UK-Bangladesh partnership to tackle climate change
Every day's headlines tell us that the climate is changing, from wildfires in Australia to the suspicious absence of snow in Moscow. The science of climate change has never been stronger. The evidence base is overwhelming: on the causes of climate change, its impacts, as well as on solutions.
Bangladesh, located on the delta of three major rivers and with a dense population, is one of the world's most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. Its poorest, and women and children in particular, bear the brunt of disasters and stresses. More than 70 percent of the population is exposed to cyclones, and the economic impact is significant.
Despite this, Bangladesh has made exemplary progress over the last decade in preparing for and mitigating the impacts of natural disasters. But there is much more to be done. Climate change means that floods, droughts and cyclones are likely to increase in frequency and intensity by 2050.
The UK has been supporting Bangladesh in its efforts to adapt and build resilience for the future. It is now time to move forward with a partnership of equals, where the UK and Bangladesh share expertise and jointly invest in action on climate change and the environment. We in the UK can learn from Bangladesh's experiences in disaster management; and can share our own expertise in renewable energy systems. UK funds can complement the international climate finance Bangladesh can access for scaling up programmes that have proved successful.
This year, the UK holds the presidency of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—or COP26 for short. This event, in Glasgow in November 2020, will be the biggest international summit we have hosted in decades, bringing together some 30,000 people, including heads of state, climate experts, campaigners and entrepreneurs to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change. Countries such as Bangladesh—a vulnerable country but increasingly resilient to climate impacts, and a leading voice internationally—will be important partners in helping to secure the ambitious outcome we all need if the effects of climate change are to be contained.
COP26 is the deadline by when parties (countries that have signed up to the Paris Agreement) must update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs; their plans for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases). The new NDCs have to be much more ambitious to close the emissions gap and get us back on track for warming well below 1.5 degrees. But there is also much unfinished business from COP25, which did not deliver the expectations of many countries. This will not be easy but we are up for the challenge.
Right now, we are gearing up for the presidency and reaching out to all parties to try to raise the global ambition. It really moves this agenda forward to be working with a partner such as Bangladesh who will lead the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Locally-Led Adaptation Action Track of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA). We need to work together and bring our respective and collective influence to bear on other countries to be as ambitious as possible.
Both Bangladesh and the UK have centres of excellence that are contributing to global understanding of the science. Last month's Gobeshona conference organised in Dhaka by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) demonstrated the wealth of scientific expertise in Bangladesh; and brought together international scientists from across the globe. We must pool our resources and work together more systematically to develop the evidence, test new ideas, and influence the decisions that are taken by governments and the private sector to achieve even greater progress on climate change. This includes filling knowledge gaps and generating new ideas and new technologies, all of which can help us to both adopt a greener development pathway and adapt better and more quickly to the inevitable impacts of the changing climate.
When it comes to policies to tackle climate change, the UK and Bangladesh both have progressive and robust policies. The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan was the first by a South Asian nation, and sets out projects for adaptation to climate change, as well as mitigation for a low carbon development path. We understand that Bangladesh's 8th Five Year Plan will have a strong focus on tackling environmental degradation, promoting low carbon development, and further strengthening Bangladesh's resilience to climate shocks.
The Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund is the first ever national climate fund established by a Least Developed Country and has been an example to other countries for institutionalising national climate finance. Bangladesh already has two national organisations able to draw down funds from the Green Climate Fund and has successfully engaged the banking sector to boost its action to build resilience. In 2010, the Central Bank of Bangladesh introduced a USD 26 million refinancing facility for investments in green energy and effluent treatment plants, allowing commercial banks to access capital at lower rates and so increasing the profitability of green lending.
We in the UK are playing our part. We were the first major economy to legislate for net-zero emissions by 2050. We are doubling our International Climate Finance (from GBP 5.8-11.6 billion over the period 2021-2025) to help developing countries take action. We will continue to drive forward global action on adaptation and resilience, with over 110 countries and over 70 organisations having endorsed the "Call to Action" launched at the UN Climate Action Summit with Egypt. We have called for urgent action on biodiversity as part of global efforts to tackle the causes and impacts of climate change, including investing GBP 220 million in a new International Biodiversity Fund and a GBP 40 million commitment towards reforestation. We set up the first ever Green Investment Bank to boost investment in low carbon projects. And the outgoing Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, will soon become the UN Envoy on Climate Finance.
So we have a lot to offer each other. But this is not a new partnership. Since 2008, the UK and Bangladesh have worked together to refine climate models to provide more accurate forecasting information, which in turn helped over 27 million people gain access to early warning systems for floods and cyclones and provided emergency assistance and recovery support after disasters to more than 900,000 people.
The partnership is deepening, especially in the areas of science, policy and action. We are ensuring that climate and environment are a central part of all our development cooperation programmes with Bangladesh, and the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID) is planning major new climate and environment programmes covering mitigation and adaptation and environmental improvements which we hope to launch at COP26.
As the leaders of the UK government effort here in Bangladesh, we see this UK-Bangladesh climate partnership as a dynamic force that will demonstrate what can be done to clean up growth and build resilience at home and globally. Partnership is not just for this year in which the UK hosts COP26, but for the long term. We firmly believe that UK and Bangladeshi combined expertise and combined leadership can mobilise global opinion and global citizens to act now to leave a cleaner, healthier planet for the next generation. There is no task more important for us all.
HE Robert Chatterton Dickson is British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, and Judith Herbertson is DFID Country Representative Bangladesh.