Joining the global race to resilience against climate change

Photo: Rajib Raihan, Source: Daily Star

In order to reach the globally agreed atmospheric temperature target of staying below 1.5 Degrees Centigrade, all the countries in the world have embarked on a race to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases as early as possible. For example, China has agreed to a target year of 2060, the European Union has chosen 2050 and we are waiting to see what year the new Biden administration will choose. However, it is interesting to note that California, which is the eighth biggest economy in the world, has chosen 2045 as its target year, so it is quite possible for President Biden to also choose that year. Finally, it is important to note that the nearly 50 developing countries in the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), currently led by Bangladesh, have decided to shift to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and Costa Rica has said it will achieve the target before 2030.

On the other side of the climate issue, namely adaptation and resilience, there has not been a similar, agreed long-term goal, and much progress has not been made in the way of setting one. That is until now, when the world is about to embark on a race to resilience that is being launched by the two Climate Champions, Nigel Topping from the United Kingdom and Gonzalo Munoz from Chile. The position of Climate Champions was created at the 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where each COP Presidency was allowed to choose it’s Climate Champion with a mandate to engage with non-state actors such as private companies, civil society, academia, media, youth and many others to promote the implementation of the goals agreed to in the Paris Agreement, reached at COP21 in 2015.

Gonzalo Munoz was appointed as Climate Champion by Chile, who had the Presidency for COP25, and Nigel Topping was appointed by the United Kingdom, who has the Presidency for COP26 this year.

The two Climate Champions have had extensive consultations with many different groups around the world, and I was invited to organise a consultation for them last year with civil society actors in Bangladesh and South Asia, where they heard about the adverse impacts of climate change being felt by the people in our country and region.

The two Climate Champions have now come out with the Race to Resilience (R2R), which they have launched, inviting all countries and more importantly, all people, to adopt and implement.

In their statements, Nigel Topping said that the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience are two sides of the same coin, equally vital to realising the promise of the Paris Agreement. We need to run these races together, at the same time—and win them both—to create a healthy, resilient, zero carbon future. Gonzalo Munoz added that in the Race to Zero and now the Race to Resilience, businesses, cities, regions, investors and civil society are acting fast to create a healthy, resilient, zero carbon future. By running these races together, we can ensure that all our communities don’t just survive climate shocks and stresses, but thrive in spite of them.

The goal of the campaign is, by 2030, to catalyse action by non-state actors that builds the resilience of four billion people from groups and communities who are vulnerable to climate risks. Through a partnership of initiatives, the campaign will focus on helping frontline communities to build resilience and adapt to impacts of climate change, such as extreme heat, drought, flooding and sea-level rise. This includes transforming urban slums into healthy, clean and safe cities; equipping smallholder farmers to adapt and thrive; and protecting homes and businesses against climate shocks.

The Race to Resilience aims to share and celebrate knowledge, both ancient and modern, from all corners of the world. This includes knowledge that helps us understand and imagine transformative resilience. It will champion capacity building and local action as a core part of the race.

Bangladesh as the Chair of the CVF has a tremendous opportunity to be a leader in the race to resilience as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already launched the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, which aims for Bangladesh to reach climate resilience by 2030. This aim has already been adopted by the other CVF countries as well.

The last and most important point to make about the race to resilience is that it is not just about leaving things to governments alone, but for every institution and indeed every single citizen of each country to take part in the race, in order to ensure that each country becomes climate resilient by 2030. Bangladesh can be one of the world leaders in this race to resilience.

Originally this article was published on January 27, 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).