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COP26: Only option is transforming pledge into reality

Published : Monday, 8 November, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1042
Yasmin Ara

COP26: Only option is transforming pledge into reality

COP26: Only option is transforming pledge into reality

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) begins in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 31. World leaders, climate experts, campaigners and financiers will discuss the pressing issue of intensifying climate crisis till November 12.

This year's conference will aim to reach a consensus on actions to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels and to secure net-zero emissions by 2050.

World leaders have begun arriving at a United Nations conference critical to averting the most disastrous effects of the climate crisis, their challenge made even more daunting by the failure of major industrial nations to agree to ambitious new commitments. The ocean covers more than 70 percent of the earth's surface and drives global weather patterns.

It is also the world's greatest "carbon sink", having absorbed about one-third of all human CO2 emissions since the start of the industrial revolution, and storing more than 90 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions over the last 50 years. Coastal, low-lying, and overflowing with communities settled on rivers and waterways, Bangladesh is one of the world's most climate vulnerable countries.

To secure urgent and accelerated action to limit global temperature rise and tackle the effects of an overheated planet will mean for millions of people either prosperity or misery, even life or death. Everything we have fought for over the years is on the line, from the Paris Agreement, the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) limit to global warming, to affordable and accessible climate finance.

The very survival of island nations such as Fiji's low-lying neighbours, along with the 30 other small states in the Commonwealth, is at risk.There is still time to reset our course - but we need to act now and act together to build back from the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic on greener, bluer, more resilient paths to prosperity.

At COP26, we will fight tirelessly to keep the 1.5C target within reach by securing 50 percent reductions in emissions from high-emitting countries by 2030 that would put the world on a path towards net-zero emissions by 2050.

Small states are already in the lead. Fiji recently passed its Climate Change Act that enshrined 2050 net-zero commitments into law. It has mandated the 100 percent sustainable management of its ocean, with 30 percent to be designated as marine protected areas by 2030.

Neighbouring Samoa aims to be powered 100 percent by renewable sources within the next few years. Seychelles is pioneering various innovative finance mechanisms such as debt-for-climate swaps and blue bonds to help fund national climate action, and has already protected 30 percent of its ocean.

COP26: Only option is transforming pledge into reality

COP26: Only option is transforming pledge into reality

All countries must do their part - including larger, more developed nations. If we all cannot come together in the face of this planetary crisis, what hope is there?  What is our part? What sort of risk Bangladesh have and do we know what our responsibilities are?

Coastal, low-lying, and brimming with communities settled on rivers and waterways, Bangladesh is one of the world's most climate vulnerable countries. Rising sea levels, increasingly powerful cyclones, and propensity for flooding are issues already affecting vast numbers of coastal residents, and experts predict these impacts could displace one in seven people in the country by 2050 - the year by which the international community has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement.

While Bangladesh has contributed a negligible amount to total global carbon emissions, it nonetheless finds itself bearing a significant burden of the resulting climate crisis. These dynamics characterize the country's position on the frontlines of the climate justice movement.

While the Bangladesh government revises its coal-fired energy development plans - which have been developed and financed by Japan's International Cooperation Agency (JICA) - a strong, youth-led climate justice movement in the country is calling for a Green New Deal entailing a complete pivot away from fossil fuels toward a renewable energy future.

Proponents for this transition argue that, instead of plans to replace coal developments with liquefied natural gas (LNG), Bangladesh should pursue a direct transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Under this proposal, such a transition would be facilitated by JICA's withdrawal of coal financing substituted by funding for renewable energy, a move that would help to compensate for the social and environmental burdens associated with its support for fossil fuel development in Bangladesh.

A pertinent component of Bangladesh's climate story is the striking disparity between the scale of the country's vulnerability to climate impacts and its relatively minimal culpability in creating the global crisis.

Here, climate change is a serious and present issue already - but a collective international failure to limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius could lead to devastating and compounding ramifications, including widespread loss and damage of homes and assets, food and water insecurity, crop failure, biodiversity loss, intensified cyclones, and unlivable heat waves.

Bangladesh is already facing an internal climate migration crisis, with growing numbers of coastal residents moving to Dhaka to resettle every year. Projections show that a sea level rise of just half a meter by 2050 would result in the loss of a further 11 percent of the country's land mass and impact roughly 15 million people.

The newly released IPCC report underlines these concerns, indicating that sea level rise in Asia has increased faster than the global average, and that both the annual and summer monsoon precipitation will increase in the South Asia region in the 21st century.

According to Reuters, GLASGOW, Nov 1, 2021 - Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told rich world leaders on Monday they must fulfill both their own carbon emission cutting pledges and keep their promises to help developing countries decarbonize.

Science has shown how precipitously close we are to climate catastrophe. The ocean is under serious threat from climate change, such as according to expertise, our 21 coastal districts might go under the water within 2050.  We have to be more aware of our individual responsibilities.  Regarding financial support, the only viable option available to us at COP26 is a courageous success - to secure a safe, sustainable future for our children and grandchildren to come.
The writer is a freelancer, former
librarian, Asian University of
Women (AUW)

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