The COVID-19 pandemic indicates how vulnerable to the coronavirus we are and how ill-prepared different sectors, including agriculture and health are? The corona crisis has starkly demonstrated the importance of resilience—the ability for human to anticipate, cope and adapt to adverse situations. In tandem, it has taught us that none of us are resilient until all of us are resilient.
Historically, the global financial crisis in 2007-2008 highlighted the significance of ‘economic resilience’ for addressing the financial challenges. Since then, resilience is being promoted not just concerning how people can respond to catastrophic events but also to derive the proactive adaptation and anticipatory actions for ‘sustainable’ socio-economic development.
An UN flagship report entitled ‘Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing’ offers the possibility that ‘sustainable development’ is being redefined in terms of resilience. This report puts ‘resilience’ at the very heart of ‘sustainability.’ A book on ‘The End of Sustainability’ shows ‘resilience thinking’ is providing a more appropriate footing for meeting the current and imminent challenges.
Recently, in a webinar on 'Resilience in light of COVID-19,’ climate experts argue that the COVID-19 pandemic’s lessons can be a ‘guiding principle’ of climate action on the road to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. It is scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland from 1 to 12 November 2021 under the presidency of the UK Government. Climate actions are mainly focused on broad five areas: clean energy, clean transport, nature-based solutions, adaptation and resilience, and climate finance.
Experts of this webinar were unanimously agreed for delivering greater action on ‘adaptation and resilience’ to climate change on the road to COP26. Simultaneously, they said resilience must lie at the heart of all sectoral developments as well as our response to the climate crisis, including offering COVID-19 response and recovery.
To be sure, the climate crisis will not wait for this pandemic. Even in the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh has been facing natural disasters: flooding and super cyclone Amphan. However, we are not only struggling with these disasters, other countries are also facing similar kinds of natural disasters such as drought (Zimbabwe), flooding (China, India, Somalia, and others), bushfire (Australia), and hurricane (USA). These situations emphasise that tackling climate change is an existential risk, and adaptation and resilience is a core area of action.
Catalysing climate finance in the era of COVID-19 is crucial. COP26 President Alok Sharma underscores the efforts to mobilise private sector finance, in addition to public finance and opines that “climate risk” must be included in investment decision-making processes.
To mobilise the private sector to support adaptation and resilience building, governments must map best practices to create an enabling environment. In this regard, we need to assess the potential of the private sector to contribute to adaptation actions and identify the existing barriers to private sector financing for adaptation and the risks associated with adaptation investments. Governments should facilitate establishing private sector forums to develop and broker partnerships and scale up adaptation actions.
The need to assess the impacts from, and adapt to, a changing climate is an emerging challenge for the investment community. This challenge raises a plethora of questions: What latest science suggest about current and future change to the climate; which hazards and impacts are associated with a changing climate and how climate scenarios are used to model and assess physical climate impacts.
To address these questions, governments require proactive measures to help investors understand physical climate risks and to provide investors with practical guidance on how they can begin to analyse, assess and manage the risks and opportunities presented by physical climate hazards.
The Bangladesh government has taken good initiatives of climate mainstreaming and provided a special Climate Change Budget (7.5% of the national budget dedicated to climate actions) as part of the national budget for the fiscal year 2020-21. However, climate budget implementation remains inefficient. Climate change governance has to be accountable, efficient, and transparent; at the same time, governments must scale up climate finance to meet enormous adaptation costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a human crisis. Its most direct impact is on health and human well-being. Mid- and long-term initiatives are required to strengthen universal healthcare, which is a basic building block for resilient health systems. Investments are also needed on strengthening public health systems at the community and national levels.
The group of Least Development Countries wants to achieve climate-resilient pathways by 2030 and go net zero by 2050. However, this achievement not only needs scaled up climate finance to adapt and build resilience but also requires specific sectoral planning (agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and transport) and efficient implementation.
For instance, the COVID-19 crisis has brought new needs for building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation. These issues illustrate the importance of establishing digital government, digital education, digital currency and digital governance. For instance, developers have mobilised and engaged in designing new apps and services to help in the fight against COVID-19.
Clean energy and transport development have been vital issues to be assessed and strict measures taken in COP26, since the energy and transport system contributes a large share of global emissions. Scientific evidence highlights two main strategies for accelerating the shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy: Mobilising investments for the clean energy transition and strengthening market-driven public-private partnerships.
Clean transport development in cities is not only a climate-related issue but also a crucial issue of public health. Dhaka city has been ranked the worst in Air Quality Index. Precarious air situation of this city has been the major cause of respiratory diseases of city dwellers. Clean transport can play a pivotal role in improving air condition, as scientists say.
Establishing and promoting ‘nature-based solutions’ emerge a natural solution to avoid natural disasters, including climate catastrophe. These solutions substantially reduce emissions, increase carbon sink capacity, and enhance resilience within and across forestry, agriculture, and food systems. These solutions are a long-term, cost-efficient, and scalable approach for climate action.
COVID-19 implications for the environment and sustainability are obvious, which creates lessons for sectoral planning and development. COVID-19 explicitly demonstrated that crossing ‘biophysical threshold’ could have disastrous consequences for humanity. Development activities must be environment-friendly; otherwise, society will encounter more catastrophic situations in the near future.
The road to COP26 is largely contingent on increased ambitions towards a climate-resilient, zero-carbon economy. To this end, governments should mainstream climate and development goals into their overarching development strategies, and align their related sectoral plans, laws, and policies.
In sum, governments must come together to unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement. And, we have to act early, act fast, and work together.
The writer is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Agricultural Extension and Information System, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University