Climate Vulnerable Forum can change the paradigm on dealing with climate change

Bangladesh is among countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change. The picture was taken in June 2009 in Satkhira, when cyclone Aila hit the coastal region. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Biraj

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), consisting of nearly 50 of the most climate vulnerable developing countries, which was set up a decade ago on the basis of their common vulnerability to climate change, has now evolved into a more robust group of countries who are no longer only emphasising their vulnerability but rather moving towards resilience.

The leadership of the CVF passes to the head of each country for a period of two years and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has recently taken over this role for the next two years. One of the new initiatives that is being developed under her leadership is for each CVF country to not just develop their respective National Adaptation Plan (NAP) but to think about a more transformational vision to develop their respective Climate Prosperity Plan (CPP). Here, the aim is to go beyond simply coping with the adverse impacts of climate change and rather transform social and economic systems, so that each country is able to prosper even as they become resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change.

There are some key strategies that will be included in preparing such CPPs, although each country will have to develop their own respective strategy based on their circumstances.

The first feature is the transformational aspects of investment in the country’s own human resources, especially the youth. Every country, no matter how poor economically, is rich in its human resources. Unfortunately, many developing countries don’t invest in the kind of education and training that can make the most of potential human capital. Hence, a better education system that enables and equips our young girls and boys to be able to tackle climate change at home and share their knowledge across international boundaries will become a valuable asset in years to come. Just as learning to use the opportunities of the internet and digital world is emerging as a tremendous opportunity for young people, so will knowledge and the experience of combating climate change become an asset with significant global demand as countries face the adverse impacts of climate change. Investment in our youth will pay us enormous dividends in the coming decades.

The second investment arena is in the transition of energy, transport and industrial systems from fossil fuel dependence to cleaner and renewable energy as rapidly as possible. The CVF countries were the first group of countries to make the pledge to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 at the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2016. This does not mean an immediate transition from fossil fuels but rather a strategic approach to be prepared to transition as soon as cleaner and greener energy, such as solar and wind, become economic and scalable compared to fossil fuels. The relative costs of renewable energy is becoming cheaper by the day and is already cheaper than coal, and will become cheaper than petrol and natural gas soon.

What needs to be put in place in the short term is an enabling economic and investment environment to attract private sector investment, both domestic and foreign, in the CVF countries. At the moment, foreign investors sometimes find it difficult to invest in these countries, so we need to improve the enabling policies and governance to attract long term global capital to continue to build on the level of investment in national economies.

The third leg of the CPP is to focus on incremental planning steps, such as every five years, that put in place not just progressive planning and investment but look for opportunities for leapfrogging by anticipating global demands as well as technology and innovation. This means that countries must invest in their own national research and innovation and not depend on others to provide this knowledge. Investment in a country’s own research capacity is one of the best investments that a country can make. To cite just one example, South Korea has evolved from a poor developing country to a developed one within a generation by making these same investments in their own population.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has offered to initiate the CVF CPPs by launching the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan for Bangladesh in honour of the Father of the Nation. This will not just make Bangladesh resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change but will help us to thrive and prosper even in the face of these adverse impacts over the coming two decades.

The time has now come to not just manage the risks from the impacts of climate change but to rise above them in order to enable all countries of the world to prosper, despite the challenges. The CVF countries are determined to lead the way by example.

Originally this article was published on October 28, 2020 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).