Despite insignificant contribution to the global carbon emission, the climate vulnerable countries bear the brunt of climate change
The key climate vulnerable countries like Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nigeria and some other members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) heavily suffer due to their special geographical location and features, besides limited coping capacities. Despite insignificant contribution to the global carbon emission, these countries bear the brunt of climate change the most.
It can only be considered a serious injustice done to the poorer countries which had no role to play in the creation of the climate calamities. Since it is the richer countries who were and still are responsible for nearly all the carbon emissions, one must point to the fact that they are not doing enough to curb the global carbon emission and are not keeping up with their promises as per the global accords such as the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.
Instead of keeping up with the global efforts to curb the escalating carbon emission, the United States, for example, the top polluter and emitter of carbon gas, withdrew from the Paris Agreement after they elected a climate sceptic like Donald Trump as president.
When the richer world persists on emitting more, Bangladesh, a direct victim of "global negligence", encounters regular hazards like river erosions, floods, landslide, flash flood, coastal inundation, cyclones and droughts.
In the face of the hazards climate vulnerable countries encounter, Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has recently said that climate change has now become an existential threat for every country, especially for climate vulnerable countries. She made this remark while addressing the Action for Survival: Vulnerable Nations COP25 Leaders' Summit at Feria de Madrid (IFEMA) in Madrid.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in Madrid Summit that even though countries like Bangladesh does not contribute much to the global carbon emission in comparison to the developed countries, we are one of the primary victims of climate change.
In reference to the PM's remark in the Madrid Summit, The Business Standard (TBS) approached Professor Dr Maksudur Rahman of Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Dhaka to examine the role of Bangladesh in saving itself and the world from the climate crisis.
Dr Rahman said, even though the top polluters like the US and China barely care about our grievances, which they created in the first place, we cannot yell at them the way Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, did at the UN and other global platforms. It is so, because we have diplomatic limitations and we depend on these influential countries in one way or another.
"The only viable option we have is of raising our voices in various global climate forums continuously," said the professor. The professor sounded rather practical as he said that, "We need to focus on awareness campaign because we cannot afford any action against the top emitters."
It is familiar to the world that Bangladesh are one of the worst victims of climate change and we have been vocal about this. However, do we have the capacity that our solitary campaign would convince the world to stand for our cause?
As TBS approached Professor Dr Md Humayun Kabir about what role Bangladesh could play in the international circuit to address its grievances, he emphasised the collective efforts of all the climate vulnerable countries.
"The island countries in the Indian Ocean like the Maldives who is in even greater risk, under the leadership of Bangladesh at Climate Vulnerable Forum can work more effectively from next year," said the professor.
Professor Kabir emphasised that there should be more effective actions like the Maldives' underwater cabinet meeting in 2009, which they staged in a bid to attract global attention over their climate grievances.
"Even though the richer countries do not care much, we need to continue our efforts," the professor added.
At the Madrid Summit of COP25, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has agreed to take over as the chair of Climate Vulnerable Forum next year. This forum addresses the negative effects of global warming.
Bangladesh has been raising its voice against the adversities of climate change at international forums for a long time. Considering the grim impacts of climate change in Bangladesh, which is a deltaic country, Dhaka participated in most of the major climate forums. It is a matter of observation how much attention can Dhaka seek now as the chair of this important forum.
Professor Rahman however believes that this leadership at the Climate Vulnerable Forum would be something positive for Bangladesh because Dhaka can play a role to attract global attention about the adversities of climate change by zeroing in on the issues specific to Bangladesh. The professor believes that the Climate Vulnerable Forum can be a good platform to raise a unanimous voice of all the vulnerable countries.
However, how can Bangladesh find an effective voice in her appeal for curbing global carbon emission when multiple coal-based energy platforms are active in Bangladesh in some environmentally sensitive zones like the Sundarbans is a matter of observations.
In a bid to continue with our development projects as a nation with a growing economy, we cannot immediately fall back from our fossil fuel based projects to a safer way of running our industries, Rahman says.
Professor Rahman considers that the fear of curbing development projects is also the reason why developed countries fail to initiate the crucial changes necessary to shift from carbon-producing countries to a country of green industries. For her own interest, the professor continues, Bangladesh will need to find a way to base its progress on alternative sources of energy alongside the efforts that are being taken in the developed world.
In defence of Bangladesh's decision to stick to fossil fuel instead of switching to green energies, Rahman said, "It is true that what the developed countries can afford at this point of history to switch to the greener energies, even though they are not doing so, we cannot afford to switch to greener sources immediately as that will hamper our development projects. But for sure, we need to prepare for greener energies soon."
He warned that "as long as the richer countries that actually possess the capacity to curb carbon emission do not commit to do more about it, the crisis will continue to escalate."
Besides joining forums to draw the attention of the world about our grievances, we have to be seriously meditate on technological innovations, he added.
When so much has been said over the global carbon emission, including localised discourses and media coverages, the issues at hand remain largely unaddressed. Apparently, we are not concerned about our local environment as much as we are concerned about the international environment.
If we cannot begin to fix what is wrong with local environment, an outsized outcry on global issues will always remain a way for us to obfuscate our own contribution towards the degradation of the environment.
Both the professors, in their interviews to TBS, pointed out the urgency of addressing the local environmental issues before we set out to respond to the international calls.