Making our voices heard

Making our voices heard

Sarwat Chowdhury: THE Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN), a global network of non-resident Bangladeshis, together with Bangladesh Society, New York and other Bangladeshi organisations and their international friends are gathering together near the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on the morning of September 18 for a rally on Bangladesh. This rally, with the slogan “Stop Climate Change! Save Bangladesh!” will be held between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Ralph Bunche Park, at First Avenue, between 42nd and 44th Street, across from the main UN Secretariat Building.

The slogan for the Bangladesh climate change rally is strengthened by the moral argument that Bangladesh contributes very little to the global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the UNDP Human Development Report 2007/2008, the total per capita CO2 emissions of Bangladesh in 2004 were 0.3 tonnes compared to 20.6 tonnes in the US. Bangladesh’s share in the cumulative GHG emissions since the industrial revolution is close to 0%.

In contrast, Bangladesh is home to some of the poorest people of the world who are the least able to recover from manifold stresses caused by climate change, including more intense and more frequent cyclones, droughts, floods and changing conditions for agricultural production etc. In fact, the early effects of climate change can already be felt in the change in weather patterns and the impacts on the economy, human health, and socio-economic livelihood conditions in Bangladesh.

Most of Bangladesh is below an elevation of 1 meter above the sea level. According to geological surveys, a rise of sea level by 1m would mean submergence of about 15% of Bangladesh’s landmass. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report of 2007 notes that due to global warming the sea level, which has already risen at an alarming average rate of 3.1 mm per year from 1993 to 2003, may rise in future by about 7 mm as a result of complete elimination of the Greenland Ice sheet.

This would mean the submergence of about 70% of Bangladesh, a country with a population of about 150 million. However, Bangladesh’ population is projected to grow, according to UN Population projections, to 222 million by 2050. The sea level rise estimated earlier would therefore result in 150 million Bangladeshis becoming climate refugees, with far reaching impacts in the region and the world.

While the scientific data is available; various studies and research reports on climate change adaptation and mitigation in Bangladesh have been produced over the years, and some funds in various forms have been made available. These efforts are minuscule compared to the enormity of the challenges Bangladeshis will face due to climate change. For example, there are only two small Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects ongoing in Bangladesh, even though this Kyoto Protocol arrangement for emission reducing investments to be carried out in developing countries by firms of developed countries could be an important tool in Bangladesh’ sustainable development.

Additionally, the performance of developed countries in terms of mitigation so far has been disappointing as well. While the Kyoto Protocol postulated a reduction of emissions by 5% relative to the 1990 level by 2012, data from UNFCCC show that if Economies in Transition (EIT) are excluded, the actual emission of Annex I countries has actually increased over 1990-2004 by 11%.

The global community and its major emitters are still struggling to negotiate some concrete steps to counter the challenges of climate change and curbing its greenhouse gas emissions that can actually make a difference in the “gloom and doom” scenario facing the poor and vulnerable of the developing world, including millions of Bangladeshis. These scenarios can easily become a reality unless drastic proactive actions are taken.

Climate change and poverty are increasingly being addressed as twin challenges in sustainable development. It is widely understood that the present development paradigm is no longer able to sustain human development. There is a need for change in our perspective for development and from that perspective, environment and development are both win-win goals. As the UN secretary-general has very aptly highlighted: “We have witnessed three economic transformations. First came the Industrial Revolution, then the Technology Revolution, then our modern era of globalisation. We stand at the threshold of another great change: the age of green economics.”

The UN Climate Change Summit of September 22 and the Copenhagen 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to be held in December are two important occasions in which to achieve some positive transformations in the global climate policy negotiations, which can have meaningful impacts on a vulnerable country like Bangladesh.

The organisers hope that the rally of September 18 will provide some direct impetus to the climate change negotiations and the international effort to mobilise support for developing countries to confront climate change. At the end of the rally, the organisers will present a memorandum to the United Nations secretary general, commending his organisation for providing leadership in galvanising the international community to tackle climate change.

The memorandum will also include a set of demands to the world community, which will include “a stabilisation goal of 350 ppm atmospheric green house gas concentration level to be adopted at the 15th COP in Copenhagen,” and also “the funds provided to Bangladesh and other climate change frontier countries for adaptation be only in the form of grants, not loans, and be treated as compensation for the damage done to their prospects due to climate change.”

BEN has been working in close cooperation with international friends at Global Citizens for Climate Action campaign to ask the global leaders to sign a global climate deal — in Copenhagen — that is ambitious, fair and binding. The Bangladesh rally is featured as a part of that campaign and more descriptions can be viewed at

More detailed information on the climate change rally, including the memorandum with its complete set of demands is also available in BEN website and its facebook group website (

As part of its campaign, BEN has declared September 18 as the “Bangladesh Global Action Day on Climate Change,” and its chapters elsewhere, including Canberra, London, Sydney and Tokyo/Kitakyushu and Toronto, plan to hold rallies on that day and submit memoranda to local UN offices. BEN’s sister organisation in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), also plans to hold a rally in Dhaka in solidarity with the BEN rallies of September 18, so that it becomes a global mobilisation of Bangladeshis.

Let us hope that together we can make our voices heard and make a difference in the fate of millions of Bangladeshis who remain extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Dr. Sarwat Chowdhury is a member of the Climate Change and Energy Panels of Bangladesh Environment Network.

Link requested by Badiuzzaman Khan | original soruce

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