Climate change: Time to redeem Paris pledges

Dhaka,  Monday,   2016-09-23
Published : 23 Sep 2016, 22:12:25

Climate change: Time to redeem Paris pledges

Meraz Mostafa
In November this year, delegates to the UN climate talks will once again gather to discuss climate change, this time in Marrakesh, Morocco.  This will be the first UN climate conference since countries agreed to the historic Paris Agreement last year, the first ever truly international climate change treaty.

And while the agreement was worth celebrating, particularly in getting so many countries with different interests to come together and agree to something, it is now important we continued the momentum that was built in Paris and turned our eyes to Marrakesh.

After all, the Paris Agreement will only remain historic if countries implement their voluntary pledges to reduce carbon emissions. Otherwise, we will have no chance of keeping average global temperatures to the 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, necessary for survival of many.

Even though the Paris Agreement calls for limiting temperature rise to below 2°C with an ambitious goal of 1.5°C, many climate experts believe we cannot afford even a half-degree difference.

Studies prepared for the World Bank, by Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, found that a half-degree difference could lead to significantly more dangerous weather events and disasters than previously thought. "While 2°C as a long-term goal is safe for many countries and many peoples," explained Dr. Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, at the Paris conference last year, adding that it is not safe for all countries and all peoples. The half-degree difference means about a 100 million people will 'fall between the cracks.'

Currently, the planet is a little over 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, as shown by this widely-shared spiral. If that isn't worrisome, a paper published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature in June of this year predicts that if current climate pledges are not improved in the next decade and a half, we are set to face a temperature rise from anywhere between 2.6°C to 3.1°C by 2100.

This will be devastating for Bangladesh, a country we all know is highly at risk of climate change.  Not only is it located in a low-lying delta, putting it in danger of both sea-level rise from downstream and glaciers melting upstream (though the latter will be affected in part by India's dams and proposed interlocking river project), but the country is also densely populated and many of its citizens are poor.

The Fifth Assessment Report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a few years ago, lists the following climate threats for the country: flooding, droughts, storm surges, health hazards including cholera and heat stress, more frequent cyclones, heavier rain and generally unpredictable weather conditions. These in turn will threaten Bangladesh's food security and its economy, both of which have improved greatly in the last few decades.

And we should not forget that the impact of climate change and the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C are all about people who will lose their homes, who will be forced to move away from their homelands and who will find themselves living in fragile city slums in Bangladesh.

This writer had a chance to visit Rickshaw Garage slum earlier this year, located in the coastal city of Khulna in southwest Bangladesh. Named after the many rickshaws parked in the middle of an informal settlement, the slum is home to climate migrants whose homes were ruined by cyclone Sidr and cyclone Aila in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

Informal settlements like this are only set to increase as climate change worsens. The capital city, Dhaka, will particularly face the burden of migrants as over half a million new people are arriving each year, according to a World Bank study. We now need to turn our attention to Marrakesh for executing the pledges made in Paris.

The writer works on climate change and development in Bangladesh.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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