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Dhaka Tribune

Climate change after Paris

Update : 20 Jan 2016, 05:42 AM

The South Asian country of Bangladesh sits on a low-lying delta plain, where most elevations are less than 30 feet. The alluvial soil is rich but vulnerable to flooding and drought brought on by extreme weather. In 2009 alone, more than 15,000 people were permanently displaced after Cyclone Aila.

The Global Climate Risk Index ranks Bangladesh as one of the 10 nations most vulnerable to climate change. Each year, the impact of the global shift wipes out 2 to 3 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product and some 900,000 Bangladeshis have died over the past 35 years because of severe storms and natural disasters attributable to global warming.

By 2050, a predicted one-to-three-foot rise in sea levels caused by global warming will submerge 17 percent of the entire country's land mass and affect 35 million people. This is a huge threat and as a result, Bangladesh has made the fight against climate change and the protection of its citizens a national priority on the same level as defence, security and economic growth.

At the heart of the climate change battle is the fight to ensure human rights, justice and fundamental freedoms, particularly for people at the bottom

That’s why Bangladesh is encouraged by – though not entirely satisfied with – the progress made at the United Nations climate summit in Paris last month. It is vital that nations agreed to work together to rein in man-made emissions that contribute to global warming.

In particular, the world’s richest nations must help the poorest ones pay for new technology that will enable them to generate more energy from renewable sources and also save energy by using energy-efficient appliances. Another area of support from wealthier nations should come from the field of scientific research aimed at smarter and cheaper means of mitigation and adaptation. All nations, big or small, need to put their heads together to combat this global threat.

Paris created positive momentum – the newly concluded agreement features commitments to balanced financing, with rich countries contributing to the cost of battling climate change that affects developing countries. In addition, the world’s leaders agreed to share and develop technology that will allow developing nations to move more quickly to sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Many developing nations, including Bangladesh, have actually been leading the battle against climate change in recent years. We are showing what can be done by embracing scientific facts, crafting smart policies and demonstrating political will.

In 2012, Bangladesh pledged to keep its per capita emissions below the average of the developing world. We have installed more than four million solar home systems, generating 150 megawatts of electricity. About 15 million people in Bangladesh now get their electricity entirely from renewable sources. Bangladeshi scientists have also developed flood, drought and saline-resistant varieties of rice to withstand radical climate change and increased freshwater salinity, an inevitable consequence of the ocean encroaching on land. Each year, Bangladesh spends $1bn – or more than 1 percent of its GDP – fighting climate change. In 2009, we used our own money to create a $400m Climate Change Trust Fund.

At the same time, in all fairness, low-income, developing nations such as ours must depend on fossil fuel to increase our standard of living and sustain our peoples’ livelihood.

Wealthier countries should assume a greater responsibility to reduce carbon output and help developing nations do the same by helping them build technological capacity to expand clean energy. Draconian carbon-reduction goals imposed on poorer countries by richer ones without adequate economic and technological support will hurt the poorer nations, putting excessive strain on the world’s overall efforts to fight global warming.

At the heart of the climate change battle is the fight to ensure human rights, justice and fundamental freedoms, particularly for people at the bottom. Climate change must be seen in the wider narrative as a global threat to peace, stability and prosperity.

The world admires Bangladesh for its remarkable social and economic transformation and resilience since its independence in 1971. All these accomplishments will be at risk unless the world seriously tackles climate change. Bangladeshis have fought for freedom, for democracy, for women’s rights and against terror and extremism on our own. But climate change is not a fight we can win alone.

The Paris climate change summit is now behind us. We have some – but not all – of the tools needed to escalate the battle against global warming. Bangladesh will do its part. We hope the world’s richest countries will do their part too.

This opinion piece was first published in

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