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Bangladesh's Climate Advocacy: Global South efforts in pursuit of climate justice


Bangladesh has emerged as the leading voice of climate change activism in recent years, particularly in Global South. The country has shown resilience, determination, and an unapologetic stance in the pursuit of climate justice by holding the developed world accountable for its part in accelerating climate change. As a low-lying, densely populated country, Bangladesh finds itself on the frontline of climate change impacts, grappling with rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the displacement of vulnerable communities. Despite contributing minimally to the carbon emissions responsible for these changes, Bangladesh is at the forefront of advocating for climate action and justice on the global stage.


Bangladesh, often described as one of the most climate-vulnerable countries, has been dealing with the severe consequences of climate change for decades. Geography and socio-economic conditions make it uniquely susceptible to the impacts of global warming. Rising sea levels pose an existential threat to coastal communities, and extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods disrupt livelihoods. According to the World Bank’s Country and Climate Development Report, tropical cyclones cost Bangladesh about $1 billion annually on average. The country could see as many as 13.3 million people displaced by 2050 due to climate change, and its GDP could fall by as much as 9% in case of severe flooding.


In the face of these challenges, Bangladesh has displayed an action-centered attitude in dealing with climate change, as the World Bank calls it “the emerging hot spot” where climate threats and action meet. Bangladesh was one of the first developing countries to establish a coordinated action plan in 2009. Till now, its climate policy deck includes the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Act, the Delta Plan 2100, and the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan.


The country has also set up a Climate Change Trust Fund, the first of its kind, allocating $300 million from domestic resources between 2009 and 2012, and in 2014, the country adopted the Climate Fiscal Framework to create climate-inclusive public financial management. Bangladesh also introduced a National Sustainable Development Strategy to align economic development with climate priorities further, and it put forward a target to generate 5% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015 and 10% by 2020.

Its initiatives have resulted in impressive climate adaptation ventures, including the construction of the world’s largest multi-storied social housing project in Coxs Bazar, which will rehabilitate 4,400 families displaced by climate change. In mitigation, Bangladesh has become one of the world leaders in Solar House Systems, with 6 million households using solar photovoltaic systems.


Bangladesh has also been a member of essential bodies set up by the UNFCCC over the years, such as the Adaptation Fund Board and the Green Climate Fund Board. It also plays a significant role in international climate diplomacy, having organized and led the Least Developed Countries negotiating bloc in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations since the bloc’s inception. During the pandemic, Bangladesh launched the South Asian regional office for the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in Dhaka in September 2020. The GCA Bangladesh office will promote indigenous nature-based sustainable solutions and innovative adaptation measures with the regional countries.


Bangladesh is protecting its citizens and setting an example for other nations facing similar challenges. The country has also emerged as a vocal proponent of climate justice, emphasizing the need for collective global responsibility in addressing climate change.


The hallmark of Bangladesh’s climate awareness and advocacy is that it has played a crucial role in shaping the discourse around loss and damage at international climate negotiations. Dhaka has consistently called for developed nations, historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, to take decisive actions in reducing their carbon footprints and providing financial and technological support to developing countries. The country’s advocacy has contributed to establishing the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, signaling a step forward in recognizing and addressing the impacts beyond adaptation.


Pursuing climate justice also includes Bangladesh’s proactive advocacy of raising awareness about the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable nations. In December 2022, Bangladesh even became a party to the case by an international organization of small island states, known as the Commission of Small Island States (COSIS), on states’ obligations regarding climate change at ICJ.


In the latest Munich security conference, this issue of regional disparities in renewable energy investment was discussed broadly. Till now, the funding discrimination in the global south is glaring-mostly circulating in China and some high- and middle-income economies, with India and Indonesia gaining recent attention due to the steep rise in emissions. But poorer nations in the south are still largely off the radar.


The failure of advanced economies, the major contributors to climate change, to mobilize investments in renewables for low-income countries is a critical discussion that must be kept alive for opportunities for global green growth. Bangladesh should be a vocal party to this conversation, too, as its measures won’t be adequate forever to deal with its climate urgencies soon, especially considering the pressure of financing climate actions on its emerging economy. The country could require an estimated $26.5 billion to meet its goal of generating 40% of electricity from renewables by 2041.


Bangladesh must be vigilant in securing climate finance and technology from the public and private sectors at future COPs, or it risks losing decades of economic gains to climate change during the crucial period of its development.


The burden of climate change disproportionately falls on those who have contributed the least to its causes. Recognizing the challenges the Global South faces is crucial for fostering a fair and inclusive response to the climate crisis. The COP28 Loss and Damage Fund has been the right direction to take in this regard. The global community must acknowledge and support the efforts of nations like Bangladesh to pursue climate justice. Climate justice is not a charity but a shared responsibility for a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

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