As Bangla-desh prepares to graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category in the next few years, we need to plan our relationship with other LDCs in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Bangladesh has been a very active member of the LDC Group, which in turn has become a very strong negotiating group over time.
In global negotiations such as at the annual Conference of Parties (COPs), only the United States of America can afford to negotiate alone as a single country. Every other country belongs to a like-minded group, and negotiates from within their group. Bangladesh has been a member of the LDC Group since its inception and many Bangladeshi negotiators have been its spokespersons. Bangladesh had also chaired the LDC Group for a two-year stint some years ago.
In the context of the UNFCCC and future COPs, we should try to remain aligned with the LDC Group on different negotiating topics even after we formally graduate out of LDC status. This will require building trusted relationships with other countries in the group, to make them feel that even though we are graduating, our vulnerability to climate change remains the same and our interest in climate change negotiations will remain in common with the LDC Group.
Given the goodwill that Bangladesh has already established over the years with other countries in the group, this should not be very difficult to achieve.
Secondly, we should make South-South collaboration on tackling climate change—at the national and local levels—a foreign policy goal for Bangladesh and should offer our knowledge and capacity-building support to other LDCs, especially on adaptation to climate change.
The third element of such a South-South strategy for climate change would entail capacitating all our foreign service officers to become climate change emissaries and share Bangladesh’s knowledge and expertise in tackling climate change with all other countries. If we can make this investment in our diplomats who deal with climate change, then this can become, over time, a major positive brand for Bangladesh as we change our narrative from just focusing on our vulnerability to climate change to our resilience as well.
Finally, we can reach out to our neighbours in South Asia through the new South Asian Regional Centre for Adaptation in Bangladesh to be established through the cooperation of the government of the Netherlands and government of Bangladesh as part of the Global Centre for Adaptation (GCA). This will also give Bangladesh an opportunity to share its knowledge and experience on adaptation to climate change with countries in the region.
In conclusion, it is clear that climate change impacts will continue to get worse everywhere and learning to adapt to those impacts will be needed in every country in the world. Bangladesh has already begun to establish its reputation for learning how to adapt. Hence, it is important for us to recognise, and make the most of, the opportunity for turning the climate change narrative from a negative one (of our vulnerability) into a more positive one (of building our resilience), and to offer support to other countries so they can also build their resilience to climate change.
Saleemul Huq is Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.