lead up to Durban, many of the world’s large carbon emitters made the low level of their ambitions clear. Japan, Canada and Russia -pronounced their reluctance to carry the Kyoto protocol forward and, as yet, no new commitments on emissions have been agreed. There is also still no clarity on the levels of finance that would be available to support crucial climate actions in low-capacity developing countries over the next decade.

Sadly, the current policies on the table fall well short of any reasonable target
for reducing emissions, and put the world at risk of much higher warming than 2C.
This would be catastrophic, in particular for vulnerable countries such as my own. Just as sad are the subtle efforts by some of the countries who bear the biggest responsibility for climate change to take advantage of divisions among the complex interests of other states who are desperately seeking solutions.

Let us not forget that low-lying countries, such as the Maldives, face the existential threat of total submersion from rising sea levels brought about by climate change, while Bangladesh faces a very real risk of about one-fifth of the country being flooded.

This is why the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which represents 19 countries from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, recently put
forward a 14-point declaration
that articulated a firm determination to do as much as possible to bring about a resolution to the climate crisis.

Just as major emitters pursued their low-ambition strategies in Durban, our members have reiterated their high ambitions. This includes a determination to undertake voluntary mitigation actions and to pursue parallel programmes for adaptation that are crucial for safeguarding the wellbeing of our communities.

For its part, Bangladesh has allocated $300m of taxpayers’ money to finance programmes under the national climate change strategy. Other vulnerable countries have taken similar steps.

We remain, however, marginalised and newly emerging economies with large pockets of poverty. Our ability to act continues to be constrained by our low capacity – chronically so, in some cases – compared with the developed nations.

In this sense, the call for climate finance is not just a brazen demand for cash by developing countries. Climate finance will actually make a very real difference in contributing to the additional reductions of CO2 that are crucial for the world to meet any target for limiting global warming. Furthermore, since capacities are so low among our vulnerable countries, we know that for every dollar of climate finance not forthcoming, human lives, infrastructure and livelihoods are put at greater risk.

The current situation is alarming, and sitting idle is not an option. Climate change implies too great a peril.

Bangladesh is ready to lead by example. We and the other members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum aim to catalyse change and action to mitigate this growing crisis, and call upon the world’s major carbon emitters to give manifest commitments to do their part to address the challenges of climate change.

Durban has not endorsed a robust agenda for change. But reason and justice inspire us to lead from the front. This gives us confidence that, in time, we shall prevail.


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