Navigating the Complexities of Climate Diplomacy: Bangladesh’s Imperative

The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth. – Bangladesh Environmentalist deserves recognition

In the face of escalating climate change impacts, Bangladesh stands at the forefront of climate diplomacy, navigating a complex terrain shaped by its unique vulnerabilities and proactive engagement in international negotiations. As one of the most disaster-prone nations globally, Bangladesh grapples with the compounded effects of its hydrogeological features, geographical positioning, and low-lying deltaic landscapes. With projections estimating Bangladesh’s population to soar between 230-250 million by 2050, the imperative for proactive measures to mitigate climate risks becomes increasingly urgent.

This article delves into Bangladesh’s journey in climate diplomacy, highlighting key achievements, challenges, and priorities for international collaboration. Bangladesh’s Climate Diplomacy Landscape: Bangladesh’s engagement in climate diplomacy traces back to its inception at the 1995 Berlin  Summit, where the nation emerged as an active participant in the Conference of the Parties (COP).

Climate Change’s impact on monsoons: Submerged scenery becomes the new normal

Over the years, Bangladesh has cultivated strong ties with esteemed environmental experts and luminaries, including Dr. Rezaul Karim, former Chief of the Environment Unit at UN/ESCAP, Dr. K F Jalal, a senior executive of the Asian Development Bank, and Dr. Atiq Rahman, a prominent environmental scientist at the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies. The recent passing of the revered climate scientist Dr. Saleemul Haq, who dedicated his life to safeguarding the planet from the scourge of climate change, underscores the gravity of Bangladesh’s commitment to climate action.

Key Achievements in Climate Adaptation: Bangladesh’s efforts in climate adaptation and mitigation have been substantial, marked by notable achievements such as the preparation of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. Adopted by the government in 2009 ahead of COP 15 in Copenhagen, this strategy garnered acclaim both nationally and internationally for its comprehensive approach to addressing climate-induced vulnerabilities.

Bangladesh’s emphasis on technological innovations to combat climate challenges is exemplified by the appointment of learned Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP earlier as a special envoy on environmental matters and, more recently, as the Cabinet Minister for Environment and Climate Change. These appointments underscore Bangladesh’s dedication to tackling pressing climate change issues head-on. His track record has proved him to be a strong supporter of environmental and climate change activities.

Amidst a parched landscape, a lone creature struggles to survive as the earth longs for the touch of rain, a stark reminder of the impact of climate change

Contributions to Global Climate Diplomacy: Bangladesh has played a pivotal role in shaping global climate agreements, advocating for initiatives such as the Copenhagen Accord and the establishment of the Green Climate Fund. At COP 15, Bangladesh supported and promoted the Copenhagen Accord, which marked the first time developed countries agreed to a goal of raising $100 billion by 2020, although this target remains unfulfilled.

Additionally, Bangladesh’s advocacy for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius was instrumental in shaping the ambitions of the Accord. The nation’s active participation in subsequent COPs, including COP 21 in Paris, further underscores its commitment to global climate action.

Challenges and Opportunities in Climate Negotiations: Global climate negotiations are characterized by their arduous nature, often spanning years to achieve consensus on key agreements. The process leading to the Paris Agreement at COP 21 exemplifies the challenges inherent in reaching a global consensus on climate action.

Bangladesh’s participation in COPs highlights its commitment to addressing critical issues such as technology transfer, finance, and loss and damage. COP28 in Dubai presents an opportunity for intensified international collaboration on shared climate priorities, demanding stepped-up climate action to ensure the well-being of future generations.

The village of Kalabagi, located in the Dakop region of the Khulna district of Bangladesh, faces a crisis of freshwater. Due to rising sea levels, Kalabagi was inundated with salt water during high tide. Lacking fresh water, people living in this area are now using salt water for daily use, leading to various diseases. This photo was a Climate links 2022 photo contest winner

Critical Priorities for COP28:Keeping 1.5 degrees within reach: Bangladesh remains committed to reducing emissions in line with its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and emphasizes the need for global consensus and action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Action on adaptation: Progress on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and a framework for enhancing adaptive capacity, resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change are imperative. Action on technology, finance, and capacity are the cornerstones of UNFCCC implementation.

The Technology Mechanism, comprising the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTC&N), necessitates enhanced financing and administration to effectively address both mitigation and adaptation to climate change impacts. Dr. Rezaul Karim, a Bangladeshi expert, played an active role in negotiations as part of the government delegation in several COPs.

At COP28, Bangladesh’s delegation emphasized the significance of technology for Bangladesh and raised concerns over delays in creating special funds for climate-vulnerable countries.

Environment Minister Md Shahab Uddin (M), flanked by Saber Hossain Chowdhury (R), special envoy to the prime minister on the environment and climate change, and Dr Farhina Ahmed, secretary of the environment ministry

The  National progress on loss and damage: Operationalizing the Loss and Damage Fund and Santiago Network for Loss and Damage is crucial for effective delivery to vulnerable countries.

Finance: Fulfilling commitments to mobilize climate finance for developing economies, including reaching the $100 billion climate finance goal annually, remains pivotal. Private finance will play a crucial role in achieving this goal. Despite these ambitious priorities, achieving them won’t be easy, and trade-offs are inevitable in multilateral negotiations.

However, Bangladesh remains steadfast in aiming high and collaborating with like-minded partners to advance the climate agenda from rhetoric to action. Most importantly, the loss and damage fund should complement, not replace, the Adaptation Fund. Present adaptation needs far exceed the committed $100 billion annually for adaptation and mitigation at COP28. Technology, finance, and capacity building are the cornerstones of UNFCCC implementation, necessitating enhanced financing and administration to effectively address both mitigation and adaptation to climate change impacts.

As Bangladesh navigates the outcomes of COP28, there is an opportunity to capitalize on positive developments while addressing areas of concern. The operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund represents a significant step forward, albeit with challenges related to funding allocation. Bangladesh can leverage decisions on renewable energy and energy efficiency to accelerate progress towards its Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan (MCPP) targets.

A woman is seen standing at a place affected by flood in Bangladesh

Moreover, Bangladesh’s leadership in adaptation and disaster management positions as a global leader, deserving of recognition and support. Initiatives such as developing a national adaptation plan (NAP) and mainstreaming adaptation in development policies showcase Bangladesh’s proactive approach to climate resilience.

Bangladesh mourns the loss of Prof. Saleemul Haq in October 2023, a leading Climate Specialist whose work in establishing the concept of loss and damage as central to climate justice remains pivotal. Prof. Haq’s contributions and revered presence in COP proceedings will be missed. We also mourn the very recent loss of Dr. K. F. Jalal, a great personality in promoting environmental action in Asia and the Pacific through his leadership positions at UN/ESCAP and the Asian Development Bank. Moving Forward: Despite challenges, Bangladesh remains steadfast in its climate ambitions, aiming to translate rhetoric into action through collaboration and determination. The operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund and advancements in renewable energy underscores Bangladesh’s commitment to climate resilience. Moreover, Bangladesh’s leadership in adaptation and disaster management positions it as a global leader deserving of recognition and support.

Bangladesh’s climate diplomacy journey underscores the imperative for global solidarity and support in confronting the challenges of climate change. Through collective action and unwavering determination, Bangladesh strives to chart a sustainable path forward for future generations amidst the complexities of climate diplomacy. As the world navigates the uncertainties of climate change, Bangladesh expects rich and developed nations to make funds available for Bangladesh for adaptation and loss and damage.

Written by-

Shahed Akhtar
Ambassador & Fmr. Secretary, GoB and Editor, Diplomats World Publication

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