Environment & energy, International relations | South Asia

29 October 2021

The COP26 conference is a chance for countries that are most vulnerable to climate risks, like Bangladesh, to secure a fair share of climate finance and prepare for the future, Md Roushon Jamal writes.

From 31 October to 12 November, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, will be staged in Glasgow, with global leaders, climate scientists, protesters, journalists, think tanks, and civil society members descending on the Scottish city.

In the context of widespread climatic concerns that have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, COP26 is a crucial moment for the whole planet, and Bangladesh is no exception.

At the conference, member countries will report back on their progress since the Paris Agreement and renew the roadmap to try and limit the global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Contributing only a very small proportion of global emissions, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable countries to climate risks. The average temperature in Bangladesh by 2100 is projected to rise dramatically, and by more than the predicted global average.

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Coastal Bangladesh, in particular, is under threat, with temperature increases, sea-level rises, salinisation, and more frequent natural disasters likely to have a big impact on the region as a result of the climate crisis.

Between 1970 and 2015, over 45 devastating cyclones swept across the coastal region. More than 70 percent of cultivable land is already affected by moderate to severe salinity.

The scarcity of freshwater for drinking and agriculture is likely to worsen, and more frequent and severe cyclonic storms and tides are predicted. Even in an optimistic scenario, low-elevation areas of coastal Bangladesh will face severe inundation, salinisation, and biodiversity loss.

Prospects for the country’s one billion dollar shrimp industry, its two billion dollar crop agriculture industry, and the invaluable ecological diversity of the Sundarbans are at stake.

Coastal communities around the world are facing similar impacts. Over 40 percent of the global population – around 2.4 billion people – live in coastal areas or within 100 kilometres from coasts, which harbour extremely economically and environmentally productive delta regions, coral reefs, mangrove biomes, and adjacent land-based estuaries.

Due to its geographic situation and large population though, coastal Bangladesh’s vulnerability is especially severe.

Considering these huge vulnerabilities, the question of whether the country gets its fair share of climate finance must be raised. Finance has always been a priority agenda item in climate conferences, as public and private funding mechanisms are crucial for enabling developing countries to cope with climate risks.

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In addition to various multilateral and bilateral sources of funding, the Bangladesh Government has its own fund for mitigation and adaptation.

Placing a stronger emphasis on preparing for climate change impacts, the Bangladesh government has initiated a number of pieces of legislation, including starting the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BBCCTF) in 2010.

The BCCTF allocated $447 million in the decade preceding 2020 to various projects, and Bangladesh has accessed funds from other sources, such as Green Climate Fund, Climate Investment Funds, Global Environment Facility, and the Special Climate Change Fund.

But to ensure the country’s long-term resilience against climate change, a fairer nationally determined contribution is imperative. After all, Bangladesh currently incurs roughly a 2.5 percent loss of gross domestic product each year due to natural disasters, and this can be expected to grow as the impacts of climate change worsen.

Bangladesh’s preparedness and effort to strengthen its capacity to address climate risks have been noteworthy and exemplary, and the country’s capacity in disaster risk management, water management, and climate-smart agriculture systems is significant.

For one, Bangladesh is the President of the Climate Vulnerability Forum and Vulnerable Twenty group of finance ministers during the 2020 to 2022 term, and with the conference commencing, the country has another unique opportunity to share its adaptation experience globally.

But Bangladesh still needs a larger share of climate finance to sustain its coastal agriculture, ecosystems, the Sundarbans, and the livelihoods of the 50 million people who live near its coast.

Investment here is essential, and Bangladesh needs more technical and financial support, especially for water resources management and the protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems.

Significant investment will be needed not just for infrastructure but also research on subjects like stress-tolerant agriculture, seed banks, pest and disease control, irrigation and water management, integrated land use, or other climate-smart agriculture.

The marginalised farmers and fishers in coastal Bangladesh may care little for the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, or Assessment Reports, but their contribution to achieving the goals in these agreements is substantial. International support is essential for them to protect their invaluable contribution to the region.

The role of highly developed countries – the major contributors to carbon emissions – in climate finance and compensation is crucial for developing countries, especially those that are more vulnerable to climate change.

The conference is an opportunity for them to take up their global responsibility and support countries like Bangladesh that, despite contributing little to global emissions themselves, are entering the climate fight of their lives.

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