The Financial Express

Bangladesh and the UK can work together for a 'cleaner, greener and safer world'

| Updated: December 01, 2020 22:23:48

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
Bangladesh and the UK can work together for a 'cleaner, greener and safer world'

Bangladesh will be going to COP26 to be held in Glasgow next November with a high hope that the UK, as a host of this event, will be working very closely with Bangladesh which is now leading Climate Vulnerable Forum. Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina has already started campaigning for working together for the cause of climate action. In a recent article published in the Financial Times on November 3, 2020 she wrote, "As the current President of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, Bangladesh is seeking more support from the international community and the G20 for increased finance and access to technology to speed adaptation for those countries most at risk." In her visionary concluding words, she further said, "Climate change, pandemics and the destruction of the nature are common threats. They should unite us in working towards a common solution: a cleaner, greener and safer world". It is in this context, we hope both the governments of the UK and Bangladesh should reach out to each other so that both the Prime Ministers can chalk out a strategy to raise the issue of climate action at the high level platform for the global prosperity despite many challenges. While Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina carries the weight of fifty countries of the CVF and a well-known 'Champion of the Earth', the UK Premier Boris Johnson is also an influential leader of G7 and G20 besides being the host of COP26. The UK too has been pushing the climate agenda quite forcefully, particularly in the arena of finance. I, as a Governor of Bangladesh Bank, had the opportunity of working with Mr. Mark Carney, the then Governor of Bank of England, in various global forums including IMF and the World Bank. The Bank of England under his leadership certainly moved towards changing the mindset of the CEOs and CFOs of the financial and insurance institutions for a green transformation for addressing the climate change challenges. I am sure the UK's central bank remains committed to such a transformation as is also true for its counterpart in Bangladesh. This has become more imperative at a time when the whole world has been devastated by the invisible enemy called Cvid-19. In this changed context, both the Premiers have the opportunity of showing to the world that there is an urgent need for the leadership at large for coming together to tackle both health and climate emergencies. The change in guards in the US has further created positive ecosystem to face both the challenges together as one world. The earlier Trump Administration torpedoed whatever gains were made by the Obama Administration in the field of climate. Also, it's happy to see Mr. John Kerry in climate portfolio in Biden administration who negotiated Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 on behalf of the US. This is indeed a good start for all of us who care for a climate-friendly planet.

One can surely recall here the Bangladesh's strong relationship with the UK which goes back almost half a century -- two countries bound by Britain's support during Bangladesh's struggle for independence, a strong expatriate community in the UK, and good diplomatic relations including  pro-climate positions taken in Paris in 2015. And both leaders can count on this historic bond while preparing the ground for revamping the need for the inclusive global leadership on climate change.

As already indicated in the piece written by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the Financial Times, Bangladesh has been a victim of super cyclone Amphan and as well as repeated floods experiencing the consequential impact of climate changes.  Undoubtedly, the impact of climate change on Bangladesh is clear to see -- whether you live in Rangpur or in the diplomatic zone in Dhaka. UNICEF estimates that the lives and futures of 19 million children here are under threat. Floods, droughts, or cyclones seem to be at the door of every community in our country. Floods destroy our buildings and make our water undrinkable. Droughts make our farmers desperate. Desolated rural communities leave our families packing up for a new start in cities, with no community ties or guarantee of finding work. And the impact of Covid-19 on the urban informal sector has been so overwhelming that the climate refugees are now struggling to cope with the employment fallouts of the health emergency.

Bangladesh Premier has written in her FT piece that while G20 countries were responsible for about 80 per cent of global emissions as against only 3.5 per cent by the bottom hundred countries. To support her even more strongly, Bangladesh has emitted just 0.1 per cent of global historical emissions and yet our country has been suffering catastrophic consequences for others' actions. Yet, Bangladesh leadership could raise its moral ground by investing a substantial amount from its own budget in addition to many innovative initiatives taken by its people and non-state actors for adaptation to climate change challenges.

 Partly because, after a successful bid to lead and host next year's grand UN convention on climate change (COP26), Britain has put itself into the spotlight of a planet that is finally beginning to see the reality of our collapsing ecosystem. But more than anything, countries like ours are growing anxious because what Britain does or does not do over the next year will affect our future. We, however, commit to standby the UK if it is prudent enough to accommodate the issues of climate diplomacy which the vulnerable countries under the leadership of Bangladesh will be advocating for in the COP26. These issues include addressing the issue of loss and damage wreaked by the developed countries through creation of an innovative financing mechanism and, as well as enhancing the share of adaptation in spending the Green Climate Fund. Bangladesh, as a participant of the CVF has already committed for production of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050, can easily ask the developed world to support her through financing and access to technology in achieving this target.

It's time for the UK to seize the opportunity of being a global leader on climate change. As the world prepares for the major COP 26 summit in Scotland next year, the UK needs to meet the deadline to produce and submit an ambitious plan (the nationally determined contribution or NDC) to cut its carbon emissions to cap the rise of global temperature at 1.5 degree centigrade. Then there's the opportunity for the UK to reassess its investments at home and abroad -- making sure that GBP is invested in the technology of the future, like solar and wind power, not the old-fashioned and damaging fossil fuel plants of the past.

The UK has so much to be proud of -- a global reputation for innovation, culture and diplomacy, the mother of all parliaments, and a proudly free press. As the world's balance of power changes, Britain's soft influence has so much potential to change the world for the better.

It's time for Britain to show the world that it is willing to use this global influence to tackle climate change. The UK has the ear of global corporations, so it has an unrivalled opportunity to get them to cut their sky-high carbon emissions. The UK has major influence in the G20 and UN, so it's in a perfect position to push these bodies to go further, faster in protecting the world from climate change. The UK has significant influence over countries like the US (which is destined to change its strategy now) and Australia, which have been heavily criticised for their weak and slow response to climate change. So, it is the perfect country to hold them and any other country to account for their inaction. It will never be easy or comfortable to stand up to big business. It is encouraging to see both the European Union and China have come forward go fully green with hundred per cent renewable energy by 2050 and 2060, respectively. In such a positive context, if its leaders and ambassadors want to protect its images as a global Britain, they must.

The UK continues to be a generous development partner for the less developed countries. But its hard-won political commitment to giving 0.7 per cent of its income away in aid won't be enough to help countries recover from the catastrophic droughts, floods, crop failures, and fires that will result from climate breakdown.

I would love to see Britain standing shoulder to shoulder with less developed and other vulnerable developing countries by driving forward funding to help them become more resilient to the impact of climate change. This will spark a flame of commitment towards more engaged climate action by other developed countries and in the process the whole world and its people will jointly benefit. The COP26 will then be a successful milestone in our journey towards a climate-friendly planet.  I want to see its leaders doing everything it can to drive financing towards projects that help poorer countries' transition to renewable energy, and prevent them being trapped into permanent reliance on fossil fuels.

Bangladeshis can look proudly at some of our recent decisions to improve our resilience to climate change,  and we can be satisfied that as one of the world's lowest emitters, we've done little to contribute to the crisis. I want Britain to be able to stand alongside us at next year's summit, as proud of their action as we are of ours.

Next year, Britain will take on the Presidency of the COP 26 summit in its first year out of the European Union. Its leaders say they can prove it is still a global powerhouse, and they'll be relying on strong trading and diplomatic relationships around the world, including here in Bangladesh.

Let me conclude this piece with another quote from our Prime Minister, " I want to warn countries that feel they are immune to the climate crisis, to bankers and financiers who feel they can escape it: you cannot, Covid-19 has shown that no country or business can survive alone." So, lets stand together to address these global crises.

Dr Atiur Rahman is a former Governor of Bangladesh Bank and currently an honorary Professor of Development Studies and  Bangabandhu Chair Professor at the University of Dhaka, 

[email protected].


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