Published: 14 September, 2021
Even as we celebrate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman here in Bangladesh, internationally there is another anniversary that is drawing close- the fifth anniversary of the signing of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Paris Agreement was a landmark agreement because it was the first time that the world's nations agreed to make efforts to limit the temperature rise through global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (ºC). One degree rise has already taken place, and the impacts can be seen all over the world from extreme storms, heatwaves and disappearing ice caps.
For climate-vulnerable countries such as ours, 1.5 ºC is seen as the upper limit beyond which our survival in the face of rising sea-levels and other disastrous impacts becomes questionable.
That is why Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's leadership in the Climate Vulnerable Forum is so important because it was the main group that successfully secured the 1.5 ºC outcome at Paris. Now the CVF, under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's presidency, has another battle to fight - to ensure that the goals of the Paris Agreement are met, and are more than just commitments on paper.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum is a group of 48 developing countries who consider themselves among the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change. This group is now one of the heavy hitters on the international climate negotiations stage - it comprises 1.2 billion people and $2.3 trillion of combined GDP.
Speaking alongside 70 other world leaders at the virtual UK Climate Ambition Summit held on December 12, 2020, the Prime Minister warned on behalf of the CVF that the world is nowhere near meeting the 1.5 ºC target of the Paris Agreement.
In particular, she reminded other world leaders that the CVF has launched a 'Midnight Survival Deadline for the Climate' initiative urging every country to declare enhanced NDCs (Paris emissions targets) by the deadline of midnight on December 31st, 2020.
Bangladesh has not been quiet in its presidency of the CVF and advocacy for climate ambitions. The prime minister spoke at the UN General Assembly and organised a parliamentarian meeting recently as well as the CVF COP26 High-Level Dialogue with many CVF member heads of state addressing the meeting.
In many ways, Bangladesh is becoming a power-house on the climate scene. The country is also showing leadership in addressing its emissions. The Prime Minister told the world at the 12 December summit that the government is undertaking what is called the "Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan" - a plan for reaching economic prosperity on a rapid timetable at the same time as transitioning to net-zero emissions. Other CVF countries are also considering taking on 'Climate Prosperity Plans' to map out this transition to prosperity and sustainability.
In September the Prime Minister appointed Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, as the Ambassador for Ambition of the CVF. Nasheed's strong climate advocacy, while he was the leader of Maldives, is well remembered, and his voice will be an essential one for pushing for more ambitious emissions targets worldwide.
We also have to look forward to COP26, the next big UN climate meeting, taking place at the end of next year in Glasgow, Scotland. Here vulnerable nations will be looking to Sheikh Hasina, supported by Nasheed and other CVF leaders, to lead a formidable negotiating alliance to secure real outcomes - not only on ambition but also on issues like finance, adaptation, loss and damage.
It is high time that this country takes its rightful place as a major player in international affairs, and currently, there is no issue more important at hand than climate change. The climate agreement may have been negotiated in Paris, but we can ensure its success by exercising leadership from Dhaka.