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Letters from India
Bumpy Road to Copenhagen
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
World Water Forum of Journalists (WWFJ) held in Dhaka

As the Asia Pacific region is in peril of the global warming and climate change, the Western (and industrialized) countries should bailout the developing countries to cope up with the devastation of sea level rise, flood & drought and salination of surface water in those populous countries. More over, a consensus among the countries, which are affected by the climate change, becomes essential for a pragmatic culmination of the negotiation process that is leading to the final round of climate change negotiation in the forthcoming Copenhagen summit.

These are some of the highlights, which were discussed and debated in an international environmental journalists’ conference in Bangladesh recently. The debates and discourses were part of the 18th Congress of Asia Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ) and the 5th meeting of World Water Forum of Journalists (WWFJ) held in Dhaka in the first week of September.

Supported by the Bangladesh Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the event themed ‘Reaching Copenhagen Climate Summit and Beyond: Role of Media’, was organized in collaboration with the Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (FEJB) at the National Press Club, Dhaka during September 1 to 3.

The congress expressed concern over the slow progress in the current round of climate negotiation against the rising of the scale and magnitude of the climate adversities hitting hard many countries. The participants also called for a deeper cut in emissions of the industrialised countries in order to protect the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable countries like Bangladesh, Maldives, Fiji, Mozambique, Benin, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Sudan, Pakistan, Nepal, India etc.

Inaugurating the Congress, the Bangladesh government environment Secretary, Dr Mihir Kanti Majumder, argued that many Asian countries are really vulnerable to climate change, for which the mitigation process to reduce the greenhouse gas emission must be adopted globally. He insisted that the developed countries must take a lead to
make the Copenhagen summit a success.

“Today climate change emerges as a challenge to the mankind, where the adaptation practice alone will not work. Mitigation should be accepted as the only irreversible solution to the problem,” Majumder described.

Addressing the inaugural session, Festus Luboyera, the program officer of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change admitted that many Asian countries were in risk from the affects of climate change and hence the climate summit in Denmark during December is expected to pave way for the successful resolution with an aim to create a low carbon society.

“Copenhagen would be the culmination of a negotiation process that was launched in 2007 in Bali –the year the scientific community sounded the alarm bells and declared that climate change is unequivocal- will have serious impacts and can be tackled at reasonable cost,” Luboyera explained. He, however, emphasized that Copenhagen has to deliver absolute clarity in terms of what individual industrialized countries will do to reduce their emissions by 2020.

“It has to be absolutely clear what developing countries will do to limit the growth of their emissions because without that indication, we will not get the ratification in many industrialized countries, not least the US,” the UN climate change convention secretariat official maintained.

Talking about the mitigation actions, he narrated that those could be anything from renewable energy projects to reducing emissions, deforestation projects to mitigation actions in agriculture, provided the additional mitigation benefit can be measured, reported and verified. He also lauded the role of media across the world to transform the jargons into communicable messages, such that the common
people understand the issue in better ways.

Einar Hebogaard Jensen, the Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh explained that Denmark was preparing itself to be host of one of the biggest international government conferences in the country’s history.

“The objective of the summit in Copenhagen will be to formulate a new and striving global agreement on climate change that includes all countries of the world and also the ambitious target for reducing global green house gas emissions,” revealed the Ambassador.

He also reiterated, “Denmark will listen carefully to all parties and mediate in the process towards a final agreement. You will find Denmark in a more facilitating role. We will look for overlapping positions and identify where common ground is emerging. From national initiator we will move to be an international mediator. Our aim is to ensure transparency and openness.”

Speaking about the developing countries, Jensen argued that they should contribute with a nationally appropriate mitigation action supported and enabled by technology, financing, capacity building in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner.

“Climate Change is also a development challenge. Support for climate related activities in the developing countries must be integrated into national development planning,” argued the Danish Ambassador adding that Denmark is supporting a significant number of government and NGO initiatives for adaptation as well as capacity building to face the challenges of climate change in Bangladesh.

The Dutch Ambassador to Bangladesh, Alphons J.A.J.M.G. Hennekens, said that Copenhagen deal must be an equitable for all parties so that all countries are benefited from successful completion of the summit. He admitted that the developed countries should take the lead in the adaptation and mitigation strategy for the challenge.

He described that both Netherlands and Bangladesh had some similar problems and opportunities (densely populated, adjacent to the sea and threat from river erosion). The proper water management is the single and most important issue for both Bangladesh and Netherlands.

Arguing for the scientific water management, the Ambassador advocated for engaging all political parties and institutions in the process, where he said that media must play the role as a vigilant agent for the benefit of the human race.

Dr M Asaduzzaman, research director of BIDS, was in favour of raising the voices of the most vulnerable countries at the current round of negotiation so that all their concerns can be addressed properly at the Copenhagen deal.

He claimed that Dhaka had already made it clear that it would never compromise on the food and livelihood security. The IPCC lead author Asaduzzaman strongly advocated that the global communities including the largest emitter, USA must play their responsible roles to formulate the action plan in the summit.

Cautioning that climate change would be worse in the coming days, Dr Rezaul Karim, former division chief of UNESCAP proposed for the climate bail out actions like that of economic bailout arrangement during the time of recession. He also appealed the media to continue its effort in exposing the impact of climate change on the food and livelihood security and finally on the entire society.

Pieter Terpstra from the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka asserted that the crisis of water, related to both the quality and quantity of it, is a man made disaster. The young diplomat also emphasized that the political will and the governance are two important aspects that must be ensued for mitigating the present day problems regarding the river flood, sea level rise and salinity intrusion to the land.

Andre Vermeer, the first Secretary of Dutch Embassy in Dhaka also insisted on the trusted, effected and efficient government to deal with such situation. On any disaster, he emphasized on the prompt warning system as well as the post disaster management and rehabilitation programme of the local governments. Qamar Munir, former climate negotiators of Bangladesh in the UNFCCC and Bangladeshi intellectual Mohammad Reazuddin also participated in various discourses.

The three-day congress concluded with adopting many resolutions under the Dhaka Declaration, where it expressed ‘deep concern at the very slow progress in the current round of climate negotiations given the scale and magnitude of the adverse impacts of sea-rise because of continued green house gas emissions by industrialised & developed countries’.

“We are also expressing our grave concern at ever deterioration in both the quality and quantity of water, river bank erosion and natural disaster, bad management, wrong practices, inappropriate technologies, trans-boundary water issues and abrupt climatic behavior across the world,” the declaration added.

While appreciating the role of World Water Council and efforts of World Water Forum Secretariats, the declaration said that the WWFJ members would collect water voices (especially from the local level) from their respective countries and initiate and participate in the global internet debate and discussions.

The WWFJ will also document indigenous knowledge and practices of water harvesting, water management, and water related issues in the different regions of the world both in electronic and print media, where as the WWFJ & APFEJ would try to participate all global and regional consultations on water, sanitation and climate change initiated by various UN agencies and other institutions so that the consultations and the outputs could brought to the common people.

Speaking to this writer, Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, the APFEJ chairman argued, “Given the magnitude of fast growing problems of climate change, sea level rise, water- both the flood and scarcity, it is time to address these impending sustainable development issues seriously and try to create public awareness in the international level to prepare ourselves and future generation in facing the odds and finally ensuring a safe planet for them.”

Chowdhury, also the Secretary General of WWFJ called for launching a global climate bailout plan with US$ 1 trillion for adaptation per annum to face adverse impacts of climate change by the most vulnerable countries.

The eminent environment journalist at the same time pledges that the members of both the organizations would leave no stone unturned to mainstream the water, climate change and other relevant issues in the international media and extend all out support to the global campaign to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources and mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases.

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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at






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