As the world watches preparations for COP26 in Glasgow on climate change, Bangladesh under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s stewardship has been taking an important leadership role on behalf of a coalition of vulnerable frontline developing nations.
Prime Minister Hasina currently chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which is a coalition of 48 of the world's most climate-vulnerable countries. It has members across the developing world, including Africa, Asia and the Small Island states, and represents the combined interests of 1.2 billion people.
The CVF nations began by declaring that COP26 must go ahead, despite the continuing COVID pandemic, because of the urgency of the situation. "This is the most important meeting for the future of the planet and it cannot wait", the representatives declared.
The nations also referred to the IPCC report, which warned that without drastic emissions cuts within this decade the world will be locked into a catastrophic warming outcome above the 1.5C limit agreed in 2015 at the Paris conference.
"Weeks ahead of COP26, major polluters have still failed to align their Paris Agreement NDC national emission commitments with all available efforts to limit warming to 1.5C which requires large-scale pre-2030 action, while adaptation is under-supported, leaving vulnerable nations at the brink of survival and people all over the planet deep in harms’ way," the statement notes.
With the situation so critical, the CVF is now calling for a 'Climate Emergency Pact' to be delivered at COP26. This would include the long-promised $100 billion annual provision of climate finance for developing countries, split 50:50 between adaptation and mitigation.
It would also include annual ambition raising platforms mandated for each COP, instead of the mechanism focusing on 5-yearly increases in ambition. This recognises that each year counts, and that postponing increased mitigation until after 2025 will certainly put the 1.5C goal out of reach.
It was also agreed to form a CVF Climate Survival Leadership Group for COP26, headed by A. K. Abdul Momen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the incumbent presidency of the CVF. The initiating group includes the following eminent persons: Minister Casten Nemra of Marshall Islands, Commissioner Fekadu Beyene of Ethiopia, Minister Andrea Meza Murillo of Costa Rica, Deputy Prime Minister Eve BazaibaMasudi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Minister Simon Stiell of Grenada, Minister Keriako Tobiko of Kenya, Mayor Mohammed Adjei Sowah of Accra, Ghana, CVF Ambassador for Ambition President Mohamed Nasheed, CVF Presidency Special Envoy Abul Kalam Azad, and Managing Partner Professor Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.
The work of the CVF under PM Hasina’s leadership, and with the support of her Special Envoy Abul Kalam Azad, has been supported from cabinet, through the National Parliament – with the engagement of Saber Chowdhury at the head of the parliamentary environment committee – through to the inputs of leading national experts, including, in particular, PKSF Chair Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Amad, Prof. Ainun Nishat of BRAC University, Dr. Mohammed Asaduzzaman of BIDS, Dr. Atiq Rahman of BCAS, and Dr. Saleemul Huq of ICCCAD, among others. This great team effort of Bangladesh deserves much kudos.
Another issue given attention was one raised previously by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina: the issue of the unsustainable debt burden now held by climate-vulnerable countries. Following Bangladesh's call for this issue to be given better consideration, CVF leaders agreed to launch an Emergency Coalition for Climate Resilient Debt Restructuring.
The debt issue is a huge concern to poorer nations, and Bangladesh's strong leadership on this will be very much appreciated by smaller players in Africa and the island states, who have little bargaining power on their own.
Extreme weather now means that as much as a quarter of the budgets of many countries is now going to adapting to climate damages. The IPCC report definitively linked this extreme weather to climate heating - vulnerable countries cannot be expected to pay back loans that were predicated on a stable climate continuing indefinitely.
Working with other leaders in the CVF and the Bangladesh presidency, former President Nasheed of the Maldives is proposing $1 trillion in climate-debt swaps for our nations, to enable us all to protect infrastructure and reduce the damage and death toll from climate breakdown.
Bangladesh has also been leading the way with the development of the Climate Prosperity agenda, where vulnerable developing countries strategically plan an investment pathway that combines robust socio-economic development with maximum ambition for zero-carbon economies.
This country's Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, named in honor of the Father of the Nation, Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, is blazing the way, but many other countries from Africa and South Asia are lining up to carry out their own Climate Prosperity Plan efforts.
This visionary and ambitious leadership from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister Abdul Momen and Special Envoy Azad has made the CVF one of the big deal-makers of the upcoming COP. This is a critically important role as the world looks to this meeting as potentially the last chance to avert catastrophic climate change. Thanks to the actions of Bangladesh, the chance of success is much greater.
The writer is the Executive Director, Farming Future Bangladesh Visiting Fellow &
Scientist, Cornell University, USA