Nazmul Ahsan . London, UK, NewAge, September 11, 2008
The United Kingdom has agreed to provide Bangladesh £75 million (about $132 million) in grants over the next five years to enable it to recoup the losses caused by the recent natural calamities, including the prolonged floods and cyclone Sidr.
The two governments signed an agreement to that effect on Wednesday morning at the ‘UK-Bangladesh Climate Change Conference’ at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
The declaration also states that the two governments will work together to reduce the emission of global greenhouse gases by the developed countries by about 50 per cent within 2050 to save the lives and properties of hundreds of millions in Bangladesh and other least developed countries.
Douglas Alexander, minister for international development, UK, and AB Mirza Azizul Islam, adviser for finance and planning, signed the declaration in London after the opening session.
Mirza Aziz said that the responsibility for managing the Climate Change Trust Fund may be given to the World Bank. The UK government has already pledged £60 million from its total package to this trust fund.
However sources close the proceedings pointed out that any involvement of international financial institutions is seriously opposed by different sections of the citizens and the civil society. They also indicated that no concrete decision in this regard had been taken by the interim government.
Furthermore, such a position is contrary to that of the least developed countries and other developing countries who feel that any involvement of the lending agencies would lead to further conditionalities for disbursement of these funds and would in fact act as an impediment to swift climate proofing of the marginalised communities and excluded groups.
The conference was also addressed by Ulla Tormaes, Danish minister for development and cooperation, and Muzzafar Ahmad, an economist and environment activist.
‘I am happy to make the announcement of providing Bangladesh £75 million in grants for mitigating some of its havoc caused by recent Sidr,’ Douglas Alexander told reporters after the meeting. Besides the £60 million meant for the trust fund, the UK government will provide another £12 million for different projects funded by UK agencies and £3 million for research. It could not, however, be confirmed whether this fund is over and beyond the overseas development assistance already pledged to Bangladesh or a part of it.
Creating international consensus to reduce emissions will be the next agendum to help save developing countries from the dire effects of climate change, said the British minister. Mirza Aziz termed the commitment as recognition that Bangladesh was truly vulnerable to climate change.
‘At least the aid commitment is a positive beginning for more grants from developed countries,’ said Aziz, adding that Bangladesh needs about $6 billion to withstand and mitigate losses due to climate change and the recent cyclone.
Aziz called upon the international community, particularly the developed countries, to reduce their emissions and provide Bangladesh with more and adequate funds to implement its climate change strategy and action plan.
‘I propose the establishment of a multi-donor trust fund for harmonised action to supplement our efforts in implementing the climate change strategy and the action plan of Bangladesh,’ said Aziz in his speech.
He pointed out that the response from the international community is inadequate to address the losses of developing countries caused by the serious devastation of natural disasters.
The joint declaration called upon developed countries to reduce their global greenhouse gas emissions to save the least developed countries and small islands, and also the developing states.
‘We believe that in order to minimise the future vulnerability of the LDCs and many developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions should peak within the next 10 to 15 years, and be reduced to at least 50 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2050,’ read the declaration.
‘If we are to achieve this scale of emissions reduction, the developed countries will need to take the lead. To put us on track to achieve this target, the developed countries, as a group, should make the commitment to reduce their emissions by at least 25-40 per cent by 2020 compared to 1990.’ The declaration said the developed countries will enhance the availability of new, additional and predictable financial flows to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
On the other hand, the declaration urged the LDCs and developing countries to integrate climate resilience into their development plans and budgets.
A 31-member government delegation comprising government officials and representatives of different non-governmental organisations and citizens’ organisations attended the meeting.