‘It is time to address the climate injustice’

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon all to remain united in the war against nature to avert a possible loss for mankind.

“In our war against nature, we’ll lose unless we unite,” she wrote in the renowned magazine Diplomat in its April 2021 issue.

In the write up, “Forging Dhaka-Glasgow CVF-COP26 Solidarity” – she said that humans are consciously destroying the very support systems that are keeping us alive.

“What planet shall we leave for the Greta Thunbergs or those at the Bangladesh Coastal Youth Action Hubs? At COP26 we must not fail them,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina, currently the president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), said, we want to see climate financing unleashed, not only towards a low-carbon economy, but also for the promised $100 billion, and 50% dedicated to climate resilience building.

“We want to see international carbon markets unlocked for transnational climate cooperation and solutions found to our profound loss, damage and climate injustice,” she added.

She mentioned that the CVF represents over one billion of the world’s most vulnerable communities, whose very survival is threatened by the slightest sea level rise, frequent hurricanes or rapid desertification.

In this connection, she said that for Bangladesh, often referred to as the ‘ground zero’ of natural disasters, climate change is a survival battle braved by millions of our resilient people whose homes, lands and crops are lost to the recurring wrath of nature.

Every year, 2% of a country’s GDP is lost to extreme climate events. By the turn of the century, it will be 9%. By 2050, more than 17% of its coastlines will go underwater displacing 30 million.

Six million Bangladeshis have already become climate displaced. And yet the country continues to bear the 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar at the cost of environmental havoc in Cox’s Bazar.  

“Who will pay for this loss and damage?” She asked.

Also Read – PM Hasina: Avoid public gatherings, wear masks to fight Covid surge

The prime minister wrote that like Bangladesh, every CVF nation has an irreversible climate loss and damage story to tell.

“But they contributed little to global emissions. It is time to address this climate injustice.”

She said that international cooperation on climate had been de-prioritised by the US for several years. International climate finance was falling far short of the $100 billion pledged at Paris.

“The G-20, accounting for nearly 80% of global emissions lacked the political will to finance transactional carbon markets to support low-carbon projects in vulnerable countries. Loss and damage remained a far cry.”

And then, she said, Covid-19 hit us like a bolt from the blue, triggering the triple perils of climate, health and nature. A rude awakening finally forced the world to heed to my warning that the climate crisis is indeed an emergency.

And any recovery had to be green, nature-based and resilient. Therefore, my first act as CVF President was to declare climate change a “planetary emergency” and call upon all to be on a ‘war footing’ to arrest global temperature rise at 1.5°C.

“By Autumn 2020, I’d seen very few NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions], and COP26 was postponed, so I launched the “Midnight Survival Deadline for the Climate” initiative at the CVF Leaders’ Summit,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.

She said that US President Joe Biden’s returning to the Paris treaty was also inspiring.

“But those who failed to meet CVF’s midnight deadline, I urge them to submit ambitious NDCs ahead of COP26. CVF’s most vulnerable members pledged no less than a net-zero by 2030, including Barbados, Costa Rica and the Maldives.”

Talking about Bangladesh, she wrote that Bangladesh, the CVF member with the largest population, also submitted interim NDC updates with additional pledges over and above Paris to reduce methane emissions. For Bangladesh and the CVF, climate adaptation and financing is a prime ‘survival’ priority as we relentlessly struggle to protect our populations from recurrent extreme climate events.

“Realistically, my climate survival philosophy has been a common sense one. ‘Help thyself’ and wait for no one to rescue. Because climate change is not going to spare us for our inactions.”

As a testament to this, she said, she had long championed locally led adaptation and resilience building at the heart of which are local actors, especially women and youth.

Two-thirds under water in floods

In 2020, when Category-5 Cyclone Amphan mercilessly hit Bangladesh and India, Bangladesh demonstrated its capability to evacuate 2.4 million people and half a million livestock to safety in less than five days.

That same year, two-thirds of Bangladesh went under water in flash floods during the pandemic.

Even though this double jeopardy cost $3.5 billion in GDP losses, disaster preparedness of Bangladesh saved millions of lives.  

She said that Bangladesh has also learnt to self-finance its climate projects. The government has thus created a $450 million Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund that supports nearly 800 adaptation and resilience projects in its vulnerable coasts.

“We are spending on an average 2.5% of our GDP $5 billion each year on climate adaptation and resilience building.”

She said that Bangladesh built 16.4km of sea dykes, 12,000 cyclone shelters and 200,000 hectares of coastal plantation.

The scientists invented nature-based solutions for the country’s coastal communities, such as salinity and stress tolerant crops, rain reservoirs and pond-sand-filters, floating agriculture technology and mobile water treatment plants.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote, in Bangladesh, we are now championing climate prosperity. By pioneering the “Mujib Climate Prosperity Decade 2030,” named after Bangladesh’s Founding Father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during his birth centenary, I have called CVF nations to initiate “climate prosperity plans.” We have already planted 11.5 million trees under our plan.

These are strategic, low carbon investment frameworks integrated into national development plans for capturing our growth and prosperity. But the CVF can only do so much on its own.

“There is a limit to adaptation too!” she said.

“It is vital to build strong CVF-COP solidarity. We want to see a Dhaka-Glasgow-CVF-COP26 Declaration emerge from November’s meeting.  We, the climate-vulnerable nations, want to see G20 submit ambitious NDCs before COP26,” she added.

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