Climate Change and the Young People of Bangladesh – Wahida Musarrat Anita

Climate Change and the Young People of Bangladesh –  Wahida Musarrat Anita

Climate change is not a myth, nor some fantasy – it is the most inconvenient truth the world is facing now.  Right now, when I am writing this article in a cold winter afternoon in Sou Japan, somewhere in the world a severe tropical cyclone is forming, sea levels are rising in small island states, desertification in sub-Saharan Africa intensifies, glacier sheets are melting in and so on. Climate Change is the most severe threat of our times and for the future generation to come if we do not act now. 

The impact of climate change is multifaceted, extraordinary and differentiated for different countries of the world. Climate change not only affect our environment and natural habitat, it affects our economy, society, education, health, security and all aspects of life. At CoP 13 in Bali the- then General Secretary Ban Ki moon rightly pointed, “We gather because the time for equivocation is over. The science is clear. Climate change is happening. The impact is real. The time to act is now”.  Global Climate Change is affecting every society and economy, but not equally. Poor communities of low-income natural disaster-prone countries that make the least contribution to climate change are the worst victims of climate change.

Bangladesh has made laudable economic and social development in the past decade – the economic development remains robust, RMG sector and remittance flow was steady and the country maintains GDP growth of nearly 8 percent (IMF 2019, WB 2019). Bangladesh’s economy recorded the highest GDP growth in Asia in fiscal 2018-19 of 8.2 per cent. The country also has praiseworthy progress in SDGs. However daunting challenges like climate change threatens current and future economic development (Roy and Haider, 2019). Losses associated with these extreme weather events were estimated as average 1.8 percent of GDP between 1990 and 2008. (IMF, 2019)

Since the inception of the climate change regime Bangladesh was considered as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. In Bangladesh, Climate Change is already happening at a scale that involves unprecedented human tragedy. In the Global Climate Risk Index Report of 2019, Bangladesh was ranked 9 among the top 10 vulnerable countries for that year. The geographical location, flat and low-lying topography overpopulation, population density in the coastal region, lack of resources, top-down approaches for adaptation and mitigation and many other factors magnifies this vulnerability to manifold.  A recent report of UNICEF showed that 20 districts out of 64 are the most vulnerable in Bangladesh and 19 million children of Bangladesh are facing extreme vulnerability due to lack of education, forced displacement, poor health care, malnutrition resulted from severe weather events (UNICEF 2018). 

UNFCCC CoPs accomplished an agreement on the basis of the principle of Common but differentiated responsibilities, that means countries (parties here) vary both in their levels of responsibility for climate change and in their capacities to cope with it. The country can find its own local solution to adapt under the guidelines of the convention. As mentioned earlier, that 20 coastal districts of Bangladesh are most vulnerable for both the slow and quick onset of climatic impacts though the contribution of Bangladesh to global warming is almost nothing.  Despite that, as a part of the global duty, Bangladesh emphasizes on combating climate change with utmost seriousness. The BCCCAP of Bangladesh in 2009 were one of the earliest strategies to address climate change. Later on, Bangladesh has started the revision of BCCSAP and formulated other documents like NAPA, INDC, sector specific climate change policies and many other. In UNFCCC negotiations, Bangladesh has always been vibrant and active. Moreover, the country put a tremendous effort to mainstreaming climate change in the policies and strategies adhering Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) emphasis on the need for national-level efforts to mainstream climate change into the entire scope of human development.  Government of Bangladesh includes IGOs and civil society members in climate change related policy formulations for better results. 

Despite the efforts of both state and non-state actors, Climate change continue to do irreversible damages in Bangladesh – specially to women and young generation. The vulnerability of youth and future generation was not discussed seriously in climate change discourse until recently. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5⁰ Celsius above pre-industrial levels, if current practices do not change, young people who comprises about one third of the world’s population will be living in a dire and uncertain climatic condition post 2030. They will experience food scarcity, poor access to drinking water, severe rough weather, resource constraint, dislocation and many other conditions multiplied by the irresponsible actions of their previous generation. 

Young people can play pivotal role for environmental protection around the globe. Also, it is the youth who often act like a whistle blower for certain dysfunctional aspect in the society. If we revisit the political history of last hundred years- we can easily notice that young people led the movements against oppression, inequality, injustice, corruption and many other occasions to uphold independence, human rights and rule of law.  Therefore, especially their voice is much important in addressing climate change issues as they will be suffering disproportionally if the right decisions for combating climate change is not taken.  What we are seeing today in climate change regime, that it is not fully functional.  Paris Agreement to climate change was a milestone indeed and though As of November 2020, all 196 members of the UNFCCC have signed the agreement and 188 remain party to it, some of the big players did not even ratify it and many big polluting nations are still reluctant to abide by the three principles of the agreement regarding limit global warming preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, reviewing emission reduction target in every five years and providing financial support to developing countries.  This makes the future of the climate justice and equitable solution very grim. This is where the young people can largely contribute and compel the key state and non- state actors to give climate change issues top priority. In recent years, youths around the globe started to raise their voices against the reluctance to ensure climate justice and they demand better actions from their Governments to combat climate change. 

Young people (age 15-24) comprise of the twenty percent of the total population in Bangladesh. It is high time Bangladeshi youth can raise their voice and joint hands to the cause of climate action and climate justice anywhere in the world. Without this human capital it would be impossible for the country to ensure climate smart development. 

What can a young person do, how to start an individual or collective initiative to make a difference? Answer is very simple- every initiative, every voice matters in case of climate action.  Few ideas are discussed below:

  1. The youth can start in early with a simple way- plant trees as much as you can to contribute to reduction of carbon emission. To stop wasting papers are also a good start.
  2. They can initiate and participate in campaigns like promote recycling, going green, reducing plastic use and so forth. 
  3. They can join the cause through different activiti3es like debate, essay writing, photo contest, nature club in their educational institution and encourage others to participate and raising awareness thereby.
  4. They should adapt to a low carbon foot print lifestyle and career. 
  5. There is a common perception about young people of today that they are more comfortable in virtual communication and more inclined to technology-based solutions than human interaction. Young people can use the leverage of being technologically sound for climate cause by creating social media campaign and events.
  6. For more serious engagement in climate actions, young people should be well aware of global to national policies and politics and hold the stakeholders to account. 
  7. The youth today are the leaders of tomorrow. Young people should engage in innovation of local adaptation solution for the communities, local advocacy and dialogue with Government bodies, civil society, community organizations for both learning and contributing in sustainable climate proof development.

The politicians, business leaders around the world started to hear the voice of the youth for faster and meaningful climate action. In Bangladesh, several civil society organizations hosted events to build the capacity of young people for managing climate crisis. The Government of Bangladesh is also urging youth to come forward and participate in the development process of the country. But there is no structured and collective movement or formal platform for youth in Bangladesh to contribute in climate action and the student bodies of the political parties of Bangladesh did not show very promising or positive contribution in this sector. Therefore, there are huge scope and need for our young people to intervene and contribute.

This world order is changed due to the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 19- almost every economy has been affected severely. Governments of almost all countries could not pay much attention to their mitigation commitment or financial obligation amidst of this new chaos. Adaptation efforts also face new elements. It is most unlikely, that in near future developed countries will not be willing to fulfill the carbon emission target or their financial and technology transfer commitment to developing nations like us. But climate change will not wait – it will keep on its devastating effect on mankind. As a disaster-prone country with emerging economy, we do not have the luxury to sit idle and wait for others to make big talks.  We need to act with a holistic approach involving every sector and all segments of our population immediately- it is inevitable for our survival and for the survival of the generations to come.

References:

Roy, A. and Haider, M.Z. (2019), “Stern review on the economics of climate change: implications for Bangladesh”, International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 100-117. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCCSM-04-2017-0089

IMF (2019), “Bangladesh Prepares for a Changing Climate” accessed at 

https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2019/09/18/na09182019-bangladesh-prepares-for-a-changing-climate on November 30, 2020.

World Bank Group. (2019), “Bangladesh Development Update– Towards Regulatory Predictability” accessed at http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/269241554408636618/pdf/Bangladesh-Development-Update-Towards-Regulatory-Predictab on   May 5, 2020

UNFPA (2020), “UNFPA Bangladesh Annual Report 2019” accessed at 

https://bangladesh.unfpa.org/en/publications/unfpa-bangladesh-annual-report-2019  on December 11, 2020

The Paris Agreement, UNFCCC website accessed at  https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement on November 30, 2020


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