Iftekhar calls for strong leadership to combat climate change
Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Staff Correspondent

Foreign affairs adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury Tuesday stressed the need for a strong leadership to face the challenges of world climate change, and combat natural disasters together keeping the issue above politics.

Speaking at the opening session of Bangladesh-UK Climate Change Conference at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel, Iftekhar said Bangladesh was working for mitigating the fallout from natural disasters and for adaptation.

The day-long seminar—co-organised by Bangladesh government, British High Commission and the DFID—brought together advisers, representatives from different ministries, climate change experts, journalists and heads of donor organisations.

British high commissioner Anwar Choudhury said climate change had become a prominent feature of the UK's engagement with Bangladesh. "This is a timely event. We are putting the developing countries at the heart of the world's response to climate change. We see the compelling case for action in Bangladesh.

And, as a pioneer of adaptation measures, Bangladesh can be a beacon for others," he said. The first session of the seminar was held on "Climate change—Bangladesh and UK Perspective", moderated by climate expert Dr Atiq Rahman. Iftekhar said: "Bangladesh is on the frontline of a climatic Armageddon.

Our best bet is to adapt to it and sooner we do it the better." "It is heartening that the world is more united than ever before to combat climate change. But this unity must translate into concrete actions. The road to Bali Climate Change Conference was filled with hope," he said. "In the eyes of many, the Bali Conference produced a weak document.

It lacked a firm commitment on emission cuts. More importantly, the sacrosanct principle of "common but differentiated responsibility" suffered a serious setback in the outcome document," Iftekhar said. Bangladesh, as the chair of the LDC Coordinating Bureau in the United Nations, played a pro-active role in Bali.

"We ensured that the final document included a specific reference to the adaptation needs of the LDCs and the small island developing states.

Because of our relentless efforts, Bali conference agreed to establish an Adaptation Board. The Board will facilitate equitable allocation of adaptation funds. It will also strive to augment the flow of funds to the most vulnerable group of countries." Iftekhar said: "The future climate change agreement must ensure that the poorest countries of the world have access to eco-friendly and cost-effective technologies.

This is a must to safeguard their right to development." The adviser said: "If we collectively fail to reverse the trends in global warming, as much as one fifth of Bangladesh will disappear in the Bay of Bengal. Along with it nearly 30 million people will perish. The world must pay attention to our concerns."

The British high commissioner said: "Increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, and melting Himalayan glaciers will, over timer mean more severe flooding, droughts and weather systems, pressures on food production and water supply in Bangladesh." Choudhury said: "The UK commits to putting developing countries at the heart of the world's response to climate change. And we think Bangladesh can lead the world on how we best adapt."

The DFID gave 50 million pounds for "char" livelihood programmes. In December 2007, the UK announced another 30 million pounds to support adaptation work. The programme "Climate and Life" will look at agriculture, water resources and reducing the risks of disaster. Choudhury said: "Our new 65 million pounds for Economic Empowerment of the Poorest programme will have a particular focus on those in the areas of Bangladesh most vulnerable to climate change." DFID country representative Chris Austin said: "Climate change is an issue for us all to tackle together. It is not just an environmental issue, it is a developmental one. It is perhaps the most critical long-term challenge that Bangladesh faces."

Austin said the UK wants to stand together with Bangladesh. "We think Bangladesh has an important international role to play—calling for action to cut emissions, and calling for practical support for vulnerable countries to adapt." Experts said the food security in Bangladesh is already under pressure due to the impact of climate change.

They expressed fear that food deficit would increase in next several decades. In the fourth session of the conference, finance adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam said: "The climate change is also having its impact on the budget of Bangladesh."

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