Wednesday, 1 December, 2021
E-paper

International Day of Climate Action

Sheikh Hasina’s Concern for Climate Prosperity

Bappy Rahman

Climate change is so hard to tackle; hence living with the adverse effects of climate change requires collective responsibility. The developed countries in the world are overwhelmingly to blame for the catastrophe of global climate change. Still, they are not the ones who suffer the most from it. Then who? The answer is - the poorest countries. Recently the Prime Minister of Bangladesh wrote an article published by the British daily 'The Financial Times' where she has come down heavily on the developed nations for climate ‘empty pledges’ in the past decades. The Prime Minister also made a plea to the world leaders ‘to turn pledges into action’. The Prime Minister specifically stated that if western leaders listen, engage and act decisively on what science demands of them, there is still time to make COP26 the success it desperately needs to be.

In her article titled “Bangladesh PM: We need a global ‘climate prosperity plan’ not empty pledges”, Prime Minister wrote, “The inconvenient truth of our times is that while action on climate change has never been more urgent and achievable, governments are not cutting emissions fast enough to keep nations such as mine safe.” In her write-up, Sheikh Hasina was critical of the western world ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26), which will take place from 31 October to 12 November 2021 in the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) Glasgow, UK.

It is already evident that rich countries are the biggest polluters and have created the present climate crisis, describing global warming and climate change and their consequences. In contrast, developing countries are the most impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences. The Prime Minister similarly wrote, “developed nations have refused to take seriously the needs of those countries most immediately affected by climate change”. In her writing, the Prime Minister cites the examples of Bangladesh: In the north of Bangladesh, millions depend on freshwater stored every year in the Himalayan ice fields, “which warming air is now destabilising.” In the south, sea-level rise is exacerbating the threat from coastal flooding.

Bangladesh has made progress in climate change adaptation by developing its NAPA (2005) and strategy and action plan (BCCSAP, 2009). Furthermore, climate risks have been fully or partially integrated into national development plans and some sectoral policies. However, climate change remains mainstreamed into sectoral policies related to forestry, fisheries, health and gender. Regarding recent policy formulation Premier Sheikh Hasina stated: “Subsequently, with COP26 in view, we developed the world’s first national ‘climate prosperity plan’ - a vision under which we will enhance resilience, grow our economy, create jobs and expand opportunities for our citizens, using action on climate change as the catalyst”. It is worth mentioning that the plan is a strategy of five themes that explores the possibilities and potential of socio-economic development, climate resilience and green opportunities. In addition, it will find out the funding needs from international, regional and private sources to contribute to the domestic economy.

Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, also the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), is expected to speak at COP-26. As the Chair of CVF, she first initiated a discussion amongst member countries to shift their status from “climate vulnerability” towards more “climate-resilience”. Later, she again initiated a new discussion amongst the CVF members to shift “climate-resilience” to “climate prosperity”. The terms resilience and prosperity are often used interchangeably but have nuances that differentiate them. For example, climate resilience usually refers to the ability to anticipate, prepare for and respond to hazardous events, trends or disturbances related to climate. In contrast, climate prosperity is about the wise and efficient use and reuse of all resources in relative harmony and balance with nature. Interestingly, following Bangladesh’s Climate Prosperity Plan, the 48 CVF countries are co-opting this concept, and many are preparing their plans. In this regard, Sheikh Hasina wrote: “I believe more developing nations will adopt such plans in the coming months and years, led by members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum”.

In her writing, the Premier welcomed the European Union, the United States and others and mentioned their recent net-zero pledges. Still, she also mentioned that the 100 billion U.S. dollars per year finance pledge made 12 years ago remains unfulfilled. She further continued: “Nor is their repeated refusal to take seriously the needs of those nations most immediately affected. Agreement to support the poorest in dealing with the losses and damages caused by climate change is far removed from implementation”. She added: “If developed nations wish to help, they must address this. Cutting the cost of capital will substantially accelerate decarbonisation across the global south, yielding worldwide benefits”.

Climate change continues to have an adverse effect on the lives and livelihoods of the people. Moreover, it is already proven that climate change disproportionately affects poor people in low-income communities and developing countries around the world. Developing nations are the most impacted by climate change, but unfortunately, they are the least able to afford its consequences. The United Nations recognises the historical responsibility of the developed countries in causing climate change due to their industrial activities. Therefore, rich countries should bear most of the responsibility for climate change.

Recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also asked global leaders to take more substantial steps urgently to address the planetary emergency of climate change, renewing her call for strict implementation of the Paris Agreement. The Premier also placed a six-point proposal before the global leaders as the COP-26 is just a few days away. It is known to all that the majority of greenhouse gas emissions have come from developed countries.

However, European researchers opined that both the developed and the developing nations might be almost equally responsible for contributing to climate change. Thus, the UNFCCC recognises that all countries should protect the climate system and come forward to tackle climate change for the benefit of present and future generations, based on equity and following common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change and its adverse effects. However, the most advanced developing countries also have an essential role to play.

 

(The author acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.)

 

The author is an Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jagannath University