COP26 and Bangladesh: Time to Consolidate Climate Diplomacy

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The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is due to take place in Glasgow in November 2021. 

The UK government has set out the four goals for COP26. All countries must agree to zero carbon emissions by 2050, and ensure protection for those communities most vulnerable to climate change. Developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise $100 billion annually to help support developing countries and work together to achieve these ambitions by increasing collaboration between government, business and civil society. 

One country most at risk from the impacts of climate change is Bangladesh. Recognising the importance of this issue, Bangladesh has become one of the most active countries in the field of climate change planning and action. 

Dhaka, Bangladesh – July, 2020

Climate Change Investment

Bangladesh accounts for less than 0.35% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but the country has taken a number of steps in recent years to encourage climate change investment. 

A new financial structure has been designed to channel more resources towards adaptation investment. At the same time, new environmental guidelines encourage green financing, green banking and the establishment of dedicated funds. Bangladesh has been successful in gaining a number of grants, especially from the international community, through the Green Climate Fund.

Bangladesh, an initiative is underway to establish a public-private partnership system and a complete social system to establish a national mechanism on loss and damage, where the Reserve Fund under the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) has been set up to date at USD 100 million.

Climate Diplomacy

Although not a significant contributor to climate change, Bangladesh is one of the countries most at risk from its projected impacts. In an attempt to address these concerns, negotiation across ground level has emerged as an impending and worthwhile force for the country. 

Over the years, Bangladesh has intensified its efforts to tackle climate change through the development of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP). The BCCSAP strongly emphasises negotiation involving expert envoys at various levels to address the impact of climate change. The National Adaptation Programme for Action (NAPA) highlighted the prediction on the changing patterns of temperature, rainfall and sea-level rises in Bangladesh due to the impact of climate change. 

Bangladesh pursues a moderate foreign policy that places heavy reliance on multinational diplomacy, especially at the United Nations. Their work towards making the best use of diplomatic affiliation in an attempt to address the issue of climate change is noticeable. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to the government of Bangladesh has a major role to play in global climate negotiations.

The government of Bangladesh deliberately presents itself as ‘the worst victim, peace-loving, and responsible actor’ and as a poor developing country. Both discourses are designed to accomplish broader diplomatic agendas. Given the importance of this topic, Bangladesh should consider appointing a ‘special climate change adviser’ to make sure there is effective representation at important high-level international meetings. Something which both developed and developing countries have sought to do. 

Climate activists and supporters display placards during a global climate strike, part of the Fridays for Future, 2021.

Climate Change Adaptation

To achieve its vision of becoming a middle-income country by 2021, and a rich country by 2041, Bangladesh will need to integrate all aspects of climate change into its planning and delivery of services. Bangladesh has already made remarkable progress in setting up a new Ministry of Climate Change. On 14 May 2018, the cabinet changed the name to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. 

The country has a lot of experience to share with other nations at COP26. Although Bangladesh is vulnerable to climate change, it has done a great job in building resilience to the negative impacts. As President of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), Bangladesh is a pioneer in the region, ensuring life-saving climate-resilient crops ranging from early warning and eviction measures to food security.

At the upcoming COP26, the Bangladesh government will need to highlight the climate change adaptation achievements they’ve made so far. For instance, Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 is an important piece of apparatus that addresses the threat of rising sea levels in the country. 

The media in Bangladesh have also been playing a proactive role in climate change adaptation. A documentary about how Bangladesh’s farmers are coping with sea-level rise, Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise, won the Best Short Film award at the New York WILD film festival. This award gave recognition to Bangladesh’s community-based climate change adaptation. 

The country also boasts a large network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) throughout the country. NGOs in partnership with local community-based organisations are highly active in their support for those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These NGOs are also being funded by donor communities based in Bangladesh. These protect the lives and livelihoods of communities exposed to the vulnerability of climate-induced disasters. 

What’s next? 

The Bangladesh government should applaud diplomatic negotiations. We should expect the best display of their matured and sensible climate diplomacy throughout COP26. The government has worked relentlessly over the years to enhance community resilience. 

COP26 is perhaps the best opportunity for Bangladesh to move forward with climate change and secure a brighter future for the next generation. As countries begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, they have a real opportunity to tackle climate change: making the planet better, greener and more restored.

Dr Mohammad Tarikul Islam is the Visiting Scholar of the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS and an Associate Professor of the Department of Government and Politics, Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh. Email: ti8@soas.ac.uk 

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