I enjoy the colourful blossom of flowers, variety of fruits, grains and vegetables in different seasons, and feeling the change in weather which is also associated with many different cultural and religious festivals and norms in Bangladesh. While, as individuals, we may feel closely connected to nature, yet we often miss out on the indications of slow onset changes in weather patterns and unpredicted change in monsoon.
Nowadays, we are all talking about climate change and scientists are providing evidence such as temperature rise, sea level rise, carbon emissions, etc without much realising how it has a great impact on individual life as well.
When we do a thorough review of different kinds of challenges in the environment and nature in a climate-vulnerable and disaster-affected country like Bangladesh, environmental and climate change factors become clearer in a rather dramatic and complex way.
Perhaps World Environment Day is one of the most important UN days which connects people to policy-makers across the world on contemporary aspects and trends of environmental issues. Since it began in 1974, this day is becoming more popular while awareness and actions regarding protection of environment amongst the wider masses increase.
The theme for 2017 World Environment Day is “Connecting people to nature” and it is going to be celebrated on June 5 in Canada with the participation of more than 100 other countries.
This year’s theme calls to take action even at a personal level to appreciate the beauty of nature, explore nature around us, and protect our environmental surroundings.
This idea provokes us to feel ourselves more connected as a part of nature and the environment, think about the adverse impacts due to climate change and other pollutions, and act to hold different actors accountable.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change made in 2015 was a key moment for the world and created some hopes for a better future for environmental sustainability. Though the world leaders agreed to restrict the global warming to 2C above pre-industrial level by the end of this century, the reality is harsh as it indicates we are heading for 3.4C.
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Photo: Abu Siddique
There are multiple concerns and challenges in climate change and environment-related discourse, and one of the biggest concerns amongst those is emission. The Emissions Gap Report 2016 by the United Nations Environment Program indicates positive progress in general.
However, it considers specific national targets by member states from different blocs: Some G20 countries including India and China; lack of strong political will of some rich countries (like Canada, the US, and Australia); lack of necessary early action on the ground in reducing carbon emission by most of the member states as per Cancun pledges for 2020.
If the trend continues and the world fails to meet its commitment to manage the emission target, this will have a direct impact on the climate vulnerable countries and Bangladesh could be one of them. The government estimation indicates that Bangladesh could have an annual loss of 2% of its GDP by 2050 and 9.4% of GDP by 2100.
Bangladesh's contribution to GHG emission is an insignificant portion to global emissions (less than 0.35%). Yet, it has made an advanced submission of new climate action plan and placed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) pledge before the Paris Conference in 2015.
GHG emission from agriculture sector has decreased but still it remains one of the concerning factors for Bangladesh. Emission in the energy sector is the second contributing factor and it is on a slight increasing trend. Bangladesh also needs to pay attention to emission caused through waste management which has increased dramatically over the last decade.
Emissions in agriculture and energy sectors are already taken into account by the government and many progressive steps have been taken already. Particularly the innovative Solar Homes Program to provide off-grid electricity access for the poor people in rural areas using renewable sources by 2020 is a timely initiative to meet the increasing demand of electricity and maintain a balance following a sustainable and environment-friendly pathway.
On one hand, Bangladesh plans for an unconditional contribution to reduce GHG emissions by 5% by 2030 in the power, transport, and industry sectors and on the other hand, a conditional contribution in the same sectors which depends on international support and cooperation.
Unfortunately, we have noticed slow progress on international contributions and support despite commitment made under the Millennium Development Goals, Climate Change Agreement, and the recent Sustainable Development Goals. This is not a unique case for Bangladesh; many other countries are facing the same challenge to mobilise international support and cooperation.
Undoubtedly, it is a greater responsibility of the state mechanism and government to lead and shoulder the responsibility of protecting the environment, address climate change issues, and follow a sustainable model of development and green energy.
Each individual, institution, and particularly the private sector also has big roles to play. Let us hope and act in a responsible manner to protect our nature and environment as much as possible.
The writer is WIN and Communications Manager, Oxfam in Bangladesh