Hello COP 26! Do you hear the silent screaming of enduring farmers in coastal Bangladesh - the most vulnerable climatic hotspot in the world? Could you speculate the agony of the brutal bite of climate change on the innocent face of the Sundarbans - the largest mangrove forest in the world? Could you imagine the disastrous future of 50 million coastal people in Bangladesh? What new can we expect from the Glasgow Climate Summit – 2021 to save the coastal ecosystems and livelihoods in Bangladesh?
The global mega-event on climate change - COP 26 - will be staged in the Scottish city of Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, 2021 with global leaders, climate scientists, protesters, journalists, think tanks, and civil society members. In the context of widespread climatic concerns, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, COP 26 is crucial for the planet and Bangladesh as well. In this conference, the member countries will report on their progress since the Paris Agreement and renew the roadmap to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperature.
Coastal Bangladesh is the worst victim of temperature rise, sea-level rise, salinisation, and frequent disaster. Between 1970 and 2015, over 45 devastating cyclones swept across the coastal regions. More than 70 per cent of cultivable land is affected by moderate to severe salinity.
The scarcity of freshwater for drinking and agriculture is likely to worsen in the coming days. More frequent and severe cyclonic storms and tidal surges are predicted. Even with the optimistic scenario (carbon emission, warming and sea-level rise) low elevation coastal Bangladesh might face severe inundation, salinisation, and biodiversity loss. The prospect of a one-billion-dollar shrimp industry, two-billion-dollar crop agriculture and the invaluable Sundarbans in the coastal area of Bangladesh is at stake.
Coastal systems are projected to be more vulnerable throughout the 21st century and beyond due to climate change, sea-level rise and increased extreme climatic events. Coastal areas are expected to be badly affected by rising sea levels, higher flood levels and storm surges, accelerated coastal erosions, seawater intrusions and increasing ocean acidity and surface temperatures. Reduced agricultural productivity, loss of biodiversity and coastal habitats, loss of tourism, recreation, transportation and industry, and harbour activities are the consequences of climate change.
Climate change undoubtedly poses complex challenges to coastal areas. Over 40 per cent of the global population (around 2.4 billion people) live in coastal areas, amid extremely productive deltas, coral reefs, mangrove ecosystems, and the adjacent land-based estuaries. Due to geographic reality and big population, Coastal Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change and sea-level rise is more severe than the coastal Murcia, Malawi, Manaus, New York, Mekong delta and Fiji.
Despite the big vulnerabilities, a big question remains whether the country gets its fair share of Climate Finance. Climate Finance has always been a priority agenda in the climate conference. Different public and private funding mechanisms are crucial for developing countries to cope with the changes. Along with Green Climate Fund, Least Developed Country Fund, Special Climate Change Fund, Adaptation Fund, the Bangladesh government has its own fund for mitigation and adaptation.
To ensure the country’s long-term resilience against the catastrophe of climate change, the agreed share of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is imperative. Bangladesh incurs roughly 2.5 per cent loss of GDP each year due to climate change-related natural disasters.
Bangladesh’s preparedness and efforts to strengthen its capacity to address climate change risks is noteworthy and exemplary. The country’s capacity in disaster risk management, varietal improvement, water management, and climate-smart agriculture systems is significant.
Bangladesh is the President of the Climate Vulnerability Forum (CVF) and Vulnerable Twenty (V-20) group of finance ministers during the 2020-2022 term. Under the able leadership of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country has got a unique opportunity to share its adaptation experience globally.
Now, Bangladesh needs the agreed share of climate finance to sustain coastal agriculture, ecosystems, the Sundarbans, and livelihoods of 50 million coastal habitats. Investing in the ‘blue’ economy climate finance is essential. Bangladesh needs technical and financial support for integrated and transboundary water resources management, protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems. Significant investment is inevitable in the research on stress- tolerant variety, seed bank, pest and disease control, irrigation and water management, integrated land use, and climate-smart agriculture.
The marginalised farmers and fishers in coastal Bangladesh care little for the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris agreements, IPCC Assessment Reports, or Climate Conference; however, their screaming for survival touches the sky. International support is essential to save them from the carbon rage. They deserve the rights and justice for having due compensation, incentives, and grants for adaptations.
Today’s climate justice will write the history of tomorrow’s world. The role of rich countries - the major contributor to carbon emissions - in climate finance and compensation is crucial for developing countries that are more vulnerable to climate change. Due international attention is urgent for the adaptation of coastal victims. With the steady release of Climate Finance, grants and support, the fertile coastal delta could emerge as the ‘Phoenix’ from the ashes of climatic catastrophe.
The writer is a civil servant of the Bangladesh Government and a PhD fellow of the University of New England, Australia