Practical action needed to mitigate climate change
There is no alternative to regional and international cooperation to mitigating climate change (CC) problems. Bangladesh is one of the worst victims of green house gas (GHG) effects and it must participate and learn from global adaptation strategies.
Speakers made the above suggestions while exchanging views on a seminar titled 'Climate Change in the Bay of Bengal Region: Exploring Sectoral Cooperation for sustainable Development," held at CIRDAP Auditorium in the city on Tuesday.
While presenting the keynote paper, Dr Haseeb Md Irfanullah, Programme Coordinator of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Bangladesh, said, "We have huge challenges in confronting CC crisis. There are many pillars on which we should develop our strategies on CC. Innovation is one of them, which we have noticed that it is largely confined to piloting. We have to ensure action on the ground. Only then innovations would truly give benefit."
Dr Irfanullah said evidence-based learning in adaptation for CC is another crucial area that needs real focus because, he said, “Unless we have lessons from adaptation we cannot simply make choices and adjust to the new changes."
Dr Irfan also spoke on the importance of the Community Based Adaptation in the Ecologically Critical Areas through Biodiversity Conservation and Social Protection project which, he said, "There are many aspects of regional cooperation in the project that can be shared among the countries in South Asian region, some of the most CC vulnerable countries."
The speakers referred to the food security saying that although agriculture gets full attention there is need for local level adaptation to growing crops to be able to acclimatise to the climate changes.
In his deliberation as the Chief Guest, Dr Hasan Mahmud, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment and Forest, and Chairman All Party Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change said, "CC is a global problem and we are innocent victim of the issue. Planet Earth is the only place we have for living. All of us, from US, Europe, China to Bangladesh, are passengers of this lifeboat. It is our duty to protect the planet and stop human-induced environment disasters."
The former minister also emphasized on cooperation of the countries in the south and southeast, especially innovations that could benefit the real population at risk.
Criticising role of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in mitigating CC crisis, AHM Bazlur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer of Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC), said: "BIMSTEC's role has been very frustrating in addressing CC in the region. I think it is a weak organisation that literally has no link with the civil society."
He also spoke of improving Delta Plan and exploring Blue Economy. "Due to lack of coordination we are not able to take this plan forward," he said requesting formation of a commission to deal with Blue Economy in Bangladesh.
Dr Kevin Adkin of USAID, who is a CC adviser, said, "We want to be a partner of the government to meet the sustainable goal challenges that the country is facing and also support the innovative solution to CC."
Outlining the US policy Kevin said: "We want to specially focus on the climate vulnerable population of the society, particularly resourced driven community, poor and the ultra-poor, minority groups and the disabled populations. These groups may require additional resources in their efforts to adapt to the CC."
Kevin highlighted some of the USAID supported programmes in Bangladesh where 50,000 or more people have benefited from diversified livelihood activities and expanding the use of renewable energy resources within the communities.
Rafiqul Islam from Hatiya island said that the warning mechanism, especially for the fishermen, is still too weak in the event of cyclones. He said many fishermen are reported 'missing' after every disaster, yet the communication network has not been improved.
Professor Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, a leading Bangladeshi economist and currently Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), in his speech said, "If the CC gets worse and then how long can we go on adapting. That is a big question. In fact, I see that the CC is getting worse as the biggest contributor of GHG effects (pointing to the USA) getting out of the global mitigation forum."
He feared that confronting CC would become a huge challenge ahead because the trend shows that the velocity and extent of the weather is becoming extreme, and how long can people resist and adapt to the changes is really a question of capacity.
Prof. Qazi Kholiquzzaman, the Chair of the seminar, said that SAARC has already three important declarations, especially Dhaka, Thimpu and Bhutan declarations, on climate change, but there are little on practical actions; countries have to give importance to this aspect.
Prof. Ahmad said, "We are not all responsible for the disaster of CC and we should keep the pressure on those who are actually responsible for the GHG effects. In fact, to be able to cope with the extremities we must exploit our resources and focus more on regional coordination among the agencies working to mitigate the problems, most importantly with the people who are at most risk."
In his speech Sanjay Vashist, Director of Climate Action Network, South Asia from New Delhi, said, "We have been involved in Bay of Bengal initiatives in the region and the most striking thing about CC is that we don't always attend to slow CC destruction processes like the drought, salinity in the coastal belt areas and of course, the migration or the climate refugees."
He said, "It is agriculture, water and energy management that we really should focus at this time of extreme CC crisis, because it is the vulnerable population at the end of the day who depend on food, water and energy and they suffer most."
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Director of Coast Trust, moderated the seminar. Coast Trust organised the seminar in cooperation with the American Centre in Dhaka.