During John Kerry’s Visit, Bangladesh Will Urge US to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Jesmin Papri
Dhaka
2021-04-06
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During John Kerry’s Visit, Bangladesh Will Urge US to Reduce Carbon Emissions A Bangladeshi villager stands inside the remains of her home on Kutubdia Island, which, environmental analysts say could disappear underwater within 50 years, Nov. 20, 2015.
AFP

Bangladesh will urge the United States to reduce carbon emissions and speed up the creation of a massive fund to help developing countries combat global warming, when U.S. climate envoy John Kerry visits Dhaka later this week, officials said Tuesday.

The United States and other countries in the developed world need to take urgent action against climate change because their use of resources affects developing countries, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told BenarNews. 

“We are the victims. That is why the responsible countries will have to bear the burden,” Momen said.

Climate change is a critical issue for the South Asian country which loses 2.5 percent of its national income annually because of extreme weather-related phenomena, according to analysts. Experts have also warned about the effects of global warming causing erosion as sea levels rise and threaten low-lying areas along Bangladesh’s coastline, where millions of people live.

“We will call for the global fund. I will also raise the issue of how each country can reduce its carbon emissions as promised,” Momen said about the scheduled one-day visit on Friday by Kerry, President Joseph Biden’s special envoy for climate.

Momen was referring to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which reaffirmed a prior commitment by developed countries to provide U.S. $100 billion a year to developing countries by 2020 to support climate action.

This fund has yet to materialize, Momen said.

A senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, said Bangladesh was optimistic about Washington expediting the fund’s creation, because Kerry in January had said that the United States would “make good” on financial commitments to developing countries struggling with climate change.

Kerry’s statement to world leaders followed Biden’s decision – soon after he took office – to bring the United States back under the Paris accord, after his predecessor had pulled the U.S. out.

“That is why the U.S. wants to work with developing countries,” the Bangladeshi official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, told BenarNews.

Kerry on Friday is to undertake an hours-long visit to Bangladesh as part of his consultations on increasing climate goals ahead of Biden’s “Leaders’ Summit on the Climate,” which is scheduled to be held virtually April 22 and 23.

“The purpose of Kerry’s visit is to invite our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to attend the Leaders’ Summit on Climate,” Momen said.

“This is very significant. The Biden administration is going to make a very important contribution to the climate issue. We are with the United States on this issue.”

Bangladesh, as chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) is a significant part of the global conversation on climate change, Momen said, adding that he and Kerry had spoken twice this year over the phone on the issue.

CVF is an international partnership of countries highly vulnerable to a warming planet.

Bangladesh would be a worthy ally for Washington in the latter’s climate goals, said Marcia Bernicat, a former American ambassador to Dhaka who now serves as acting secretary at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

“Bangladesh’s leadership in addressing climate change offers the United States – and the world – a great partner to tackle this climate crisis,” Bernicat said on Tuesday, at the virtual launch of the U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council.

“As president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Finance Ministers, Bangladesh has a leading voice and can make irreplaceable contributions toward a successful COP26,” she said, referring to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

‘US is a major carbon emitter’

Bangladesh ranked seventh on the list of countries most affected by climate calamities during the period of 1999 to 2018, according to the 2020 Climate Risk Index prepared by Germanwatch, an environmental NGO.

Bangladesh is vulnerable because of its low elevation and exposure to a delta formed by the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers, which leaves it more exposed to tropical cyclones than any other country, according to the World Bank.

“Two-thirds of the country is less than five meters above sea level, and floods increasingly inundate homes, destroy farm production, close businesses, and shut down public infrastructure,” a 2016 World Bank paper said.

Global warming increases the risk of floods, said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association.

“The way countries are emitting greenhouse gases, the world is getting warmer. If this trend continues, Bangladesh will lose one-third of its total land surface to the sea by 2050 to 2075,” Hasan told BenarNews.

Climate change causes sea levels to rise, which in turn causes coastal flooding, according to The Climate Reality Project, a Washington organization that seeks global solutions to global warming.

As it is, Bangladesh annually loses about 10,000 hectares of land because of floods, according to the World Bank. This loss then weakens natural coastal defenses and aquatic ecosystems.

It also increases population density in one of the world’s most densely populated countries, severely disrupts crop production, and causes brackish water to seep into rivers, thus depleting fresh-water sources, Hasan said.

“This will also increase the frequency of diseases in coastal areas,” she said.

The cascading effects of climate change has cost Bangladesh 2.5 percent of its annual national income, said Quamrul Islam, an expert on the climate and sustainable development.

“Reducing carbon emissions around the world will benefit us and we will be able to overcome national losses,” Islam told BenarNews.

“Since the United States is a major carbon emitter, they can reduce it in their country if they take the initiative, and then inspire other countries to reduce emissions.”

Islam said Bangladesh also hoped to benefit from Biden’s commitment to climate finance, because the South Asian country needs funding for coastal defense initiatives.

These initiatives include the creation of coastal gardens to deal with disasters, and the repair or construction of dams in disaster-prone areas, according to environmental lawyer Hasan.

“We need technical and technological assistance … and we need it free of cost,” Islam said.

 Bangladesh is one of the countries hardest hit by climate change, Foreign Minister Momen said.

“Our only place to live is the Earth,” he said. “We must protect it for future generations.”

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