OPINION: Bangladesh Needs – and Leads on – Climate Mitigation

Source- https://news.cornell.edu/

The world’s leaders debate climate change all the time. But Bangladesh can’t wait for the rhetoric to stop. Serious action is required to spare the South Asian nation now.

Even a one-degree centigrade rise in temperature stands to increase sea levels by as much as one meter, which would flood a fifth of Bangladesh. Thirty million Bangladeshis would be forced to flee their homes. Bangladesh is likely to have more than half of South Asia’s “climate migrants” by 2050 if warming trends continue, according to the World Bank.

The need for immediate action cannot be overstated. That is why Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the United Nations General Assembly this year, “In the past, we have seen a vicious cycle of promises being made and broken. We must now change this course.”

She is right. The only way to avert major climate disasters is a rapid course correction. Thankfully, Bangladesh also provides examples of how this can be accomplished. While Bangladesh was president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a global partnership of countries that are disproportionately affected by climate change, it launched the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan. It proposes to counteract climate-induced damages and losses by equipping vulnerable communities, industries, and governments with financing tools that facilitate risk management and build resilience and stability.

Bangladesh also unveiled a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2009. It laid out 44 programs in six strategic areas ranging from food security and disaster management to carbon mitigation. Bangladesh partnered with the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank to complete these plans.

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In 2014, Bangladesh became one of the first countries to establish a Climate Change trust fund and to amend its constitution to include provisions on protecting natural resources and the environment. The government has poured more than $480 million into the trust fund, which supports nearly 800 climate projects including reforestation of 7,000 hectars of land, installation of nearly 11,000 solar home systems, and the construction of 16 solar power plants.

Bangladesh also embraced ecosystem services unique to its own situation to address climate challenges. To guard against rising sea levels, for example, Bangladeshi islanders began planting oysters and curating oyster-encrusted reefs. This reduces coastal erosion by calming ocean waves before they reach shore.

To diversify households’ livelihood in a changing climate, Bangladeshis use vermicompost (composting using worms) to improve soil quality in drought-prone areas. Salt-tolerant seeds allow local farmers to plant potatoes, carrots, grounds, red beets, cabbages, and Indian spinach in salty soil.

Bangladesh also has worked closely with scientists to increase the diversity and resilience of crops to hold back flooding. Floating gardens built out of paddy straw and aquatic plants create organic islands capable of producing squash, okra, and gourds while withstanding increased flood waters.

Bangladesh also is training women to become effective farm owners by using advanced applications on smartphones, which are ubiquitous there.

The country has done a lot, but it cannot fight this battle alone. It should not have to since it accounts for less than one percent of global emissions. “The people of Bangladesh are suffering from the greenhouse gas pollution caused by the developed world,” United Nations climate change official Ian Fry said in August. “It is time the international community stepped up and took responsibility for these impacts.”

Bangladesh is an economic success story, with a Gross Domestic Product that continues to rise. Its GDP per capita has increased eightfold since 1990, its exports have soared, women are increasingly empowered there, and government-financed infrastructure improvements have boosted Bangladesh’s connectivity, both physically and digitally.

Yet its progress is threatened by the dangerously rising seas and the lack of commitment by the world to address them. Everyone seems to agree that something needs to be done soon. But Bangladesh cannot wait.

By Eugen Iladi

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