Statement by H.E. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, New York on DPI-NGO Special event on ‘The Impact of Climate Change on People living in Poverty’ In the observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty Salvation Army,221 East 52nd Street, New York,10.15 am-12.15 pm, 29 November 2012

Statement by H.E. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, New York on DPI-NGO Special event on
‘The Impact of Climate Change on People living in Poverty’
In the observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
Salvation Army,221 East 52nd Street, New York,10.15 am-12.15 pm, 29 November 2012

Mr. Moderator, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Poverty continues to remain a critical challenge of our time. According to a recent World Bank study, the number of poor people is now estimated at 1.4 billion, an increase of 500 million from earlier estimates of 948 million. Over the years, while the percentage of people living in extreme poverty continues to decline globally, in many countries, particularly in the LDCs, the progress is slow and uneven. The number of people with insufficient access to food has risen. This perennial problem has been further aggravated by the international financial uncertainty and instability, soaring food and fuel prices and rapid pace of climate change along with its phenomenal extreme weather events. According to a recent study, the current crises will push around 119 million people into extreme poverty by next year. Climate Change will put extra 50 million people at risk of hunger by 2020. These have made it even more difficult to reach the MDG target of cutting by half the proportion of people living in poverty between 1990 and 2015.

The magnitude and complexity of the challenge of poverty calls for a comprehensive action. We need to better understand the nature and the range of deep rooted obstacles to sustained and speedy poverty eradication. I thank DPI for arranging this thought provoking event on the eve of the adoption of four Poverty related resolutions in the second committee of the 67th UNGA. It has provided us a big opportunity to reflect some of the issues that need to be reflected in these resolutions.

We support the recommendation of the Secretary General to develop a comprehensive and pragmatic plan of action in support of these resolutions, particularly the implementation of the Second Decade of Poverty Eradication. This plan of action should include a program of substantive work spanning the analytical, normative and operational work of the United Nations in the area of poverty eradication. The Plan should also identify the specific roles and mandates of different UN agencies. There should also be an annual monitoring mechanism to review the status of the implementation of the action plan by all stakeholders.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate Change is indeed, one of the most serious challenges humanity have ever faced, it’s not because that super storm Sandy caused a $60 billion loss in few hours. As per Climate Vulnerability Monitor, climate change causes 400,000 deaths each year and climate related losses amounted to $1.2 trillion or 1.6% of the global GDP in 2010. Such loss is expected to increase rapidly, reaching 6 million deaths and 3.2% of GDP in net average by 2030 (CVM, 2012). The modest achievement of developing countries, particularly of LDCs might vanquish in the blink of eyes by a sweep of cyclone, flood or land erosion. Indeed, many of the LDCs development budget are now shunted to address the havoc perpetrated by the erratic climate behavior. Its impact is simply devastating. Many of the IADGs are now reversed in these countries, while their people are left with hunger, poverty, unemployment and uncertainty. One such scourge is environmental refugees, where people are displaced from their own living and livelihood for the reasons they are not responsible.

Let me share a story with you. I was back home in the north-east region of Bangladesh and I asked a rickshow-walla (an environmentally safe paddled vehicle) where is he from. He replied that he is from the southern coastal belt of Bangladesh. I asked him why did he travelled so far. He replied, due to erosion of his cultivable land that has been washed away, leaving him no option but to move to a higher plain with his family for safety and security and now is trying to earn a living just to survive. He is forced out of his home not because persecution, repression or civil war but because of erratic climate change. He is not alone. In the capital city Dhaka of Bangladesh out of its estimated 16 million residents, nearly 1/3rd are just like that, they are floating population—- people forced out of their own homes, their traditional livelihood and now they are crowding towns and cities and creating urban slumps mostly due to erratic climate change.

Bangladesh, because of its leadership commitment, sustained efforts, innovative techniques, targeted approaches, and hard-working dynamic people, it has been doing very good in terms of achieving MDG goals. It has either achieved or on tract in achieving most of the MDG goals such as MDG-1 (poverty), MDG-2 (school enrolment), MDG-3 (gender parity), MDG-4 (infant death) and MDG-5 (maternity death) etc. Its poverty rate has reduced from nearly 60% in 1990 to 30% now and its infant mortality rate has declined by over 67 percent. But it is afraid of sustainability—– a single devastating cyclone or one meter sea level rise will wash away its achievements. Bangladesh is a very fertile land and the contribution of its agriculture sector to its GDP growth rate is very significant. If its crop fields go under water or salinity makes its land less productive, or if it is forced to divert its scare resources away from nation building efforts to rehabilitation of climate refugees or erection of higher embankments, the nation is sure to face enormous challenges and its hope to eradicate poverty could be eroded. As per estimate, salinity reduces productivity of rice by 14%, wheat by 45% and maize by 15% and therefore, unless appropriate efforts are taken to manage climate change, food deficiency and poverty is difficult to overcome.

Recent World Bank study predicts 1 meter rise in the sea level of Bangladesh and as per estimate, one meter rise in sea level will inundate 20% of its coastal region leaving 30 to 40 million people without home, without jobs. Where these people, the climate migrants should go? They are not being forced out of their homes by national government, they are being forced to evacuate owing to global warming. Luckily, we have had a UN resolution during the 4th UN LDC Conference in Istanbul where specific rehabilitation measures have been called for these climate migrants. From this podium, I earnestly request the international community to immediately come up with a rehabilitation plan for these people in accordance with the IPoA consensus.

As we are in COP18 in Doha now, it has become incumbent upon the international community, particularly the developed countries given their historical responsibility, to address this global challenge within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol.

The demand should be focused on the urgent establishment of an international climate change “Fund” and making it immediately operational as agreed to by the world community at COP-15 in Copenhagen. This is the least, the major emitters of green house gases responsible for global warming and Climate Change and for creating a turbulent world of natural disasters, could do. Our hope is that they will quickly agree on a legally binding agreement with respect to emission cuts also.

Clearly, the contributions of the rich, developed world to the “Fund” would need to be generous. In all fairness and justice, the “Fund” should be distributed to the most affected based on per capita basis, and the climate vulnerability index. They must also be separated from the commitment of 0.7% of the GNI for the developing countries, and 0.2% of GNI, for the LDCs, which was reaffirmed in the Brussels Program of Action. They must also agree to free transfer of green technology to the developing world.

Unless these measures are taken, it would be a difficult to achieve the desirable goals of MDG by 2015. It may end up in many countries especially in many LDCs just like the BPoA as an ‘unfinished agenda’. These constitute the minimum support, which the countries involved could give as redemption for their misuse and abuse of resources, and of course, reckless drive for development which now threatens the existence of countries like many of ours. Resources and technology are imperative for adaptation and mitigation programs. Bangladesh has already adopted a 134-point climate change action plan, most of which face delay in implementation due to paucity of funds, and unavailability of modern green technology, in spite of the fact that it created a climate Trust Fund with its own domestic resource.

Post Rio+ 20 or post 2015-agenda while should focus on social, economic and environmental sustainability in a holistic manner, it should also focus among others on the following areas. LDCs should be ensured of universal access to affordable, reliable energy and related technologies, appropriate investment in water infrastructure, its management and sanitation, especially in the rural areas, financial and technical support for the enhancement of food and nutritional security and provision of high-yielding and climate resilient seed verities and fertilizers as well as helping combat desertification and land degradation. Likewise, the LDCs also need investment in infrastructure; food and energy security and support for sustainable development of forests and mountains and protection of biodiversity, sustainable use of marine resources, and protection from disasters and vulnerability of small islands, mountain countries, coastal countries and other vulnerable countries in the LDCs.

In conclusion, Madam Chair, poverty anywhere is poverty all over. Hence, eliminating poverty and attaining prosperity is a treasured dream and revered duty for the humanity. It is a boundless pursuit of justice, equality and fairness. Together, I have no doubt, we can vanish the poverty in our own generation. We know ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. Therefore, may I look forward to new impetus in our efforts for a shared goal of having a world free from fear, free from hunger and deprivation during the second decade of poverty eradication?
May God bless you all, give you strength and motivation to eradicate poverty and hunger from this planet earth.