‘Let’s prepare’: Atiq Rahman says Bangladesh must build capacity to secure climate funds

Dr Atiq Rahman believes it will take five more years for Bangladesh to win the world’s confidence to get climate funds. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame.
Dr Atiq Rahman, an environmentalist and scientist, thinks it’s time for Bangladesh to prepare for implementing plans to tackle climate change impacts after ‘diplomatic success’ in COP26.

The two-week UN climate talks in Scotland ended on Nov 13 with a global agreement that aimed at least to keep alive hopes of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, and so maintain some chance of saving the world from catastrophic climate change.

The agreement in effect acknowledged that commitments made so far to cut emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases are nowhere near enough, and asked nations to set tougher climate pledges next year, rather than every five years, as they are currently required to do.

But campaign groups and vulnerable nations lamented it was far from enough to keep the world on a safe path.

Atiq, who was among the Bangladeshi delegates in the negotiation, however, is optimistic about the outcomes of the deal.  

COP26 President Alok Sharma gestures as he receives applause during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 13, 2021. Reuters

The summit achieved some notable commitments, including to double financing for adaptation to climate impacts, "phase down" coal power, cut "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies and end deforestation by 2030.

Asked about the frustration of the activists in an interview on Thursday after his return to Dhaka from the summit, Atiq said, “It depends on views. I think we made progress in the discussion. What will happen tomorrow, how we are building our society, how our government is preparing – all these depend on us now.”

“The countries that have suffered damage become easily frustrated with deals because they want an immediate solution. But we don’t have an easy solution to the problem. We must be optimistic if we want to save so many people.”

”It’s not that funds will do it all. Who will give the funds and why? We must walk forward by empowering ourselves.”

He was an author of the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Al Gore in 2007.

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The overarching aim set before the conference was one that climate campaigners and vulnerable countries had found far too modest - namely, to “keep alive” the 2015 Paris Agreement's target to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists say that to go beyond a rise of 1.5C would unleash extreme sea-level rise and catastrophes including crippling droughts, monstrous storms and wildfires far worse than those the world is already suffering.

But national pledges made so far to cut greenhouse emissions - mostly carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas - would only cap the average global temperature rise at 2.4 Celsius.

Cyclone Amphan tore down homes as it ripped through Nildumur Kheya Ghat in Satkhira’s Shyamnagar on Wednesday. Photo: Tomzid Mollick

The biggest outcome of the conference is that all the countries agreed to keep the level of temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, although scientists say it should be 1.5 degrees, according to Atiq, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.


The deal gave the poorest nations more promises, but no guarantees, that they would finally get more of the financial help they have long been told they will get.

It urged rich countries to double finance for climate adaptation by 2025 from 2019 levels, offering funding that has been a key demand of small island nations at the conference.

Adaptation funds primarily go to the very poorest countries and currently take up only a small fraction of climate funding.

A UN committee will also report next year on progress towards delivering the $100 billion per year in overall annual climate funding that rich nations had promised by 2020 but failed to deliver. And governments will be summoned to meet in 2022, 2024 and 2026 to discuss climate finance.

Yet even $100 billion a year is far short of poorer countries' actual needs, which could hit $300 billion by 2030 in adaptation costs alone, according to the United Nations, in addition to economic losses from crop failure or climate-related disasters.

Atiq said it is difficult to secure climate funds as the developed nations always seek loopholes in talks. “Even a mother does not feed a baby if it does not cry. So, we must continue raising our voices.

“We’ve made progress in climate diplomacy. That is why the agreement could be signed. It’s a diplomatic success. Now we need to show that we are working. For that, we will need to expand researches,” he said, adding that government preparedness will also be a factor in securing the funds. 

Atiq, who won the UN environmental award the Champion of the Earth in 2008, believes implementation of the climate deal depends on capacity building. “Bangladesh is advancing with new knowledge and plan, while the government does not lack leadership and commitment. We’ve done well. But we will need to work fast.”

Brazil's top diplomat for climate negotiations Ambassador Paulino Franco de Carvalho Neto, European Commission's Vice President Frans Timmermans, US climate envoy John Kerry and China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua walk during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 13, 2021. Reuters

Atiq believes it will take five more years for Bangladesh to win the world’s confidence to get the funds. “For example, if we are given $1 billion tomorrow, the question will be whether we have the capacity to spend the fund. I don’t think we have it yet.”    

He advised Bangladesh to follow a method called MRV -- measurement, reporting and verification. The authorities need the capacity to measure factors, report them and get the report verified by a third party to get the funds.    

“If we can show that we have the capacity to spend and the possibilities to overcome the crisis, we will get the fund. The preparations for that have begun. We must move fast now,” Atiq said.

“We have made progress in planning the time, place and method of implementing our plans. More progress is possible. Funds will depend on how we value them (plans). Foreign funds won’t come if we can’t cut corruption. We will need to make preparations in many fields.

“I think we’ve progressed in this summit. The world has acknowledged our problems. We are on track. Now we need to prepare, build capacity, and institutionalise. The government will have to be more aware.”


[With details from Reuters]