Bangladesh can lead the way

Our house is on fire. 
Photo Source: BIGSTOCK

Finding solutions to the global problem of climate change

Last week, Bangladesh hosted a major global climate change meeting in Dhaka, hosted by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with Ban Ki-moon, former secretary general of the United Nations, Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva from the World Bank, and President Heine of the Marshall Islands present.

The visiting dignitaries all praised the role that Bangladesh is playing to tackle climate change both at home as well as abroad.
At the same time in London during the London Climate Action Week, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) together with the Royal Geographical Society and the Bangladesh High Commission in London held a major event on “Learning lessons from Bangladesh,” which was attended by several hundred Londoners.

Thus, the world is now recognizing that Bangladesh has moved well beyond the “problem space” on climate change (where most countries are still stuck) and has moved into the “solution space” in tackling the real problems of climate change impacts.

This does not mean that we have solved the problems, far from it, but it does mean that we are going up the knowledge-ladder faster than most other countries, and we can share our experiential knowledge of finding solutions with others.

It is in that spirit that I am sharing some of the early lessons we have learned that others may wish to emulate.

The first and by far the most important lesson is to take the issue seriously. This is best articulated by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg when she calls it a “climate emergency” and likens it to our collective house being on fire.

This is indeed now the case, and the sooner leaders in every country realize it and take necessary actions, the better.

In Bangladesh, we did this a decade ago, and in that time, the government, as well as civil society, private sector, academia, and media, have all been extremely active in finding solutions at each level from local to national.

This has led to a whole-of-society approach to tackling climate change in the context of development. So the climate change issue is being incorporated into the quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

So this leads us to the second important lesson, namely that climate change is not a separate new “environmental” problem that needs only the environment ministry to deal with it but rather a set of complex societal problems that needs not only whole-of-government but indeed whole-of-society approaches.

The third important lesson, particularly when it comes to adaptation to climate change, is that it is a learning-by-doing process in which we have to gain knowledge through experience and every few years review our experience and discard what didn’t work, and expand what did work.

This means trying many different things and allowing for some of them to fail. As long as we are learning lessons from failure and not repeating mistakes, that is money well spent.

Bangladesh has done this over the last 10 years of implementing the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan which is now being revised and updated to take us to 2030.

The fourth and final lesson is to recognize that climate change is a long-term phenomenon which we are leaving behind for our children, and indeed their children, to deal with.

Hence we need to be investing in making our young girls and boys into climate change problem solvers, and indeed climate champions going forward.

This investment in education and capacity-building will not only enable Bangladesh to transform itself from one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to one of the most resilient by 2030, but also allow us to export our knowledge to the rest of the world, when they start to move into the solution space and look for people who have already found solutions to some of the problems.

Thus, Bangladesh is well on the way to becoming a global leader in finding solutions to tackle the global problem of climate change, and can also share its experiential knowledge with the rest of the world going forward.

Originally this article was published on July 17, 2019 at Dhaka Tribune. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).