The Platform

Dhaka, Bangladesh blanketed in smog. (Mohammad Samir)

Bangladesh has had to navigate the severe consequences of climate change for decades.

In recent years, Bangladesh has ascended as a leading voice in the arena of climate change activism, especially within the context of the Global South. Demonstrating resilience, determination, and a bold stance, Bangladesh is at the vanguard in the quest for climate justice, insisting that the developed world must account for its significant role in exacerbating the climate crisis.

As a nation characterized by its low-lying geography and dense population, Bangladesh is acutely confronted with the frontline impacts of climate change, including the challenges posed by rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the displacement of vulnerable communities. Despite its minimal contribution to the global carbon emissions driving these changes, Bangladesh has emerged as a prominent advocate for climate action and justice on the international stage.

Described as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, Bangladesh has been navigating the severe consequences of this global challenge for decades. Its unique geographical and socio-economic factors render it particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of global warming. The threat of rising sea levels presents a dire risk to coastal communities, while extreme weather phenomena such as cyclones and floods disrupt the lives and livelihoods of many. According to the World Bank, tropical cyclones inflict an average annual cost of about $1 billion on Bangladesh. Alarmingly, the nation could witness the displacement of as many as 13.3 million individuals by 2050 due to climate change, with its GDP potentially shrinking by up to 9% in scenarios of severe flooding.

In response to these daunting challenges, Bangladesh has exhibited an action-oriented attitude towards addressing climate change. The World Bank has identified it as “the emerging hot spot” where the threats posed by climate change and the initiatives to combat it converge. Bangladesh was among the first developing countries to establish a coordinated action plan in 2009, and its climate policy framework now includes the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Act, the Delta Plan 2100, and the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan.

Moreover, Bangladesh has pioneered the establishment of a Climate Change Trust Fund, the first of its kind, allocating $300 million from its domestic resources between 2009 and 2012. In 2014, the nation adopted the Climate Fiscal Framework to foster climate-inclusive public financial management. Further aligning its economic development with climate priorities, Bangladesh introduced a National Sustainable Development Strategy and set ambitious targets to generate 5% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015 and 10% by 2020.

These initiatives have culminated in significant climate adaptation projects, such as the construction of the world’s largest multi-storied social housing project in Cox’s Bazar, which will provide shelter for 4,400 families displaced by climate change. In the realm of mitigation, Bangladesh has secured its position as a global leader in the adoption of solar energy, with 6 million households now utilizing solar panels.

Bangladesh’s active participation in essential bodies established by the UNFCCC, including the Adaptation Fund Board and the Green Climate Fund Board, underscores its significant role in international climate diplomacy. It has notably 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. Amid the pandemic, Bangladesh inaugurated the South Asian regional office for the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in Dhaka in September 2020. The GCA Bangladesh office is dedicated to promoting indigenous nature-based sustainable solutions and innovative adaptation measures with regional countries.

As Bangladesh continues to safeguard its citizens and set precedents for other nations facing similar challenges, it has also become a vocal advocate for climate justice, emphasizing the collective global responsibility to address climate change.

The country’s persistent advocacy has played a crucial role in shaping the international discourse on loss and damage at climate negotiations. Dhaka has consistently urged developed nations, historically responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, to take decisive action in reducing their carbon footprints and providing financial and technological support to developing countries. This advocacy has contributed to the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, marking progress in recognizing and addressing the impacts of climate change beyond adaptation.

Bangladesh’s advocacy extends to raising awareness about the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable nations. In December 2022, Bangladesh joined the Commission of Small Island States (COSIS) in a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), focusing on states’ obligations regarding climate change.

At the recent Munich Security Conference, the issue of regional disparities in renewable energy investment was widely discussed. To date, the distribution of funding for renewable energy projects has been uneven, favoring China and certain high- and middle-income economies, with India and Indonesia attracting attention due to their rising emissions. However, poorer nations in the Global South remain largely overlooked.

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.

Sadia Aktar Korobi is currently studying Peace and Conflict Studies at Dhaka University. Since 2019, Sadia has been a member of the Right to Peace Foundation.