Friday, June 27, 2008

Saarc ministers hold climate change meet in Dhaka July 3
In view of the growing concern for climate change, environment ministers from eight Saarc countries will meet in Dhaka on July 3 to take a common stance on the climate change issue before the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December next year. This will be the first such regional meeting as environment has been an important agenda for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

A deal for facilitating exchange of information between the Saarc countries will top the agenda, said officials of both the environment and foreign Ministries. They said Saarc is to devise a regional action plan for adapting to climate change and mobilising funds for the purpose. Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed will inaugurate the Saarc ministerial meeting. The decision to hold Saarc climate change meeting was made at the 29th session of the Saarc Council of Ministers in New Delhi in December 2007. The July 3 Saarc ministerial meeting will be preceded by an expert-level meeting on July 1 and 2.

The expert-level meeting will make an in-depth assessment on the adverse impact of climate change in the region and suggest measures to address the situation through cooperation.
They hoped that the Dhaka meeting would pave the way for Saarc to take a common stance on the climate change issue.

The UN has been pressing for a new, historic deal on Climate Change in Copenhagen next year. The treaty due to be hammered out in the Danish capital next year is meant to provide an action plan after the Kyoto Protocol's obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions expire at the end of 2012.

On the issue of regional funding for facilitating adaptation to climate change, a high official of the foreign ministry said the ways and means to mobilise a fund called the Saarc Development Fund might be discussed at the meeting.

The Dhaka meet is also expected to seek funds from donor agencies whose representatives have been invited to the meeting, the official said. Besides officials and experts from eight member nations -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka --, representatives from donor bodies like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Global Environment Facility, DFID, Saarc Observers China, Japan, South Korea, USA and EU are expected to join the meeting.

Bangladesh, being located in a region regularly affected by floods and cyclones, is very vulnerable to extreme weather. The country has already begun to feel the effects of the climate change as flood periods have become longer and the cyclones that hit the country cause greater devastation. Besides, rise in sea level will inundate the coastal areas of the country. A rise of 30-45cm in sea level will affect the coastal ecosystems, water and agriculture and also food production. This will result in displacement of about 35 million people from the coastal districts by the year 2050.

The caretaker government has made a proposal to create a fund titled “Fund for Climate Change” and allocate Tk 3000 million (about 43 million US$) in the budget for 2008-09.

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