Why Bangladesh should submit its Nationally Determined Contribution by December 31

The file photo shows floods in Jamalpur district exceeding previous levels that manifests the effects of climate change in Bangladesh. PHOTO REUTERS

At the time of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which was approved by all countries in 2015, every country submitted it’s intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in which they made pledges and commitments for mitigation by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. They also agreed that each country will update and submit their revised NDC every five years—so the deadline for the new NDC is December 31, 2020.

By adding up the pledges from each country, it is possible to aggregate the total impact of each country’s NDC on global mitigation and see whether it will lead to the global goal of keeping mean atmospheric temperature below 1.5 degrees Centigrade or at least below 2 degrees.

Unfortunately, once the mitigation pledges of all countries submitted in 2015 was added up, it was estimated that it would lead to nearly 3 degrees Centigrade increase—so it is essential that the revised NDCs being submitted in 2020 should enhance their pledges to reduce their emissions beyond the pledges made in 2015.

One way to measure and compare how a country pledges to do so is by setting a deadline by which time it will reach zero emissions, or at least net zero emissions. Thus many countries have been setting their target year for reaching net zero emissions such as 2060 for China, 2050 for European Union, 2035 for Costa Rica and even California has set a target date of 2045. The incoming Biden presidency will have to set out its target year if it wishes to re-enter the Paris Agreement. Since he won’t be sworn in as US president until January 2021, we can give him a time extension beyond December 31, 2020.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) countries under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have already launched a high level global campaign called Midnight Climate Survival demanding that all countries submit their NDC with enhanced pledges for reducing emissions to keep global mean atmospheric temperature below 1.5 degrees.

The nearly 50 CVF countries themselves have already pledged to rely 100 percent on renewable energy by 2050 which they are developing long term development plans to achieve.

However, in the near term, as the CVF countries are demanding that all countries should submit their respective revised NDC by December 31, it is expected that Bangladesh should also meet this deadline for submission of its own NDC.

Bangladesh’s original NDC submitted in 2015 at the time of the Paris Agreement touched on only three sectors, namely power, transport and industry. The overall pledge in terms of reducing our total emissions of greenhouse gases from these three sectors was that we would reduce emissions by 5 percent by 2030 compared to business-as-usual projections but that we could reduce up to 15 percent if we were to receive additional finance as well as technology from the global community.

The updating and revision of the NDC is currently being carried out by a group of national experts under the guidance of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), with support from UNDP, and it is hoped that they can submit, at least an interim, revised NDC by end of December with a full NDC in 2021. The revised NDC will also include two additional sectors which were not included in the original NDC, namely waste and land use which are more complicated to calculate so will take somewhat longer to do.

This will require a better estimation of the current baseline levels of emissions associated with different activities and sectors and then identifying ways on which the development in each sector can be de-linked from use of fossil fuels. This will in practice depend on enhancing the use of renewable energy like solar as well as wind energy going forward. At the moment the extent of solar energy is not very high and wind is not a factor yet. Nevertheless the potential for renewable energy to become more efficient and cheaper will need to be factored into our development plans. It is entirely possible to transform our energy use within the next decade if we create the conditions to do so.

One aspect of the NDC that is important to note is that while the mitigation pledge is mandatory for every country to include in the NDC, they could also include adaptation but on a voluntary and not compulsory basis. As it happens, the vast majority of countries have chosen to include adaptation in their respective NDC and so has Bangladesh. This is an important fact to note as all countries now realise that they will have to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change while also reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases at the same time.

As all countries are now gaining interest in making the transition from a fossil fuel based energy, transport and industrial economy, this needs to be accelerated to ensure that we don’t cross the threshold of 1.5 degrees global temperature rise.

Bangladesh, as a vulnerable developing country is not a big emitter of greenhouse gases and is also not under any strong obligation to take significant actions on mitigation. But as the leader of the CVF group of countries, our prime minister has challenged all countries to submit their respective NDCs by December 31, 2020. Hence for Bangladesh to retain the moral high ground it is important that we also submit our NDC before the deadline.

Originally this article was published on November 18, 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).
Email: saleemul.huq@icccad.org