The Middle East plays host to its second straight U.N. climate conference over the next two weeks, with countries hoping to agree on new ways to keep the planet from heating too much by the end of the century. Distractions abound, most notably war between Israel and Hamas.

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates will welcome thousands of attendees for the 28th "Conference of the Parties" of the U.N. climate conference from Thursday until Dec. 12, amid lingering doubt about how far the oil-rich country will go to help end a climate crisis driven largely by fossil fuel use.

The world has gotten hotter since last year's conference in Egypt. Some experts say 2023 is already the hottest year ever recorded. The northern hemisphere had record highs this summer, and Brazil - where it's not summer yet - this month saw all-time high heat and humidity.

"Practically the whole world is experiencing heat waves," said Petteri Taalas, the head of the U.N. weather agency, earlier this month.

Signs are growing that the world - especially developing countries - is increasingly ill-prepared: This year's monsoon season in India caused nearly $1.5 billion in property damage. Tropical storm Daniel in September caused deadly floods in Libya. Last month, Hurricane Otis pummelled Mexico, raising fears that the government would spend more money to rebuild than to help people cope.

Even if bouts of extreme cold return - like one currently in northern Europe - the overall trend lines point to growing average global temperatures.

What is at stake?

Few experts and policymakers expect a big breakthrough this year.

Burning fossil fuels that sends carbon into the atmosphere remains the main cause of global warming, and production continues to grow. Climate campaigners say efforts to develop wind, solar and other alternative energies are not going fast enough.

The Paris climate accord of 2015 set a target to cap the rise of global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial era - and the world is so far falling far short.

Many experts say to meet that target, production of carbon in the atmosphere must peak next year and drop by nearly half by 2030.

Western countries are among those promoting ambitions to triple capacity for renewable energies and double energy efficiency by that year. Advocacy groups say that's trimming around the edges and avoiding the main issue: Reducing the burning of coal, oil and gas.

One debate will be about "down" or "out": Whether countries agree to phase down use of fossil fuels, as some wish, or phase them out entirely - a lofty goal of climate campaigners that's unlikely to get serious consideration in the Gulf country.

Global warming has vast implications: It can upend local economies, worsen weather patterns, drive people to migrate, and cause havoc for Indigenous peoples who want to retain their traditional cultures, among many other impacts.

Another challenge in Dubai will be to drum up funds for poorer nations to prepare for, respond to, and cope with climate-related catastrophes. Last year, the creation of a " loss and damage fund " was a big achievement - but finding out how to fill it has been tricky.

Who is coming?

King Charles joins Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. climate czar John Kerry, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at what organisers say is the largest COP ever. Pope Francis had planned to attend but cancelled on doctor's orders as he recovers from respiratory issues.

Sultan al-Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi national oil company who is presiding over COP28, will be scrutinised over his country's clear interest in oil and its calls for renewable-energy transition. Many want to know if oil-rich Gulf states will pony up more money to help developing countries adapt to climate change and switch to greener technologies.

Governments from developing nations want help to battle the fallout from warming that hits them especially hard and has arisen through no or little fault of their own.

Rich-world countries will try to score political points in the global community in an increasingly polarised world, whether by providing handouts or sharing know-how from their economic engines to needy nations - without forgetting their constituencies back home.

Climate campaigners want to hold those wealthy-nation decision-makers to account for any lofty but unfulfilled past pledges they made -- and press for greater ambitions to change the way we live from Tokyo to Tegucigalpa to Timbuktu.

The challenges ahead

Hopes at every COP run head-on into reality.

Like last year, when Russia's war in Ukraine weighed in the background of efforts to fight climate change, this year many eyes are elsewhere in the Middle East - on Israel's military campaign in Gaza after the devastating Hamas attack in Israel last month.

One challenge will be reviving attention on climate matters, which often fade after heat waves subside.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in recent days travelled to Antarctica to highlight concerns about melting ice. Many companies lean into COP28: U.S. agribusiness company Cargill, for example, announced this week an "accelerated commitment" to end deforestation - critics said it hadn't done enough - in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Developing countries want to benefit from the luxuries that the rich world has long enjoyed - often by churning out huge amounts of carbon. Purchases of gas-guzzling SUVs and bigger cars are growing across the globe, even as electric vehicles make greater inroads.

Inflationary pressures that have driven up the cost of living in recent months have made purchases of cleaner - often costlier - technologies less attractive, and many consumers have demanded lower gasoline prices. Many countries continue to subsidise fuel costs to limit the pinch on pocketbooks.

Bangladesh at COP28

Bangladesh, being on the frontline of climate change, is attending this year's climate conference aiming to resolve five important issues together with the least developed countries, and countries that are most endangered and vulnerable due to climate change.

Speaking to ous sister newsagency UNB ahead of the climate conference, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin laid out the five key issues that are on Bangladesh's agenda this year.

"The Bangladesh delegation will play an important role on behalf of the least developed countries and the countries most endangered and vulnerable due to climate change in various issue-based discussions at the COP conference," said the minister.

He said Bangladesh has set a target to work together to settle five important issues in this year's conference.

First global stocktake

The first issue on Bangladesh's agenda is related to the 'first global stocktake' which is at the centrestage of this year's UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).

The global stocktake is a process for countries and stakeholders to see where they're collectively making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement - and where they're not.

Bangladesh seeks clear steps, including the evaluation of the progress of activities in line with the 1.5 degree Celsius target, future ambitions and concrete milestones from the global stocktake.

Loss and Damage fund

The term loss and damage refers to the way that countries, particularly ones most vulnerable to climate change, are being affected by the climate crisis - the losses and damages that they have suffered.

The United Nations explains it as: "Loss and damage arising from the adverse effects of climate change can include those related to extreme weather events but also slow onset events, such as sea level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinisation, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification."

According to Minister Md Shahab Uddin, Bangladesh is seeking operationalization of the 'Loss and Damage Fund' in COP28 and fixing its 'detailed arrangement' with the aim of addressing climate change-induced loss and damage in the more vulnerable developing countries.

Global Goal on Adaptation

The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) is a collective commitment under Article 7.1 of the Paris Agreement aimed at "enhancing [the world's] adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change."

The GGA is meant to serve as a unifying framework that can drive political action and finance for adaptation on the same scale as mitigation.

In this year's climate conference, Bangladesh seeks to work together with member states to create and formulate the framework for the 'Global Goal on Adaptation'.

Along with other countries that are vulnerable to climate change, Bangladesh will stress member states to strengthen their 2030 mitigation targets outlined in their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to bring them in line with the 1.5 Celsius temperature target and increase funding to LDC countries to implement the NDC.

$100 billion dollar in climate financing

One other key issue on Dhaka's agenda concerns climate financing.

According to the UN, climate finance refers to local, national or transnational financing-drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing-that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bangladesh, with other developing countries, will work on ensuring $100 billion per year in climate financing from the developed countries for the countries that are most affected by climate change.

Besides, Bangladesh will also work together with other member states to finalise the definition of climate finance.

Doubling adaptation funding

One of the key agendas of this year's climate conference is to double the adaptation funding.

The Adaptation Fund finances projects and programmes that help vulnerable communities in developing countries adapt to climate change. Initiatives are based on country needs, views and priorities.

Bangladesh will echo the need for doubling the adaptation funding in this year's conference, according to Minister Shahab Uddin.

Dhaka will also work on achieving significant progress in the discussion of "New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance" aiming to facilitate climate financing after 2025.

The country aims to launch the National Adaptation Plan (2023-2050) this year.

The environment minister said a position paper has already been prepared with the views of the country's eminent climate experts and concerned ministries and agencies to properly present Bangladesh's position at the COP summit.

"Like the previous COP, Bangladesh has taken initiatives to set up a pavilion of 152 square metres and organise various side events here," said Minister Shahab Uddin.

Dr. Farhina Ahmed, secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, told UNB that Bangladesh will organise 24 sideline programs including 13 seminars at its pavilion at the conference.

"As a leader of developing countries, Bangladesh will highlight the impact of climate change in other countries. Bangladesh will also hold a press conference at the venue of the conference before the Resumed high-level segment of the COP-28 conference," said secretary Farhina.

The 28th World Climate Change Conference will conclude on December 12.

As part of this, the high-level segment of the conference World Climate Action Summit (WCAS) will be held from December 1 to 2, then again from December 8 to 9, the technical negotiation from November 30 to December 11 and the closing session on December 12.

The Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Shahab Uddin will lead the Bangladesh delegation to the conference.

He will be accompanied by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Hasan Mahmud, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Habibun Nahar; Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Climate Change and Environment and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Saber Hossain Chowdhury, senior officials of various ministries and agencies concerned and prominent climate experts of the country.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque and Saima Wazed, daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the elected director of the World Health Organization's (WHO) South-East Asia region, are scheduled to attend the event.

Counting the cost

In 2022, Bangladesh experienced a 9.4 percent decrease in its total GDP, with potential fluctuations within a range of 7 percent to 12 percent, as climate change affected GDP and capital globally, said a report released this week.

The report, released by J Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub of the University of Delaware of US, coincided with the beginning of COP28. . The methodology draws on 58 economic models and employs machine learning to develop "best estimates" of the current GDP and capital wealth losses from climate change.

Titled 'Loss and Damage Today: How climate change is impacting output and capital,' the report comes amidst revelations that Bangladesh witnessed 9 disasters in this year's 11 months, seven of them abnormal in nature.

Bangladesh logged the second highest GDP loss among South Asian countries, only after Myanmar with a GDP loss of 13.6 percent, which is also one of the highest in the world.

Sri Lanka suffered a GDP loss of 9 percent while India and Nepal each suffered a GDP loss of 8 percent. Maldives suffered a GDP loss of 8.6 percent and Pakistan suffered a GDP loss of 2.2 percent due to climate change.

Globally, climate change has led to a population-weighted GDP loss of 6.3 percent in 2022, considering direct, spill-over, and capital losses, the report said.

The unweighted percentage of global GDP loss is estimated at 1.8 percent, or about $1.5 trillion, and the difference between those two results reflects the uneven distribution of impacts, according to the report.

Southeast Asia and Southern Africa are particularly affected, with countries losing an average 14.1 percent to 11.2 percent of their GDP, respectively, the report said.

"These losses highlight the disproportionate burden imposed by climate change on developing nations. Climate change is also exacerbating existing global inequalities, with many high-income countries currently experiencing net gains, including an average increase of 4.7 percent to the GDP of European countries," the report stated.

When GDP and capital losses are combined, low and middle-income countries have experienced a total loss of $21 trillion since 1992, the report estimated.

All of the party groupings under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change except for the EU have experienced total losses, with the greatest losses on the G77, which includes high-income countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, at $29 trillion, according to the report.

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