Three years on since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, more than 23,000 delegates from across world came together at the 2018 United Nations (UN) Climate Change 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) in Katowice of Poland. The conference that continued from December 02 to 15 had one aim: to finalise the rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Three years earlier, at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) held in Paris, France, the agreement's language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties. As of November 2018, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, while 184 have become party to it. The Paris Agreement's long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 02 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change. The world would need to achieve zero emissions sometime between 2030 and 2050 in order to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius goal.
At COP24, the World Bank announced a new set of climate targets for 2021-2025, thus doubling its current five-year investments to $200 billion in support for countries taking ambitious climate actions. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, "We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same. This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future."
ActNow.bot, an innovative campaign by the UN was created with the support of Facebook and advertising company Grey. The campaign harnesses the progress in Artificial Intelligence (AI) with social media messaging to engage people in the growing movement of taking climate action. The campaign was launched on December 04.
In an address at the opening session of COP24, renowned naturalist and media personality Sir David Attenborough spoke for "The People's Seat" initiative. He called it the result of new activism shaped by people from around the world and collected through social media. The collective actions taken through the initiative will be presented during the Secretary-General's Climate Summit in New York in September 2019.
Also, at the conference, international home furnishing business IKEA showcased the ways through which people can be inspired and enabled to live within the limits of the planet, and how to take climate action for a greener and a cleaner world.
A special report, titled "Health and Climate Change" and launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during COP24, revealed that burning fossil fuels is not only heating up the planet, but also polluting clean air. In the process, around 07 million people in the world are dying every year. This is also leading to losses in the form of welfare costs worth $5.11 trillion. The report also presented recommendations for policymakers to mitigate the multifaceted impacts of a changing global climate on human health.
Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, the lead author of the special report and Team Leader, Climate Change and Health at WHO said that the sources of air pollution are the same as those of greenhouse gas emissions which are driving climate change. Hence steps to protect the climate will also pay for themselves in terms of health benefits.
Research has shown that what the world is experiencing now is just the beginning of what global warming will mean for our planet. A study released this August predicts that heat wave mortality rates will skyrocket in coming years.
A lot of hope was riding on the COP24 summit as climate change consequences are becoming severe around the world with every passing year. In 2017, carbon dioxide levels were the highest that they have been in 3-5 million years. As a result, 2017 was the second-hottest year globally since 1880. Additionally, 18 out of the 19 warmest years on record have happened since 2000.
A recent UN report found that global emissions of CO2 in 2017 were 53.5 gigatons (a gigaton is 1 billion tons), the most ever released into the atmosphere, representing an increase of more than one per cent over 2016 emissions.
Global emissions are increasing with every passing year causing extreme weather events. The brunt of these consequences is being faced by developing and least developed countries.
A World Bank report revealed that Bangladesh saw around 234,000 deaths, including 80,000 in urban areas, due to environmental pollution and related health risks in 2015.
Additionally, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change disasters including floods, river erosion, droughts, cyclones and more.
The Bangladesh government is trying to address this issue in its national policy and has a national action plan on Short-lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP). Moreover, the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) 2009 may be updated this year. Also, the 1992 environment policy, updated in 2018, shows the linkages between air pollution and climate change. Now it is focussing on transitioning to clean energy.
IPCC says by 2050, around 50 million people will migrate because of climate change. Due to riverbank erosion, people are already forced to migrate from their places of origin to other places in Bangladesh. Major rivers like Jamuna, Ganges and Padma has already eaten up around 1,590 square kilometres of floodplains rendering 1.6 million people homeless since 1973, according to Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services in 2009.
Around 4.7 million people were displaced between 2008 till 2014 due to natural disasters in Bangladesh, according to 2015 estimation by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
It is imperative for the developed countries of the world to consider the consequences being faced by countries like Bangladesh because of climate change. They should act responsibly and aim towards taking climate actions under the new international climate regime.
Tarequl Islam Munna is a conservator of wildlife and environment.
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