Climate Vulnerable Forum: What next? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 16, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 16, 2011

Politics Of Climate Change

Climate Vulnerable Forum: What next?

Bangladesh took over the chairmanship of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) on November 14, after the successful two-day meeting of the Forum. The presence of twenty-four vulnerable countries from Asia, Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and participation of the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki Moon in the third meeting of the Forum, added global attention to the event.
This Forum was initiated by President Nasheed of the Maldives in 2009 with just over a dozen countries from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. The second Forum meeting was held a year later in 2010, hosted by President Tony of Kiribati.
The successful conclusion of the third meeting of the Forum in Dhaka, the adoption of the Dhaka Declaration and Bangladesh's assumption to the leadership of the CVF provide an important opportunity for Bangladesh to play a leading role on this issue in the year ahead.
In order to make the most of its period of leadership of the Forum, it falls to Bangladesh to make it an even more important voice at the global level. Following are some possible ideas for Bangladesh to do so:
New tactics needed
The first lesson to absorb is that business as usual of making statements and talking about vulnerability is not enough. There is a need to think out of the box and to be unconventional in messaging and tactics. Merely issuing a declaration and reading a statement at the climate talks in Durban next month will be ignored by everyone else.
Relating to the UNFCCC
One of the issues that the CVF must resolve is its relationship to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where the individual member countries of the Forum each belongs to their own well established negotiating blocs such as the Least Development Countries (LDC) group, the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Africa group, etc. The CVF should not be seen as a substitute or even a new "negotiating bloc" in the UNFCCC process. Rather, the individual countries should remain in their established negotiating groups and continue to work within those groups.
The CVF should bring its higher level message to the COP in Durban in a different manner than through simple statements. One idea was suggested by Jose Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, in his inspiring speech to the Forum in Dhaka, namely that the leaders of the delegations from the CVF countries carry out a symbolic demonstration at the COP in Durban by sitting outside the convention hall for an hour at the opening session (Figueres suggested they call it "Occupy COP" modeled on the "Occupy Wall Street" movement) and refusing to enter the hall -- using the slogan "Enough talk, we need action." This would be a symbolic gesture that would get much more media attention than simply making a statement. If our leaders are serious about raising their issues at Durban, they must be prepared to think out of the box!
Working at multiple fora
In addition to the UNFCCC and COP, the CVF must also make its presence felt at other important fora, including Rio + 20 in Brazil in June 2012. It should also be present at other meetings (even if not formally invited) such as the G8 and G20 where Bangladesh can go and make demands on behalf of the group.
Role of Bangladesh
As the leader of the CVF for the next year Bangladesh needs to make it's messaging on behalf of the group as a whole and not only its own behalf. Thus, when stating the case for vulnerable countries generally, it should drop its claim to being "the most vulnerable country" as this is disputed by some others. It is better to say Bangladesh is "amongst the most vulnerable," which is not disputed.
The other issue is to always mention the actions that the other vulnerable countries are making, such as Maldives becoming Carbon Neutral by 2020, Kenya's development of geothermal energy, Nepalese pioneering of local adaptation plans of action (LAPAs), etc.
Political strategy
The most important factor is the high level political strategy and messaging. Firstly, it is time to stop repeating that we are the most vulnerable and not responsible for the emissions that cause climate change. While this remains true, it is not new (we have repeated it ad nauseum) and so attracts no media attention. Nor does it find resonance among the developed countries, as they find the accusatory tone unpalatable. It is therefore time to drop the tone of "victimhood" and move on to a more positive message as follows:
Even though we are the most vulnerable and lowest emitters, we are nevertheless prepared to do what we can to reduce our own emissions of Green House Gases (GHGs) because every ton of carbon dioxide, regardless of whether it is produced in Bangladesh, China, or USA, causes the same amount of climate change. Therefore, reducing a ton of carbon dioxide contributes as much to the solution, whether it is done in Bangladesh, China or USA. We, as most vulnerable countries, are prepared to do our best to reduce our emissions and encourage and recommend other to do all they can do as well, whether or not there is any global agreement.

The writer is Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development, London and Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.

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