“The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of the reach of millions of people in the developing world. It threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development”
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank(2012).
Climate change and sustainable development are buzzwords. There is huge subjective discussion, discourse, debate, cooperation and confrontation on them. Both state and non-state actors define climate change and sustainability from their point of view on the basis of vested interest. Bangladesh, being a developing country and most prone to climate change hazards has a perspective on this matter too. In Bangladesh, the necessity of Industrialization and its impact on environment and on people and its benefits and costs should be scrutinized in details.
Defining climate change and sustainable development: a nexus
Terminological clarifications should be given to understand climate change and sustainable development(SD) phenomenon. Both climate change and SD are vast in their own study area. These phenomena are closely interlinked even SD was born in the concerning womb of climate changes in the early 1980s. Defining Climate and climate change concept is very equivocal, complex and controversial. A. V. Todorv notes that, “no strict criteria exist on how many dry years should occur to justify the use of the words “climatic change.”Even he goes further claiming that no unanimous definition exists among meteorologists about climate, let alone climate change.
Environmental issues were not considered that much concerning in international agenda until late 1980s. Formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 was a cornerstone to understand the danger of climate change. IPCC defines climate change as broadly, “any change in climate over time whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.” Another UN based treaty United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) defines climate change as, “the change resulting from long term direct and indirect activities that induces changes in the compared time which are much more than the natural change.” Others define climate change as an average weather condition of an area characterized by its own internal dynamics and by changing in external factors that affect climate. Climate Change includes rising higher level temperature because of global warming, rainfall and wind patterns and many more things. Geography, global air and sea level change, tree cover, global temperatures and other factors influence the climate of an area, which causes the change of local weather. At the same time weather is an overall condition of atmosphere of a given time while climate change is occurring over an extended time (30 years) according WMO. In sum, climate change is simply a change in the pattern of weather, and related changes in oceans, land surfaces, and ice sheets, occurring over time scales of decades or longer.
We know that UN has already undertaken Sustainable Development Goals replacing Millennium Development Goals in 2015 from 2016-2030. Roots of SD can be traced with the development of climate change as an international agendum.
SD concept was first officially recognized in World Commission on Earth and Environment chaired by G. H. Brundtland to tackle the issue of the deterioration of the environment and the depletion of natural resources and their consequences on economic and social development. The Brundtland Commission published a report in 1987 which provides a most cited definition of SD which defines as, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The economy, society and environment have become the three cornerstones of SD apparently. Balancing among them is the holiest tough job for national and international authorities. SDGs are an integrated step under UN umbrella. Undoubtedly it has created a wider appeal to the various entities from businessmen to environmentalists. That is why SD is seen from various lenses. Even polluters have a set of values of sustainability! Turner (1993) classifies two layers sustainability. “Very Strong Sustainability” depicts all-encompassing environment friendly policy while “Very Weak Sustainability” acknowledges environmental importance but economy gets first priority.
Now it is high time we intersected climate change and sustainable development. Above mentioned diagram shows that unsustainable development fuels negative climate change. Proper policy planning and implementation can lead to sustainable development and preservation of climate. Deviation from this point must lead to unsustainable development and negative climate change in result again. This cycle would be continued unless sustainable development and preservation of nature is maintained steadily.
Climate change: Sustainable Development in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has constitutional obligation to maintain sustainable development ensuring environmental safety. World community has acknowledged that Bangladesh is one of the victims of climate change even though it is hardly responsible for global climatic changes. Bangladesh having vast population is facing mountainous challenges to maintain SD in the wake of climate change.
Broadly speaking, SD has seventeen goals like poverty reduction, attaining all kind of equality, quality education and socio-economic development safeguarding environmental priority and so on. Climate change has brought massive challenges for Bangladesh to meet these criteria simultaneously. Climatic hazards hit the poor most. In this sense, developing countries are in the front of victim lines of climate changes. There are three criteria which show how climate change affects SD: those are the location, the population, and the economy. Bangladesh fills all these three criteria as vulnerable country to its geographical location; economy is still concentrated in Dhaka city and limited to a few sectors while the number of population is very high in Bangladesh. 1 degree increment of temperature would create 40 million Bangladeshi homeless by the end of this century. Internal environmental refugees are gathering in major cities, mainly Dhaka, from the southern countryside. Overpopulation makes government authorities in mess. Undoubtedly they would seek refuge in neighboring countries or move to major cities. Dhaka city is one of the most inhabitable cities in the world already. This would negate sustainable city criterions one way or another.
Evidence depicts that climate change affects social and economic sectors. SD is highly linked with socio-economic condition of a country. Bangladesh has to spend huge money for climate change adaptation activities annually. Cost of damage to national economy is severe. It has been estimated that almost 0.5 percent to 1 percent of GDP is damaged because of natural disasters. State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh recently demanded that Bangladesh losses two percent of its GDP annually only because of climatic hazards. For saying, 4,729 Bangladeshis died in 2007 due to natural calamities with damage of resources worth 10 billion US dollar. Environmental adaptation is difficult and expensive monetarily. Bangladesh has to allocate a huge amount of money for infrastructural repair. To talk about empowerment, poor and women are most vulnerable in the time of disaster and post-disaster period. Health risks and lower educational enrollment have direct connection with SD which is endangered by climate change. Bangladesh has already started to experience uncountable disastrous climatic impacts in recent years. Higher level of temperature, tropical cyclones, river erosion, flood, water-logging, landslides, drought, heavy rainfall, winds, sea level rise, loss of biodiversity, health and disease, environmental migration, cyclones and storm surges, lower productivity are a few . Being an agriculturally dependent country, Bangladesh has to face two-fold challenges. Southern part of Bangladesh is under threat of sea rise sink while millions of people in Northern side of Bangladesh are threatened by riverbank erosion and severe droughts in recent years. Increment of GHG is the main culprit of global warming. Human induced activities like industrialization, usage of fossil-fuel, transportation, extensive use of pesticides on land are a few. Bangladesh is under a deep security threat existentially. After all these climatic changes and natural hazards are undoubtedly a potential hinder to the way of SD attainment in Bangladesh. It is very challenging for Bangladesh to achieve SDGs in 2030 but government is auspicious to achieve it in time.
Non-cooperative West and Mounting Pressure on LDCs
Bangladesh is one of the rising developing countries. Environmental issues play a potential role of cooperation and conflict between developing countries and developed countries. Unanimously signing and ratifying of SDGs in 2015 and Paris Climate Agreement later seemed two ambitious steps towards a cooperative posture between two blocs on climate. It is beyond traditional North-South division. Interestingly there are some Southern developing countries (e.g. China, India, and Brazil) which have potential contribution to the degradation of climate. But defiance of West on climate issues especially reduction of the use of carbon is concerning. Bangladesh currently contributes only 0.14 percent to the world’s total carbon emission but suffers a lot. Implementation of these treaties has become a headache for developed countries while developing countries are suffering from immense challenges to meet SDGs by 2030.
To get into the debate, we should go through a cycle again. First and foremost developed or industrialized countries are historically responsible for climatic change. And then, all countries regardless of developing or developed are facing negative outcome of climate change. Finally, developing countries are now unitedly demanding accountability from industrialized countries for their cruel treatment of nature. They were not only stopped by asking accountability, rather they have moved ahead to compensate (loss and damage) developed countries from Copenhagen Conference 2009 and aftermath. They have inadequate technological and monetary capability to tackle climate change alone. Developing countries put this burden on industrialized countries while developed countries assert equal share of burden.This is the point where conflict roars.
Developed countries contribute almost 80% of carbon dioxide while developing countries contribution is very poor. But calculation on the basis of population, only 19% people possessing 70% world GDP from developed countries pose harm to majority of the world population. Interestingly developed countries have transferred various factories and waste recycling activities in developing nations like Vietnam, the Philippines, Bangladesh and other African poor countries since 1990s. It creates double costing on developing countries but origin of this pollution is developed countries! Fearlessly saying, today’s climate change is an illegitimate child of industrialized countries.
Bangladesh is a victim of this environmental injustice of developed countries along with other LDCs. Here Bangladesh is a symbolic victim of their oppression. Bangladesh earned huge reputation for its outstanding performance in climate change resilience but had to bear huge expenses for this. Its GDP is lower than US-China trade deficit annually. Bangladesh’s GDP is currently 249.7 billion USD according to World Bank. 7th Five Year Plan states that only the BCCSAP requires 10 billion USD for resilience adaptation programme in next 10 year period but funding sources are not managed yet. Bangladesh is currently spending 1 billion dollar per year under integrated 20 ministries on climate change activities which shares 6-7 percent of annual budget of FY18-19. World Bank estimation shows that Bangladesh would need 5.7 billion USD by 2050 for adaptation cost annually.Though, Bangladesh is hardly responsible for this expenditure. Developed countries should have come out for the sake of the world. They pledged 100 billion in 2009 to help the poorest countries by 2020. But their commitment has largely remained unfinished yet. Renewable energy seems to be an alternative source to reduce carbon emission. Recently Britain has created a precedent for not using coal for two weeks since 1880s. But pessimistically saying that this kind of ambitious strategy would be costly unlikely and technologically unfeasible for developing countries at this moment. Bangladesh’s electricity generation from renewable sources has passed only 5% despite opening of a major new solar plan. Recently the World Bank has approved $185 million to add up to 310 Megawatt (MW) in renewable energy generation capacity in Bangladesh. But coal-fired Rampal near Sundarbans paralyze government’s policy of sustainability. Aim of Paris Climate Agreement to keep temperature pre-industrial period is a long way to go.
Without elevated help of technologically developed countries, Bangladesh cannot afford sustainable development by any means within her limited resources.Bangladesh is destined to keep its 8+ economic growth by hook and crook. It is hard to overcome prisoners’ dilemma of development where economic development and environmental sensitivity posit in “versus” relation.
Author is an undergraduate student of International Relations at University of Dhaka.