Beyond resilience, we need to prosper in the face of climate change

Photo: Collected

Last week, I wrote in this daily about the need for Bangladesh to take a “whole of society” approach to international diplomacy on tackling climate change globally, rather than depending on the annual Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which meets only once a year for two weeks.

Climate change is now a global emergency which requires actions every single day, from all sectors of society, if we are to have any hope of averting its worst impacts. This is equally true at the national level, not just for Bangladesh, but for every country, especially the most vulnerable developing countries.

I am pleased to start by recognising that such a whole of society approach has already been initiated in Bangladesh. But how can it be accelerated in order for our country to not only become resilient to climate change, but even prosper in the face of climate change?

This will need to be achieved by a top-down prioritising of climate change as the emergency that it is, which needs to be combined with bottom-up capacity building of all sectors of society to learn how to tackle climate change on the ground.

At the national level, the parliament of Bangladesh was the first one to pass a unanimous resolution declaring a Planetary Emergency, which includes both climate change as well as biodiversity loss. At the same time, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has accepted the leadership of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which consists of nearly 50 developing countries who have bestowed this leadership position on her in recognition of her prioritisation of tackling climate change, both nationally as well as globally.

On taking up this prestigious position, she has declared that all the CVF countries should develop their respective Climate Prosperity Plans and that Bangladesh would lead the way by being the first to develop the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan (MCPP).

This high level prioritisation of climate change by the Prime Minister and the parliament has been matched by many ministers, not only of the environment ministry but also of planning, finance and others, who have developed climate action plans in their respective budgets and in their 8th Five Year Plan investment plans. Thus, Bangladesh has now allocated nearly eight percent of its national budget to tackle climate change across more than 20 ministries, which is more than any country in the world. At the same time, other parts of the government, such as the military and judiciary, are developing plans to tackle climate change in their respective domains as well.

However, it will not be enough to just rely on a whole of government approach. We need to also include other major stakeholders in the country such as the private sector, media, academia, education institutes and local government, as well as relevant sectors such as water, agriculture, disaster management, etc. It will also be necessary to draw on our youth to turn them into climate champions who are able to find innovative solutions to climate change problems.

In the media, including both electronic as well as print outlets, the reporting on climate change issues in recent years has been amongst the best in the world. One indicator of this is that several private television channels regularly send their correspondents to cover the COP every year, and they usually provide daily reports to their audiences in Bangladesh. The NGO sector in Bangladesh has also, for many years, been a major player in poverty alleviation and development, with global recognition for the likes of BRAC and Grameen Bank. There is now a possibility of the Bangladesh civil society establishing a reputation for leading the world on locally led adaptation.

Another sector in which Bangladesh has already made significant progress is academia, with more than 50 universities and research institutions under the platform called Gobeshona, which has become a model for other Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to follow.

At the same, the private sector has also been developing its capacity, especially in delivering over five million solar home systems around the country, and providing much needed electricity to nearly 20 million people. The big challenge will be to find profit-making opportunities for the private sector in adaptation, where there are promising areas in agriculture and water management that can be explored.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the whole of society approach is to engage and involve our young girls and boys to become climate innovators of the future. In this respect, the activities of the Bangladesh chapter of the Fridays for Future movement of school children is an excellent example.

Bangladesh is well on its way to developing a whole of society approach to tackling climate change in the country, and has the ability to become a role model for other developing as well as developed countries going forward.

Originally this article was published on May 12, 2021 at Daily Star. The author Prof. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).