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After Trump Threatens to Toss out Paris Agreement, 200 Nations ask the World to make Climate Change their “Highest Political Commitment”

Between 2012 and 2014, Trump tweeted several more times with some variation on the idea that climate change is a hoax

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FILE - Liu Zhenmin, vice foreign minister of China, visits the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, March 11, 2015. VOA
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Nov 18, 2016: Nearly 200 nations are calling on the world to make the “highest political commitment” to fight climate change after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump threatened to toss out the Paris Agreement.

“Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” delegates meeting at a U.N. climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, said Thursday.

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They called the move away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources “irreversible,” according to a statement. “It is being driven not only by governments, but by science, business, and global action of all types at all levels.”

The delegates stood up and cheered, holding their hands above their heads in a gesture of victory after the statement was read.

Representatives of different indigenous groups from various countries protest during the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 17, 2016. VOA
Representatives of different indigenous groups from various countries protest during the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 17, 2016. VOA

The Marrakech talks were aimed at setting out a timetable for carrying out the Paris climate change agreement. The deal signed in April aims to cut carbon emissions and limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius over the Industrial Revolution levels of the 19th century.

But success of the deal hinges on the cooperation and contributions of some of the world’s biggest polluters and consumers of fossil fuels, including the United States.

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[bctt tweet=”Trump’s longtime insistence that global warming is a Chinese-created hoax has many world leaders worried he will carry out his threat to pull out of the Paris deal. ” username=””]

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump first tweeted in 2012.

He has also championed more gas and oil exploration, and promised to revive the moribund U.S. coal industry.

Nether Trump nor anyone from his transition team have talked publicly about global warming since his election.

But China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said in Morocco that former U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush began talks on global warming more than 30 years ago and China was not part of those early meetings. He said it is impossible the Chinese invented the concept.

FILE - Liu Zhenmin, vice foreign minister of China, visits the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, March 11, 2015. VOA
FILE – Liu Zhenmin, vice foreign minister of China, visits the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, March 11, 2015. VOA

“If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s,” Liu said.

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Between 2012 and 2014, Trump tweeted several more times with some variation on the idea that climate change is a hoax. He often said cold weather as a reason why he doesn’t believe in the concept.

“The weather has been so cold for so long that the global warming HOAXSTERS were forced to change the name to climate change to keep $ flow!” Trump tweeted in 2014.

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FILE – Liu Zhenmin, vice foreign minister of China, visits the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, March 11, 2015. VOA

“If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s,” Liu said.

Between 2012 and 2014, Trump tweeted several more times with some variation on the idea that climate change is a hoax. He often said cold weather as a reason why he doesn’t believe in the concept.

“The weather has been so cold for so long that the global warming HOAXSTERS were forced to change the name to climate change to keep $ flow!” Trump tweeted in 2014.

FILE – Then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate in Las Vegas, Oct. 19, 2016. Despite his own tweets, Trump has denied having made claims that climate change was a hoax invented by China. VOA

Trump has since denied making the claims.

During the first presidential debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton, Clinton said: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real. I think science is real.”

To which Trump responded, “I did not, I did not. I do not say that.”

Meanwhile, U.S. government experts said Thursday that 2016 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history, with a global temperature so far nearly 1 degree Celsius above normal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this October was the third-hottest October on record. (VOA)

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Sundarbans’ activists are against the upcoming NTPC power plant in the area

Local activists said that with the assurance of cheap power from the project, over 300 industrial units, 190 within ECA, had made a beeline to the area. "Had you visited the region a few years back, you would've found a different Poshur," Jamil said.

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A diesel ferry cuts through the Poshur river -- the lifeline of Sundarbans -- with travelers watching its heavily industrialized bank, which is rapidly increasing at the cost of world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest.
Sundarbans, wikimedia commons

A diesel ferry cuts through the Poshur river — the lifeline of Sundarbans — with travelers watching its heavily industrialized bank, which is rapidly increasing at the cost of world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest.

Activists are looking with a wary eye at the upcoming 1,320 MW coal-based power project being set up by India’s NTPC, a mere 14 km north of the Sundarban Reserve Forests and four kilometres from the Ecologically Critical Area (ECA), which they say would pose a threat to the wildlife and dependent communities.

The Maitree Super Thermal Power Project at Rampal in Khulna division is being constructed in an area of over 1,832 acres on the eastern bank of Poshur. In August 2010, a pact was signed between India and Bangladesh to set up the project.

Also Read: Meet 87 yr old Shila Ghosh, who toils hard to earn a living but scorns media hype 

While journalists and protestors are not allowed near the project, a small group of visiting journalists from India could see for themselves the massive erosion, waterless canals, huge waterway traffic, oil spills and major infrastructure coming up along the river.

Some 10 km before the busy Mongla Port is a broad 5.5 km-long road west of the Mongla-Khulna highway that goes to the project site. Around this road there were some 5,000 families which were displaced, we are told.

Sushanto Das, one of the land owners in Bagerhat district, lost over 33 acres of land. “My house was burned down by the local goon with support of the local Member of Parliament. I approached the court. Now they don’t even allow us to protest at the site,” he told IANS from his residence in Ranjitpur, a town between Khulna and Sunderbans.

As per official count, Sundarbans had 180 tigers in 2015. Now, those in the area are under threat.
NTPC Ramagundam, wikimedia commons

At places, the river, along this special economic zone, has become much broader because of excessive erosion of its banks. Ferrymen say that because of this, the Poshur is becoming more aggressive. The western bank, where forest communities dwell and ECA begins, is also being industrialized.

A 2016 joint report by the governments of India and Bangladesh — and supported by the world bank — on the status of tigers in the Sundarbans, a copy of which is with IANS, criticized this coal-fired project, saying it would further “exacerbate the problem” of climate change, pollution and tiger conservation. As per official count, Sundarbans had 180 tigers in 2015. Now, those in the area are under threat.

The report, which labels vessels plying on the Poshur as “mobile bombs”, reminds everyone of the December 2014 incident when 358,000 liters of oil spilled into the Sela.

Spread across 10,000 sq km — of which 62 per cent is in Bangladesh — the Sundarbans, lying in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. For Bangladesh, it accounts for 44 per cent of its forest area, generating 50 percent of the forest revenue from tourism, fishery and the sale of honey.

A wetland of global importance, the ecosystem saves the inlands from cyclones, stabilizes sediments and makes the region a nursery of major fisheries, playing a key role in food security.

“All this stand threatened. The power plant is located to make best use of the river but existing power industries are already discharging effluents into the river and ash in the atmosphere,” Dr Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, Professor Environment Science at Khulna University, told IANS, warning of a micro-climate change altering different patches of the Sundarbans.

With warming of water, Chowdhury observed that soil quality had dropped and salinity in the area had increased over time, threatening its flora and fauna. “The government doesn’t check how natural resources are being overexploited. The DoE (Department of Environment) gives license to industries under pressure,” Chowdhury said.

UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global organization, have already raised an alarm over the Rampal project. “There is only one Sundarbans in the world, once destroyed, no amount of money could replicate it,” he said.

The $1.6 billion power project is controlled by Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFPCL), a 2012 private venture comprising India’s NTPC and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). India’s Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) is constructing the plant which is scheduled to start operations in 2019.

Spread across 10,000 sq km -- of which 62 per cent is in Bangladesh -- the Sundarbans, lying in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
NTPC logo, wikimedia commons

Queries sent to NTPC and BIFPCL went unanswered.

Ironically, India plans to phase out coal-power and not sanction any new project after 2022.

While the Bangladesh government has judged the project location to be at a “safe” distance from the mangrove forest, facts suggest otherwise.

According to a Bangladesh’s Department of Environment (DoE) document, available with IANS, several “red-category” industries — oil refinery, ship building, cement, gas cylinder, brick kilns, LPG, saw mills and

others — operate deep within the ECA across Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhir districts. Also, a railway line is being set up there to import coal from West Bengal to Jessore.

The Bangladesh government in 1999 declared a 10 km radius from the reserve forest as ECA. However, DoE permitted setting up of over 190 industries, located 1.5 to 9 km from the forest reserve, of which 24 units are listed as “Red” or “extremely harmful”, 63 are “Orange (A)” or “harmful” and 103 are “Orange (B)” or “less-harmful”. Not a single industry within ECA is “Green” or “safe”.

According to environment experts, heavy industrialization in the region had blocked canals, eroded the banks and sunk several villages. “Over 50,000 people suffered, mostly from the minority Hindu community, and many have migrated to India,” environmentalist Sharif Jamil from Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (BAPA) told IANS.

Local activists said that with the assurance of cheap power from the project, over 300 industrial units, 190 within ECA, had made a beeline to the area. “Had you visited the region a few years back, you would’ve found a different Poshur,” Jamil said.

Sundarbans has thousands of interconnected canals which balances the pressure on the main river.

“Industries level those canals, putting extra pressure on the river, causing erosion,” Jamil said, adding that Banishanta, Laudob, Shelabuniya, Amtali, Sindurtala, Kalabari and Joymoni areas suffered the maximum erosion.

Also Read: Russia puts world’s first floating nuclear plant into sea

“Crocodile nestings have vanished from Joymoni near Mongla, tiger too,” Professor Chowdhury said, adding that a “proper study” was difficult since the government doesn’t allow it.

According to academicians in Dhaka, an anti-India feeling is slowly taking shape. Some locals who were affected told IANS that they had got death and rape threats and were attacked by musclemen while protesting. Several refused to talk. Many cases have landed in the courts.

“We approached the Left parties in India too for help. But D. Raja (National Secretary of the Communist Party of India) told us that they cannot help as Bangladesh itself had asked for it (the power plant),” Anu Muhammad, Professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, told IANS. He was later denied a visa to attend a conference in New Delhi. Even a tourist visa to India was declined. (IANS)