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Sunday, 16 June 2024
Climate change and environmental justice for Bangladesh

Climate change and environmental justice for Bangladesh

Dr Matiur Rahman

Bangladesh, a nation cradled by the Ganges Delta and the Bay of Bengal, is a land of vibrant culture and resilient people. Yet, beneath the beauty lies a harsh reality: Bangladesh stands on the frontlines of climate change, bearing the brunt of a crisis it did little to create.

The geographic makeup of Bangladesh itself renders it exceptionally susceptible. Much of the country sits barely above sea level, making it ground zero for rising tides and storm surges. The fertile delta lands, formed by millennia of sediment deposits, are increasingly threatened by salinity intrusion as seawater pushes inland.

Erratic monsoons lead to devastating floods in some regions, while prolonged droughts parch others. These extreme weather events disrupt agriculture, displace communities, and threaten the fabric of Bangladeshi society.

The injustice lies not in the geography but in the disproportionate impact Bangladesh faces. The nation contributes negligible to global greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at less than 0.5%.

Yet, it suffers immensely from the consequences of a problem driven by industrialised nations. This raises critical questions of responsibility and accountability. Developed countries, the historical polluters, have a moral and ethical obligation to support Bangladesh in its fight for climate adaptation and mitigation.

However, Bangladesh is not a passive victim. The government, local communities, and NGOs have embarked on a remarkable resilience journey. Innovative solutions are being implemented at all levels, from constructing coastal embankments with cyclone shelters to developing saline-resistant crops.

The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) is a national roadmap outlining adaptation, mitigation, and capacity-building strategies. This comprehensive plan recognises the urgency of the crisis and proposes a multi-sectoral approach, encompassing infrastructure development, disaster risk reduction, and livelihood diversification.

Community-based initiatives are another pillar of Bangladesh's fight. Local groups are working on mangrove restoration projects to create natural buffers against cyclones and storm surges. These efforts provide environmental benefits and create employment opportunities for local communities.

Farmers are adopting climate-smart agricultural practices like rainwater harvesting and drought-resistant crop varieties. These innovations are crucial for ensuring food security in increasingly erratic rainfall patterns.

Women, disproportionately affected by climate change due to their roles in agriculture and household water management, play a crucial role in these initiatives. They demonstrate leadership and resourcefulness, forming self-help groups and advocating climate-friendly policies.

The fight for environmental justice extends beyond adaptation. Bangladesh is actively advocating for international cooperation on climate action. As a founding member of the Vulnerable Twenty (V20) group of nations, Bangladesh pushes for increased financial aid from developed countries to support adaptation efforts in vulnerable regions.

The nation also champions the cause of "loss and damage," seeking compensation for the irreversible impacts of climate change that adaptation alone cannot address. This includes the loss of land due to sea level rise, the destruction of infrastructure by extreme weather events, and the long-term economic consequences of climate change.

The journey towards climate justice for Bangladesh is paved with challenges. Securing adequate financial resources from developed countries remains a critical hurdle. The historical polluters have fallen short of their commitments under international agreements like the Paris Agreement, leaving vulnerable nations like Bangladesh struggling to meet their adaptation needs.

Additionally, ensuring the equitable distribution of resources within Bangladesh is crucial. Marginalised communities, particularly those residing in coastal regions and low-lying areas, are often the first and worst affected by climate change. Their needs must be prioritised in adaptation and mitigation strategies. This requires strengthening local governance structures and ensuring community participation in decision-making processes.

Despite the numerous challenges, Bangladesh's story offers a glimmer of hope. The nation's unwavering commitment to adaptation, its leadership in the fight for climate justice, and the tireless efforts of its communities serve as a beacon for other vulnerable countries. Bangladesh's struggle is not just for its survival but for a future where the burden of climate change is shared equitably and where all nations, regardless of their contribution, can thrive in a sustainable and resilient world.

This fight for environmental justice requires a multi-pronged approach. Continued international cooperation is essential. Developed nations must fulfil their financial commitments under the Paris Agreement and support adaptation efforts in vulnerable countries. Technology transfer and capacity-building initiatives are crucial for empowering Bangladesh to develop and implement its climate solutions.

Robust domestic policies are also critical. The Bangladeshi government has made significant strides in recent years, mainstreaming climate change concerns into national development plans. However, further efforts are needed to strengthen environmental regulations, promote renewable energy sources, and ensure sustainable land management practices.

Community-driven initiatives must be nurtured and scaled up. Local NGOs and civil society organisations are vital in mobilising communities, raising awareness, and implementing adaptation projects. Supporting these organisations through capacity building and financial resources will ensure their effectiveness.

Education and public awareness are key drivers of change. Integrating climate change education into school curriculums will equip future generations with the knowledge and skills to address this existential challenge. Public awareness campaigns can encourage sustainable practices at the individual level, such as reducing energy consumption and adopting water-saving habits.

The media is crucial in informing the public, holding authorities accountable, and promoting solutions. By disseminating accurate and balanced information on climate change, the press can empower citizens to engage in climate action and demand climate justice.

Technological advancements offer promising solutions. Investing in research and development of climate-resilient crops, early warning systems for extreme weather events, and innovative coastal protection measures can significantly enhance Bangladesh's ability to adapt to a changing climate.

The private sector also has a significant role to play. Promoting sustainable business practices, investing in renewable energy projects, and supporting climate-resilient infrastructure development are crucial steps towards a greener future. By working collaboratively with the government, NGOs, and communities, the private sector can be a powerful force for change.

Bangladesh's fight for climate change and environmental justice is a global responsibility. It is a story of resilience, innovation, and a collective fight for a sustainable future. By working together, the international community can support Bangladesh in its fight for survival and ensure that the principles of equity and justice are upheld in the face of this unprecedented global challenge.

This fight for a sustainable future extends beyond Bangladesh's borders. The lessons from its experiences can be applied to other vulnerable nations worldwide. Bangladesh's story is a powerful reminder that climate change is not a distant threat but a real and present danger. It is a call to action for all nations to embrace their responsibility and work together to build a more resilient and equitable world.

The writer is a researcher and development worker.


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