After COP26, Bangladesh needs a priority list to prepare for climate change effects: Ahsan Ahmed

With last-minute changes to the phrases related to coal, the agreement signed at COP26 climate talks this year has frustrated countries that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. What can Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable nations, do now?

Dr Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, a member of the independent technical advisory panel of the Green Climate Fund, says Bangladesh needs to make a priority list to prepare for climate change.

“Our biggest need is to identify the fields of priority in the country, specify the sectors lagging in technology, recognise deficiencies and make a roadmap for every sector,” he said in an interview.

Ahsan thinks the issue should be discussed in parliament. The roadmap to the future should also come from political decisions.  

Before heading to Glasgow for COP26, Ahsan said Bangladesh must make a serious and concerted push to hold developed nations to account for their pledges on greenhouse gas emissions to avert a catastrophe. He saw no reason to look at the conference just as talks and said Bangladesh’s approach must be "diplomatic, serious and multidimensional”.

So, how much Bangladesh has succeeded in the diplomatic push? Ahsan has discussed Bangladesh’s achievements in another interview after returning from Glasgow and what the nation should do now.    

He now says attending the conference will be successful for Bangladesh only if it can walk forward through its roadmap.

“If we have preparations, and know what our priority sectors are, in which project we will invest and how, and show that transparency and accountability have been ensured at all levels from receiving funds to spending them, we will be able to pull investments through international climate diplomacy.  

Ahsan helped make the third and fourth evaluation reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC. He worked as the executive director of the Centre for Global Change and Bangladesh Development Council. Having done his PhD research at Clarkson University in the US, Ahsan was also involved with Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.   

WHAT DID COP26 GAIN?

Ahsan said the Glasgow summit was the most widely participated after the Copenhagen conference of 2009, so the expectations were high. Negotiations to reduce the gaps were heated.

“We’re not saying that all the problems will be solved tomorrow if we press the switch now, but we need to make a pathway for tomorrow. The least developed and vulnerable countries had these expectations.”

“On the other hand, as the issue is about burning fossil fuel and the developed nations do it the most, they must play the key role in solving the problem. But we need to keep in mind the reality in these countries.”

Ahsan thinks it is still possible for the developed nations to do “many things despite the harsh reality” because they already have technological solutions to many problems. “Most of what they need is a political decision.”    

“The climate issue is unsettled even after discussions for 30 years. The populous developing nations also increased the use of fossil fuels in this period.”

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.

Although India forced the change to the agreement, Ahsan believes the US, which is historically responsible for climate change, will take advantage of the amendment.

“It's a big hoax. The people of the least developed countries and the most affected countries went home with nothing but frustration from this conference.”

The overarching aim set at 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.

This has frustrated Ahsan as well. “No matter how hard we try now, the temperature rise will be between 2.5 and 2.8 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. We’ve deviated from our pledge at this conference. So, I describe the outcome of the conference as frustrating.”

WHAT WILL BANGLADESH DO?

The member of IPCC said Bangladesh needs to hold fresh discussions on the climate issue, outline a plan to complete its part of the job, and create capability for negotiations in future.

“With whom have we sat after returning home [from Glasgow]? What plans have we made? What are the shortcomings of the plans? Have we identified the setbacks? If there is no follow-up, I would say we went to the conference only for the sake of participation.”

In his words, Bangladesh’s participation in the conference can be called effective only when the country can realise the gap between expectations and pledges, calculate how much it will lose or profit from the agreement, set out a path forward, and the relevant ministries make public a clear outline of their plans.      

“It can be called a success if parliament calls for preparations after discussing how much we have achieved, how much we haven’t, and what way we should follow.”

He said the developed countries pledged to provide $100 billion to the climate fund, but missed it. “But it’s not that they are not funding at all. They are not properly following the method set out to use the funds most effectively and what technologies vulnerable countries need the most.”      

Ahsan said Bangladesh should not think that it has fulfilled its duty by participating in the conference. “Every ministry needs to work to find out what we need to fill in the gap, where we need to cut emissions, where we need to be more active for adaptation, where adaptation is required along with development.”       

"I got off the plane, I ticked, and the responsibility was over - don't let that happen. What needs to be done, what additional technology will be required, what additional funding will be required, where additional manpower will be required - that needs to be analysed. ”

He also asked the government to continue diplomacy - raising the issue of where the climate fund will go and how much additional funding will be required in the international arena.

He advised the government to follow the "measurable, reportable and verifiable" mitigation action plan. “It means our work needs to be measurable and transparent so that anyone can see it. Only then will our diplomacy be able to lead to positive results in raising climate funds.”

"It's an ongoing process," he said, stressing the need to prepare for the next climate conference. “It must continue. Let's get ready. Preparations should not be last-minute patchwork.”