Paris Agreement: a 50-50?

Photo: ActionAid
Bangladesh team
Country Director

For positive change, I believe in the power of people

Second day of the second week at CoP21 in Paris started with joining the multiple events on gender and climate change. It is Gender and Climate Day in CoP. Since Doha, after lobbying by gender advocates, gender issues and women’s participation was being acknowledged at CoP differently and put up as an item for the agenda of the conference. Doha miracle happened and now every CoP inspirational women speak and organise events on the dedicated day.

This is all happening in the backdrop of a concern that human rights may be at stake in the text of the agreement. Initiated by Norway and joined by other developed countries, a group had showed reluctance to have ‘human rights’ in the operative section of the agreement. What does it mean for gender equity, inclusiveness, inequality, climate induced displacement? When we are discussing the economic and non –economic, social cultural losses of impacted communities from the vulnerable countries and trying to push for action on the already existing agreements in this relation, it is most unwarranted. The impacts of climate change are differentiated and severe depending on whether you are residing in a rich country or in Bangladesh, Tuvalu, Malawi, Maldives, Fiji, Syria – but impact are on all of us. Supported by science and experiential learning, we argue that with additional rise in sea levels and salt water intrusion, livelihoods would be at a serious loss; frequent disasters that means having to move multiple times a year for the people of the coastal areas of Bangladesh, disrupting the education of their children and perhaps having to give away the daughters in child marriage in the process, and thereby drowning further into poverty. 400, 000 people are displaced every year in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh and other developing countries the communities along the rivers and coastlines are paying the highest price. Women have been nurturing and producing eco-friendly and sustainable agriculture. Yet they are at the receiving end of injustice. Negotiators of rich countries do not own up their responsibility given their involvement in this climate crisis. Women are convinced that the narrative needs to move to the separation of the earth from people especially women, and the violence in all form and shape in relations to grabbing of natural resources. As Vandana Shiva rightly pointed out, fertility does not come out of an arms factory, when speaking at the Women and Climate event.

We absolutely need to retain human rights in the language of the Agreement. Thereby recognise the need to take human safety and dignity along with gender related differences into cognisance. How were we going to discuss or place our concerns at this CoP? There are so many restrictions for civil society so how do we engage? We from civil society are kept at bay. Most sessions have been closed off. If we had the opportunities to participate, we would be asking the negotiators to keep the focus on Loss and Damage, women and gender equity, and commit to separately work on it with robust commitment of adequate finances. Rich countries must stop shying away from the discussion on compensation just because the developing countries were not interested to discuss charity, rather the collaboration to move on to a sensible green pathway without depriving the poor a right to graduate out of poverty.

We have a strong argument in favour of serious and robust emission cuts. We should aim for 1.5 degree but the developed countries led by the USA are refusing to agree. Neither are they meaningfully committing to a common but differentiated responsibility. Thus the negotiations are dragging. This emission target should be at the core of the political commitments to address climate change.

The mitigation target/ambition of the Paris agreement needs to be settled at 1.5 degrees. Even a 2 degree global goal is not considered safe for Bangladesh and other extremely vulnerable countries. I understand here that 100+ countries are asking for it. I know for sure that the Least Developed Countries are pushing for it. Fingers crossed they remain adamant in this point even when the likes of USA, Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Venezuela are arguing to not set the goal at 1.5. These countries are dependent on fossil fuel. Hoping that logic and pragmatism prevail! The weaker the mitigation and the adaptation efforts, the more loss and damage the climate vulnerable communities will suffer. All these years of development work will wash away and poverty would turn acute. There will be conflict over resources and displacement will intensify insecurity. Girls and women will become even more vulnerable to violence due to the repeated disasters. The price of adaptation will be increasing as the meter is on, and the price tag becoming huge.

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Paris negotiations so far were not providing sufficient clarity as to how the developed countries would support the developing countries to take a green pathway to development. Separate and additional finances for adaptation should be agreed upon in Paris, and the $100 billion should be in the Adaptation pot in the earliest. Paris agreement should include clear provisions to provide adequate means of implementation for adaptation and mitigation actions in a balanced manner. By one account, $650 billion of public money a year is allocated to support the development of fossil fuel energy. And here we are struggling to find $100 billion each year to finance the climate change efforts. As per a second account, a meagre $5 billion each year is available for adaptation. Citizens in every country need to seriously check out where their tax money is going, and what public spending is subsidising.

If common sense was to prevail, policy makers and corporations would take a moment to listen to women, small holder farmers, and move away from the false solutions which are bound to harm the planet further. If we had a strong gender perspective and women-led negotiations, we may have seen a sensible and reliable agreement.

Leaders, redeem the faith reposed in you!

I want to believe that the parties engaged and negotiators in Paris will see light and not settle for half and half! Is it too much to ask for common sense for common good?