BANGKOK–One of the world’s great cities, sitting on the Chao Phraya Delta, Bangkok holds a unique place in history. Long a beating heart of the region’s spiritual and economic activity, the metropolis now holds a more ominous significance: its vulnerable location on the frontlines of climate change.
Earlier this week, a UNFCCC preparatory meeting began at the ESCAP hub here ahead of COP 24 in Poland at the end of the year—perhaps the last chance to set the rules guiding the Paris Agreement before climate change impacts spin beyond control.
Even under current projections, nearly 40 percent of Bangkok could be inundated by torrential rains as early as 2030, due to profound changes in prevailing weather patterns, according to a World Bank report.
Compounding the crisis, Bangkok is estimated to be sinking one to two centimetres a year under the weight of rapid urbanization. At the same time, seas in the adjacent Gulf of Thailand are rising by some four millimetres a year, above the global average and the steady descent of the city’s elevation
This harsh new reality was made all too clear in 2011, when monsoons delivered catastrophic flooding, submerging at least one-fifth of the city with the death toll exceeding 500 that season.
Making matters worse, many of the thousands of acres of mangroves that once protected the coastline from the worst effects of tropical storms have been cleared to make way for aquaculture, primarily for shrimp. These ecosystems had long served as natural buffers to storm surges and in their absence, the city’s population is more vulnerable still.
In short, Bangkok may not be a small island like those in the AOSIS membership, but its risks and vulnerabilities are very much the same. AOSIS stands in solidarity with the people of this remarkable city and we are committed to working at this meeting and beyond to ensure we are all prepared to fully implement the Paris Agreement at the end of the year in Katowice.