Climate change: time running out for Bangladesh

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The lives of millions of people in Bangladesh will be devastated if urgent action is not taken to tackle climate change and cut emissions, the UK’s International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said today (WEDS).

The Secretary of State and the Government of Bangladesh’s Finance Adviser Dr. Mirza Azizul Islam, will outline deep concerns for Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, at a high-level conference being joint hosted today in London, by both governments.

Speakers will include Raja Devashish Roy, Special Assistant to the Chief Advisor, Bangladesh, and former chief economic adviser to the UK Government and leading climate change analyst Lord Nicholas Stern.

The UK and Bangladesh will show their long-term commitment to tackling climate change by signing a joint communiqué outlining the urgent need for a strengthened international deal in Copenhagen in 2009.

And the Secretary of State will also announce a financial package of £75m to help the Government of Bangladesh fund its response to climate change.

Secretary of State Douglas Alexander says: “Climate change is today’s crisis, not tomorrow’s risk and is already affecting millions of people in Bangladesh. But Bangladesh is resilient and is setting an example to other vulnerable countries with its innovative approach to adapting to the changing climate.

“I am pleased to announce today the launch of a new £75m grant-funded programme to support Bangladesh’s efforts to protect its people further from impacts such as rising sea-levels, water-logged land and increased salinity.

“But adaptation on-the-ground is not enough. We believe more must be done at a global level. This is why today the UK and Bangladesh are announcing a new partnership calling for a comprehensive deal in Copenhagen, leading to the stabilization of greenhouse gases at a level that avoids dangerous climate change – and benefits some of the world’s poorest people”

Bangladesh will today outline a comprehensive strategy to make the country climate-resilient for the next decade. The strategy, called the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, focuses on practical adaptation and mitigation measures which can be put in place. Dr Islam will also announce a new trust fund, which will be used to implement the action plan.

Dr. Islam says, “Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including Bangladesh, need immediate international support to build their resilience to global warming and climate change.

“The resources currently available for adaptation are grossly inadequate to meet the needs of the LDCs who bear the brunt of increased climate variability and unpredictability resulting from climate change.

“The effects of climate change will severely constrain our ability to attain the high rates of economic growth needed to sustain development gains. We want a new sense of urgency to support Bangladesh in our search for a better tomorrow.

“This is why today, we are presenting our Climate Change Action Plan and calling upon the international community to assist Bangladesh by providing predictable, long-term financing for this plan and also by pushing for a meaningful agreement at Copenhagen.”

According to the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change more than a fifth of Bangladesh could be under water by the end of the century, if sea levels rise by 1 meter.

Representatives from other South Asian countries including Nepal and the Maldives, donor countries, the private sector and non-government organizations working in Bangladesh will also attend the event.

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