• Wednesday, Oct 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:16 am

PM: Everyone should unite to fight pandemics, climate change

  • Published at 04:21 pm September 29th, 2020
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
File photo: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gives a speech to the nation broadcast by Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 PID

In Bangladesh, water is a matter of life and death

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has described climate change and pandemics as threats to all mankind, saying everyone should unite in working towards solutions that ensure a cleaner, greener and safer world.

“Climate change, pandemics and the destruction of nature are common threats [to all mankind]. Everyone should unite in working towards a common solution: a cleaner, greener and safer world,” she wrote in an article published in the Financial Times on Monday.

The prime minister added: “As we say in Bangla, ‘Bhabia korio kaj, koria bhabio na’ (look before you leap). We should not do anything that cannot be reversed.”

The Financial Times (FT) is an international daily newspaper printed in broadsheet and published digitally that focuses on business and economic current affairs. Based in London, England, the paper is owned by Japanese holding company Nikkei with core editorial offices across Britain, the US and continental Europe.

Following is the full article of the premier:

In Bangladesh, water is a matter of life and death.

My country is a land of great rivers, vast coastlines and resilient people. But 2020 has been a test for us like no other. In May, cyclone Amphan left a trail of devastation in its path in the south-western parts and then monsoon rains marooned one-third of the country, leaving thousands of people displaced and damaging vast tracts of crops.

When water batters through your house, destroying your possessions, leaving pollution and disease in its way, it is tough. It is doubly tough in a year when Covid-19 has struck, making it difficult to access clean water vital for sanitation and pandemic prevention.

As I write in Dhaka, the waters of the Brahmaputra and Padma basins are receding. My people are getting their lives back, albeit under the shadow of coronavirus.

We are assessing flood defences and providing relief to those affected. As ever, they are drawing up plans to ensure we are better prepared in the future, because in Bangladesh there is always a next time. The climate crisis does not sleep.

I want to warn countries that feel they are immune to the climate crisis, to bankers and financiers who feel they can escape it: you cannot. Covid-19 has shown that no country or business can survive alone. Only together can we tackle global crises. It has also demonstrated that prevention is easier than cure. That makes 2020 the year we must commit to listen to scientists.

We face a planetary emergency, a triple crisis of climate, health and nature. Biodiversity loss is accelerated by climate change and exacerbates it.

Bangladesh is not alone in feeling the wrath of nature. This year fires have raged in the Amazon, Australia, California and Siberia. Cyclones and hurricanes have battered the US, Caribbean and much of Asia. The UK, host of the COP26 climate summit next year, suffered floods.

Climate change stems from the lack of sustainability of human activities. We are experiencing floods, rainfalls, cyclones, heatwaves, landslides and droughts in recent years with more fury and intensity, which also endangers food security. We need to recognise their gravity.

A metre rise in sea level will inundate numerous small island and coastal nations. Floods from melting glaciers will bring catastrophe to mountainside countries. Millions of people will become climate refugees. The world does not have the capacity to shelter such numbers.

G20 countries are responsible for about 80 per cent of emissions while the bottom 100 countries only account for 3.5 per cent. The emitters have greater responsibility and must make larger contributions through the mitigation needed to cap the global temperature rise at 1.5C.

As the current president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, Bangladesh is seeking more support from the international community and the G20 for increased finance and access to technology to speed adaptation for those countries most at risk.

In that group, Bangladesh is one of the best prepared for extreme weather. We are building sea walls, planting mangrove forests, embedding resilience in all governmental work.

But we cannot walk this journey alone. Sixty-four countries and the EU have this week signed the Pledge for Nature to respond to the planetary emergency. They represent around 1.4bn people and one-quarter of global gross domestic product. From there, we need to build common political will at domestic and global level.

As hosts of the next COP, G7 and G20 meetings, the UK and Italy must drive this agenda, which requires a comprehensive support package for hardest hit nations.

Business leaders, CEOs, CFOs and investors at all levels have a role to play. You may believe your bottom line is quarterly results. But our common bottom line is far more important: if nature is degraded to the extent it cannot protect us, we will all suffer. What happens in Bangladesh affects stocks in London and New York.

No one is immune to sea level rise. The only cure is a systemic shift in government policy and business practice, from high to low carbon, from exploitation of the planet to care. A recent analysis by Vivid Economics of the response to Covid-19 suggests that its impact on climate change has been mixed. I salute the EU for prioritising a green recovery.

We plan to do the same in Bangladesh, and I fervently hope my fellow government leaders as well as business leaders will as well. Jobs must be a priority, but so too are the jobs of the future and building solid foundations for decades to come.

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