Many environmentalists, including this writer , had been observing the proceedings since the 22nd session of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started at Marrakesh, Morocco on November 07, 2016. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh also flew to Morocco to attend the high-level segment of COP 22. Fifty-nine heads of state and government reportedly joined the conference.
Many issues related to climate change were discussed, debated and resolved in the conference. But two central themes dominated ultimately. These are: (i) curbing emissions collectively to hold global warming level at 2'C and (ii) financing adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Such agreements were also made in the climate change conference held in Copenhagen in December 2004. Attended by 194 countries and hundreds of environmental organisations and experts, the Copenhagen conference resolved to frame a legally-binding agreement to curb carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to bring down global warming level below 2'C. It also recommended for providing US$100 billion every year by developed countries to meet the requirements of climate change-vulnerable developing countries. The COP 21 held in Paris in December 2015 echoed the same resolutions. The positive side was that till date, 109 countries including Bangladesh have ratified the Paris Agreement.
About 15,000 negotiators, CEOs and activists were reported to be in Marrakesh for 12- day talks on climate change. The importance lay in growing impacts of climate change that have resulted in rising seas, deadly storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and pollution of water and etc.
It was observed that two concerns were prevailing in the conference. The first one was the threat of US President-elect Donald Trump to withdraw from the climate change accord meaning no US contribution to the green climate fund. Secondly, only US$ 1.0 billion was committed by developed countries against US$100 billion for it. Related to this, no definite procedures and principles were yet adopted as to how this money would be disbursed.
There were doubts whether the USA would ratify the Paris Declaration of COP 21. The US set this example regarding the Kyoto protocol of 1997. But President Barack Obama ratified the Paris agreement through an executive order just before the recently-held presidential election in the US. During the election campaign, Obama said in a TV talk that all progress on climate change including the Paris agreement was going to be on the ballot. During his present tour to Europe, he, however, said that there will not be major changes in the foreign policy of the USA whoever becomes the President. In Athens, Obama, among other issues, commented on Trump's position on climate change saying that climate deals would be difficult to unravel under the new President. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said in Marrakesh on November 15 that action on climate change has become 'unstoppable'. He predicted that Trump would drop plans to quit the global accord. European leaders are also of the same opinion. French President Francois Hollande said in Marrakesh that the 2015 accord to limit emissions 'is irreversible in law and in fact. In addition, it is irreversible in our minds". Thus, the hope prevails that the USA, being the largest economic power of the world and the second largest greenhouse gas emitter, must respect the Paris agreement.
COP22 ended at Marrakesh on November 18, 2016 with a declaration that called for the highest political commitment to address the climate change. It may be termed as a political declaration. The parties (countries) agreed to combat the impact of climate change combinedly and try to reduce emission of carbon. They also agreed to try utmost for funds to meet climate change projects and programmes. In reality, the Marrakesh climate change conference-Cop 22--appeared to have ended with no concrete framework to implement Paris accord. No substantive progress was made on any of the 11 issues discussed in the conference.
The highest policy-making body, CMA, sat in a meeting one day and was prorogued after some time. The organisers said that this meeting would be held later. It is reported that it will take two years for the preparation of Rule Book (Framework) that will help implementation of the Paris agreement. It implies that COP 22 was trapped in the procedural problems which could not be sorted out.
Visible progress was not also found about the management of the Green Climate Fund. The industrially developed countries agreed in Cancun and Durban conferences that finance for this fund would be unconditional. But the fund authority outlined in the Marrakesh conference that the fund would be a mixture of loan, investment and aid. Some countries including Bangladesh have made a proposal to channel resources from this fund through government organisations. But reportedly, no consensus was found in the COP 22.
Coming back to Bangladesh, it was reported that 13 million pounds committed by the the UK Department for International Development (DFID) was returned from the Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) which is managed by the World Bank (WB). The BCCRF was set up by the government of Bangladesh in 2010. As donors did not want to deliver the fund directly to the government, the World Bank was selected to manage the BCCRF. But the WB suddenly declined to give the money to the BCCRF due to lower rate of service charge. The WB is set to close the operation next year. It also speaks of the complexities in the framework of running such funds.
People across the world expected that the Marrakesh climate conference would result in the adoption of a framework for implementation of the Paris accord agreed upon in COP 21. But the proceedings suggested that it was gripped by Trump (US President-elect) phobia and failure of the highest policy-making body, CMA, in framing the Rule Book needed for implementation of Paris accord. Added to these is poor commitment of money to the climate change fund. The positive point, however, was the highest political commitment made by the parties in addressing the climate change problems. Let us hope that the highest emitters of carbon and greenhouse gases (China, the USA, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Iran South Korea, Canada, Saudi Arabia and others) and other developed countries would generously contribute to the climate change fund and the experts would prepare the framework for implementation of Paris accord adopted in previous COPs.
The writer is an economist
and a former environment
secretary of GOB.