The global warming, caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions, has been a key concern of the world leaders for a long time. Over the years, they met at special climate conferences as well as at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) sessions to discuss ways to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emission to a tolerable level, now below 2 degrees Celsius, most ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to save the planet. The world’s rich countries have long been the biggest emitters of harmful gas, caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The latest big global conference was held in Paris in 2015 when the developed nations promised to cut down emissions to 1.5C and raise a $100-billion fund every year until 2025 to finance the climate adaptability of the most climate vulnerable countries like Bangladesh. The next United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th such UN exercise. It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland between 31 October and 12 November 2021, under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the climate change issues took a center stage in urgent discussions as the world leaders met at the 76th session of the UNGA in New York. The leaders raised it both during the general debate and also on the side-line conferences outside it. In these sessions, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made an impact as she tried to draw the other leaders’ attention, specially of US President Joe Biden, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. In her speeches, she was bold and thought-provoking.
Speaking at a closed-door meeting of the world leaders ahead of the weeklong UNGA debate, the Bangladesh leader voiced her dismay as the rich nations were not doing good enough to fulfil their pledges. She renewed her call for strict implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C.
Bangladesh is the chairman of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a platform of about 50 developing nations. Speaking on behalf of the vulnerable nations, Sheikh Hasina made a very pertinent point: the developing mostly non-industrialised nations are in no way responsible for harmful gas emissions. Yet they are becoming the victims. So, it is now up to the rich nations to compensate the developing and least developed nations in the damages inflicted on them by rising of sea level because of global warming, inundation of their farmlands with saline water apart from increased incidents of flooding, droughts and cyclones. In the process, tens of thousands of people living along the coast are threatened with displacement from their homes and become climate refugees.
Presiding over the important conference, UK Premier Boris Johnson almost echoed Sheikh Hasina, but he said the US must come forward to make the difference. Johnson agreed with our PM that CVF nations are being punished for the climate wrongs they did not commit.
The Glasgow conference is expected to be a landmark one as the leaders of the nations, mainly responsible for bringing the planet to this sorry state, have started realizing that it is time to act instead of making rhetoric and tall promises. Biden has proudly announced that the US is back to the climate change negotiations and is giving signals it is ready to substantially raise its climate adaptability contributions. Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced recently that his country will from now on stop financing coal-based power projects abroad. These statements have raised hopes about the outcome of COP26.
However, Bangladesh has concerns over some other fronts. The government, keen on reducing its reliance on fossil fuel, is looking towards green energy in the form of wind power and solar system. That means Bangladesh needs to have a paradigm shift in the use of its energy mix, a huge task requiring massive investment from foreign sources. For countries like Bangladesh it will never be a cake walk in moving towards safe renewable energy, whose contribution to the country’s power generation is still negligible. On the other side, the rich countries and donor agencies need to extend assistance to Bangladesh so it can expedite the process of adapting to the vagaries of climate change.