These days, the media buzzed with news of natural disasters of all kinds around the world. These include incessant rainfalls, floods, landslides, cyclones and wildfires in the forests etc. Records suggest that these incidences have increased alarmingly in the last few years, causing the death of humans and destruction of natural habitats. Amidst these, the ‘Conference of Parties (COP26)’ is scheduled to be held between 1 and 12 November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Now, it is globally accepted that the natural disasters mentioned earlier are the results of the phenomenon called ‘Climate Change’.
It is envisaged that the COP26 will be the most significant one since the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21). In this conference, for the first time, the member countries will report back on their progress since the Paris Agreement. Here, it should be noted that the Paris Agreement has been the most significant international agreement to face climate change. There was agreement on certain key issues by the leaders of 195 countries. These included reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse gas; increasing the use of renewable energy such as wind, solar and wave power; keeping global temperature increase “well below” 2℃ and trying to limit it to 1.5℃; spending US$ 100 billion a year in climate finance to help developing countries with a commitment to further finance in the future; and reviewing progress on the agreement every five years. However, how these goals should be achieved and monitored has never been fully agreed upon.
International conferences and events like COPs are very important for developing countries. It is more important for Bangladesh as it is the frontline state to bear the brunt of climate change. Here, it must be mentioned that Bangladesh and other developing countries have little or no contribution at all to the process of climate change, but they are the worst sufferers due to the negative impacts of climate change. It has been recorded that in recent years Bangladesh is experiencing different types of natural disasters almost every year in alarming proportions because of the impact of climate change. These include floods, flash floods, cyclones and storm surges, salinity intrusion, extreme temperature and drought. There are also adverse impacts on agriculture and fisheries. The economy of Bangladesh still is heavily dependent on agriculture, and a large portion of the population is engaged, directly or indirectly, in agricultural activities. It is perceived that the impact of climate change on agriculture and fisheries will be widespread and devastating. The salinity intrusion in the coastal area is creating a serious implication for the coastal regions. Another alarming fact is that almost one-quarter of the total population in Bangladesh live in coastal areas. Because of global warming caused by climate change and the consequent rise of sea-level up to one meter only, the country could lose up to 15% of its land area under seawater and around 30 million people living in the coastal areas could become ‘Climate Change Induced Refugees’.
Over the years, the country has taken a number of initiatives to address the issues relating to climate change— from adaptation to mitigation measures. As part of international recognition, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been chosen as one of the winners of the United Nations Champions of the Earth award. It has been mentioned by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that she has proven that ‘investing in climate change is conducive to achieving social and economic development’. The award mentioned especially the progressive Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 that made Bangladesh the first developing country to frame such a coordinated action plan. Bangladesh is also the first country to set up its own Climate Change Trust Fund. The government also earmarks a sizeable amount in its annual budget on climate change adaptation. Most importantly, the Constitution of Bangladesh was amended in 2011 to include a constitutional directive to the State to protect the environment and natural resources for current and future generations. In recent years, Bangladesh is also leading the developing nations in international initiatives on climate change. It is expected that in the upcoming COP26, Bangladesh will play a more proactive role, raising demand for more international concrete cooperation and assistance, particularly in the areas of mitigation and adaptation. Here it should be pointed out that climate mitigation and adaptation needs firm international commitment and active cooperation. Some of the important demands that should be included are – more decarburisation to limit future global temperature rise; a better eco-friendly adaptation that will help the most vulnerable communities to adapt and prepare for future change; ensuring climate finance based on needs of countries concerned; and creation of a new climate finance mechanism to support and compensate the loss and damage caused by climate change to different countries.
(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude)
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka.