Global Climate Week: A clarion call to address climate emergency


This month, from September 20 to 27, the world will observe a Global Climate Week with events taking place all over the world. The key events will take place in New York, USA around the Global Climate Action Summit called by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

A major focus of this year’s climate week is to change the narrative from simply talking about the “climate change problem” to talking about “actions to tackle the climate emergency.” The other change is the emphasis on the role of youth in tackling this emergency.

Hence, the week will start on Friday, September 20 with schoolchildren from the FridaysforFuture movement holding climate action strikes all around the world, including in Bangladesh. The 16-year-old Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who started this global movement of schoolchildren, has travelled by sailboat (as she refuses to fly) from Sweden to New York and will lead the march there on September 20. I am also planning to join her along with many colleagues from Bangladesh.

Then on September 21, following an invitation by the UN secretary-general, Greta and other youths will hold a day-long Youth Action Day at the UN in New York, which will be again mirrored around the world, including in Bangladesh, with similar youth-led actions.

Then on September 23, there will be the Climate Action Summit at the UN which will be attended by world leaders including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from Bangladesh as well as others, mayors from different cities, NGOs and private-sector organisations. The UN secretary-general has invited those taking action only and he has asked everyone to come up with a “plan, not a speech”. This will be the major event of the week and is aimed to redirect attention to taking climate action and not just talking about it.

On September 24, the secretary-general will receive the flagship report of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), which is co-chaired by Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva (from World Bank). The GCA has been supported by the prime minister of Bangladesh who hosted a meeting of the commissioners in Dhaka in July. One of the commissioners is Dr Musa from BRAC who will attend this meeting.

One of the themes of the global climate action week is to enhance resilience of all countries, especially the most vulnerable developing countries such as Bangladesh. So, on September 22, there will be a day-long “Resilience Day” event in which the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) will be organising a session on capacity building for resilience in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Finally, on September 27, there will be another march led by Greta Thunberg to reflect and highlight the outcomes of the entire week. Newspapers as well as TV and radio stations around the world have signed up to cover these events both from New York and their own countries during the entire week.

The overall purpose of this major series of global events is to highlight the fact that climate change has already moved from being primarily about what will happen in the future to what is already happening now, from fires in the Amazon rainforest to hurricane Dorian in the Atlantic Ocean to floods in Bangladesh—all are becoming much more severe than normal due to human-induced climate change. Hence, the need to tackle these impacts has become an emergency which requires global action by everyone, not just leaders of governments.

Another major change we are seeing is that certain groups are actively trying to undermine the efforts of those who wish to take actions. Such groups, including the fossil fuel companies, are no longer just climate-change deniers but have now become climate criminals, who are committing crimes against humanity and will need to be confronted and no longer simply talked to.

This is the logic of the Extinction Rebellion groups in many countries who have been taking direct actions on the streets of towns in the UK and other countries around the world.

It is, therefore, time for Bangladesh to call for treating the climate change issue as a climate emergency. The British parliament has done so recently; perhaps the parliament in Bangladesh could follow their lead?

Originally this article was published on September 04, 2019 at  The Daily Star. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).