‘Climate vulnerable’ countries meet in Bangladesh

Posted on November 15, 2011

DHAKA -- Some of the countries most affected by climate change should be an “inspiration” to rich nations on reducing their emissions, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday.

Speaking at the Climate Vulnerable forum -- which brings together countries most affected by climate change -- Mr. Ban praised low-lying nations such as the Maldives, Costa Rica and Samoa for committing to become carbon neutral.

“In this time of global economic uncertainty, let [these countries’] commitment to green growth be an inspiration to more developed countries -- the major emitters,” he said.

He said it was unfair to “ask the poorest and most vulnerable to bear the brunt of the impact of climate change alone” and called for the release of agreed funds to help poor countries to adapt to global warming.

The meeting in Dhaka of 18 countries most affected by climate change hopes to agree on a united front ahead of UN talks in Durban, South Africa, in December, where a “Green Climate Fund” will be negotiated.

Mr. Ban also praised low-lying and deeply impoverished Bangladesh for becoming a “world leader in disaster preparedness.”

Using early warning systems and community volunteers, Bangladesh has significantly reduced the number of people who die in cyclones, showing the world that “natural hazards need not cause human catastrophe,” Mr. Ban said.

Bangladesh is building more cyclone shelters, extending its climate resistance agricultural scheme and planting greenery along the coast -- all using money from its domestic climate fund.

The forum reflected the fact that the pace of international climate negotiations was “very slow and inadequate” said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, speaking at the opening yesterday.

“We are bearing the brunt of the damage though we made negligible or no contribution to the menace. This constitutes a serious injustice... and demands immediate rectification and remedy,” she said.

Among the countries meeting in Dhaka are Afghanistan, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, the Maldives, Nepal and the Philippines.

The forum is not just an effort to call on rich countries to assist more vulnerable nations, but is “an invitation to work together,” the former president of Costa Rica, Jose Maria Figueres Olsen, told AFP. “This is just a win-win opportunity. Low carbon is good business,” he said, adding that rich nations should view the current economic crisis as a good chance to move towards a low-carbon economy.

“We are trying to go back to business as usual [but] the current crisis is absolutely an opportunity to get out of a rut,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government will launch a public information campaign on climate change next week in the run-up to the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in South Africa, an official said yesterday.

On Oct. 28, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III issued Memorandum Circular 25 that declared Nov. 19-25 as campaign period to intensify awareness on global warming and climate change.

For her part, Climate Change Commission Vice-Chairman Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering said in a Palace briefing that based on the circular, the government is mounting an exhibit in Pasay City and a climate change conference in Albay province to be attended by Mr. Aquino and hosted by Albay Gov. Jose Ma. Clemente “Joey” S. Salceda.

“We will show the programs and projects that are being implemented by the government in the hopes that it will answer the question of whether the Philippines has hope once the change in climate is upon us,” said Ms. Sering in Filipino.

Ms. Sering said the Philippines will be joining other developing countries to push for financial assistance to fight climate change in the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa.

The Philippines is hoping that it can avail of the new Green Climate Fund created in Cancun, Mexico last December, whereby developed countries that consume the most energy agreed to annual funding support for mitigation efforts in the developing world until 2020.

The Green Climate Fund is probably the biggest fund that will address climate change, she said, and it is expected that participant countries tackle ways to access the money, once approved, in the Durban meeting.

The Philippines was included in the list of recipient countries as a result of its increased advocacy and lobbying, said Ms. Sering.

The Durban conference will take place on Nov. 28-Dec. 9. -- AFP and J. P. D. Poblete