Bangladesh is already at the edge of the pit. The danger lies within its every breath. Recently Global Climate Risk Index, 2019 has ranked Bangladesh 7th among the countries most affected by extreme weather events in 20 years since 1998. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) already forecasted that, the dangers associated with extreme events will continue to increase as the global mean temperature rises.
It is now well recorded that, developed countries are historically responsible for 79 per cent of carbon emissions from 1850 to 2011. Against this backdrop, for the first time in history the Paris Agreement, 2015 brings all the nations into a common point of agreement to combat climate change and adapt to its vulnerability, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.But three years after signing of the Paris Agreement, global collective ambition to limit global warming well below 2°C is now in tatters. The treaty was on a voluntary basis and there is no pressure to increase the target of a country or penalty of failure to reach the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to cut emission. This is the ‘Achilles heel’ of Paris Agreement.
Every country is playing a zero-sum game to gain its narrow interest, instead of larger world interest. Ultimately, the withdrawal of United States from Paris agreement, the highest carbon emission contributing single country, has proved its irresponsibility to the planet and disclosed the vicious form of capitalist economy.
Bangladesh, still a less developed country, was recognised for its praiseworthy skill and capacity building in the adaptation field with the presence of vibrant NGOs to challenge the climate change. Though, more holistic priorities are needed to look forward for some greater achievements of Bangladesh.
Firstly, it is high time to rigorously focus on climate diplomacy. We have no scope in terms of capacity and strategy to agree with the stance of noble laureate Desmond Tutu to say that, ‘people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change’. Rather we should be using ‘weak power’ strategy by transforming vulnerability into comparative advantages and diplomatic tool to increase the influence on negotiation process. Moreover our lesser contribution to carbon emission will make us ethically strong to hold moral leadership.
Since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, countries have been regularly sitting to reach a consensus on the issue. Gradually, the term "Climate Diplomacy" has become one of the dominant areas of international climate change decision-making process.
Bangladesh is yet far away from showing her finesse in the climate foreign policy to pressure the developed countries to cut carbon emission or raise the fund to mitigate the challenges. Experts are now emphasising to make the training on climate issue as integral part for the Foreign Service officers and persuade the climatic diplomats to focus on the issue as global security.
Secondly, Bangladesh needs to strengthen regional cooperation. The Global Climate Risk Index also showed that South Asian countries, four ranked top in the list, are the most vulnerable globally to the impacts of climate change. Regional cooperation will help to overcome some impediments and ensure energy and environmental security through knowledge-sharing, technology transfer, joint initiatives for finance and investment for the management of climate change impacts.
The Paris Agreement also recognised the contribution of the regional platform. BIMSTEC may be considered a good option which is now getting more attention due to new political rotation of the region. Bangladesh meanwhile initiated a remarkable agenda to strengthen the cooperation. Now it is high time to put aside the differences and be united to ensure self interest of every vulnerable country.
Thirdly, we have to mitigate the challenges of climate governance. Article 13 of Paris Agreement underscored the need for promoting accountable, transparent, inclusive and participatory climate actions for both developed and developing countries. Research reveals that, various government deficits exist in the allocation and utilisation of climate finance in Bangladesh.
Corruption contributes simultaneously to reduce the adaptive capacity of the local population during the sudden emergency time and negatively affects the mitigation process by biodiversity degradation of the mangrove forests including illegal logging. As a result, the forest is losing its capability to sink carbon that further hampers the mitigation process. In addition, inadequate participation of local communities in planning and monitoring are also barrier to the good of climate governance. Thus, the poor ranking in the governance will discourage the developed countries to be accountable about the delivery of their pledged fund for climate development.
Fourthly, accelerating the growth of renewable energy is inevitable. It is very well known that energy plays a vital role in poverty eradication, economic growth, sustainable infrastructure development and ensuring security of a country. In Bangladesh, one of the countries of lowest per capita energy consumption, electricity is the most widely used form of energy. Future economic growth significantly depends on the availability of electricity.
In addition, we must be cautious about using fossil fuel. Unfortunately, current (2019) generation of electricity from renewable is just 2.95 per cent of total power generation. Government almost failed to attain its estimation of 5 per cent power generation from renewable sources by 2015 and double by 2020.
Major challenges opined by experts are; lack of coordination among the actors, outreaching the customer base and ensuring finance etc. Another major challenge is the lower production from non-solar renewable energy solutions like wind power, bio-mass gasification etc. There should be more research and pilot projects on producing renewable energy.
And, finally, increasing the ‘climate literacy’ will lift the mass awareness. The term is relatively new which refers to the understanding of one’s influence on the climate and climate's influence on oneself and society. It will bring changes in the attitudes and behavior, help to adapt climate change related trends, enable in decision-making, increase the adaptation and mitigation capacities of communities, and empower the individuals to adopt sustainable lifestyles.
Bangladesh is a disaster prone country. Most of the people still think of the cyclone or storm as divine retribution, preached by the religious leaders. UNESCO started off climate change education as part of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) since 2014, which aims to make climate change education a more central and visible part of the international response to climate change. Government should redecorate the national curriculum immediately by keeping climate change education in focus to live a greener life and ensure a climate literate generation in the future.
In his book 21 lessons for the 21st century, historian Noah Harari notices ‘For thousands of years homo sapiens behaved as an ecological serial killer; now it is morphing into an ecological mass murderer’. Though contributing very little to this brutality, Bangladesh is now facing the fateful consequence of climate change.
The actions already taken against this menace is not enough compared to what is coming on, thus, we have to drive the urgency both home and abroad, convincing the world leaders about their commitment, alongside. It is time also to develop inner resources, look after the issue beyond traditional approach and making the development of Bangladesh sustainable. Because, by all means, it is now a matter of survival for everyone!
Ataur Rahman Maruph, Student, Institute of Social Welfare and Research,
University of Dhaka