Climate change and development in Bangladesh - Tapan Sarker and Mehdi Azam
In a recent workshop organised by Asian Development Bank, UKAID and Government of Bangladesh, entitled ‘Regional Economics of Climate Change in South Asia: Adaptation and Impact Assessment’, Bangladesh’s Environment and Forests Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud mentioned that Bangladesh needs US$10 million aid from donor agencies to prepare for the impact of climate change. Immediately the question arises that how this extra funding could be secured for a country like Bangladesh whilst it is already facing huge burdens to finance for the frontline services, including health, education and food security? Apart from the impact of climate change, Bangladesh also faces a mounting task to increase funding for education and human capital development, which can help long-term economic development. Bangladesh’s new education policy has addressed this issue, notably the new policy has received much attention in recent years as a key factor of improving the nation’s GDP growth and redressing inequality. For instance, it is estimated that between 42% - 51% of the population is currently illiterate, and more than one third (38%) of the population has received no formal education at all. The recent National Education Policy (2010) of Bangladesh shows recognition to the importance of expanding the provision of quality education in this nation, which according to education policy experts will require more than Tk. 30,000 crore (US$37.5 billion). Furthermore, achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which range from halving extreme poverty to providing universal primary education -all by the target date of 2015– is a really difficult challenge for Bangladesh. In this article we will attempt to explore the key development challenges that Bangladesh will face in the era of climate change, leading to the need to address the long-term sustainable social, environmental and economic development challenges that the country will be faced in the coming years.
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change. The failure of the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, in addition to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) are just a few examples of the witnessed failure of international agreements. However, hope remains that one day developed and emerging nations will agree on a binding treaty to take active initiative to mitigate climate change. The scientific and research communities collaborating together through projects such as the Earth System Governance project, the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change, which they aim to develop new climate friendly technologies. It’s also worth to note that while these concerns challenging the governments, there are good examples to mention. For instance, Western governments are taking actions, and this momentum is growing. The German and Denmark governments are fighting to increase the capacity of renewable energy developments. Similarly, the Australian government recently imposed a carbon tax to support renewable energy development through incentive packages for investors. However, it is unfortunate that some of the largest polluters in the world including USA, China, India and Brazil are solely concerned about their own economic development. In contrast, millions of dollars are being spent for military purposes alone while very little attention is given for sustainable agriculture or ecotourism. In this setting, there is a positive trend of emerging new sectors, which is a sign of growing number of social groups around the globe. This is a very positive sign in the sense that these new pressure groups are actively engaged to increase awareness of the public as well as trying to influence policy makers to take action against climate change.
Although Bangladesh is not a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions but there is still a need to support legitimate climate outcomes, even with little contribution. A well-designed system thus is essential for countries such as Bangladesh. First, to be well prepared for further climate change adaptations and second, developing long-term sustainable action plans for future generations. The government of Bangladesh has prepared vision 2021 based on the principles of sustainable development, result in several projects towards a climate proof development that are being implemented under Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2009 (BCCSAP). Although adaptation is the first priority for Bangladesh, there is a need to emphasize on the mitigation approaches to create a positive model for other developing countries in the region. In order to succeed there’s high demand to prioritize the scope for climate governance beyond the international climate change regime. This can be done by supporting more projects such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), that move clean energy development forward, and also addressing deforestation by Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REED) project.. In current stages of this trend only four projects are being implemented in Bangladesh under CDM, two under validation and seven under pipeline!! More emphasis is urgent in this sector for low carbon industrial development as well as to solve the unemployment problem. Recently, the government of Bangladesh developed the REDD framework under the financial support of UNDP. With the support from REDD there is an opportunity to strengthen our existing ‘Green Belt’ project. Bangladesh already has developed several adaptation models at the very local level such as hydroponics or floating gardens which can be transferred to other vulnerable region around the world. With the higher risk of sea level rise, CEGIS predicts that we are gaining lands every year in the coastal area but still there is a need to secure this land from storm surges and demonstrate adequate protection for livelihoods. To conclude, at this stage it is crucial to end the current political unrest around the country and egalitarian bureaucratic structure in order to intensively support the country’s economic and environmental development. We are optimistic, and we must be optimistic, change will happen, …sooner or later”. What we need is to put our best efforts and resources to facilitate this change with the help of talented Bangladeshis from home and around the world.
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