Climate change and its impacts have for long been looming above our heads like an ominous raincloud and with the changing of times, we’ve seen the anomalies in the environment ricochet against each other, making a small problem big and a big problem gargantuan. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have significantly increased since 1900. It says that “Since 1970, CO2 emissions have increased by about 90%, with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78% of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2011.” Other contributing factors include agriculture and deforestation, deeming them the second-largest contributor to the drastic shifts in climate. Additionally, EPA also records that emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases have also increased significantly since 1900. And the climate chaos burns away as we continue to add fuel to an already blazing fire.
The Paris Agreement
Everything that’s wrong with the climate has been addressed in the Paris Agreement in 2015. And it has brought about some necessary changes – upgrades, innovation even in recent times, that may slowly but surely control the climate crisis if not wipe it out overnight. Additionally, the global COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant drop in global emissions in 2020; however, the trend of Greenhouse Gas emissions won’t stand still for too long, and it’s upon businesses, policies, and global practices to keep that under control.
Renewable Energy & Electric Vehicles
In fact, countries and corporations have gone into action. This includes Nigeria, Uzbekistan, North Korea, Libya, Panama, Venezuela and Jamaica, and many others. Moreover, 1000 major companies have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions under the Science Based Targets initiative. Under this initiative, more than 340 companies have committed to set net-zero targets, which align with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F). Some companies’ approach to cutting carbon emissions has happened by transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, and 270 of them have committed to making this change – this includes Nike. Additionally, The Consumer Goods forum launched an initiative to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation from supply chains of commodities such as soy, palm oil, and paper; this is being led by major brands, retailers, and manufacturers.
As for the transition to electric vehicles – 92 companies including Air New Zealand, Baidu, and HP have joined EV100, a worldwide initiative that pledges to make the switch to electric vehicles by 2030. In the meantime, the likes of IKEA and H&M are exploring opportunities to reap profits by repairing and reselling products in a circular economy. With so many global entities doing their bit in tackling climate change, one could only wonder what the future holds for South Asia.
Reducing the region’s climate vulnerability
To make South Asia’s climate planning more concrete, the Climate Adaptation and Resilience for South Asia (CARE) Project was created with the vision to put plans and investments into action and support innovative measures in order to reduce the region’s vulnerability against climate change. In May 2020, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a $39.5 million project to help South Asia build resilience against climate uncertainties by sharing regional data and knowledge, developing regional standards and guidelines for infrastructure, and promoting policies for climate resilience and investments. In regards to this project, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) says that the project has a mix of regional and country-specific activities. Israel P Jegillos, Policy and Planning Specialist, ADPC quotes in a report that, “The regional focus will look to develop an action plan for climate and disaster risk-informed investments which is supplemented by a national appraisal and approval framework and a Country Action for climate-related fiscal risk mitigation measures in Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The project will also develop regional climate finance and planning guidelines in South Asia which will extend to the agriculture, water, and transport sectors.”
Despite its limitations, it’s admirable to see countries in South Asia working towards their way to achieving climate resilience. Nepal is pledging to the Paris Agreement, agreeing to reduce fossil fuel dependency by 50 percent; its sectoral targets include increasing hydro capacity to 12 gigawatts and solar to 2GW by 2030. Meanwhile, Afghanistan aims to make a 13.6 percent reduction of emissions by 2030. As for Bangladesh, there’s a pledge to reduce the percent emissions of greenhouse gasses by 2030- this includes the power, transport, and industry sectors. The three sectors will represent a total of 69 percent of total emissions in 2030 and India envisions a 33-35 percent reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, compared to the levels in 2005. They also hope to achieve 40 percent cumulative electricity installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based resources. It also hopes to increase tree covers to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion of CO2.
However, with the countries in South Asia being connected to one another through land and water, there are a number of challenges that lie ahead. In fact, a report on CNBC said, quoting McKinsey Global Institute, that countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are at risk of potential impact of extreme weather; the three come under the term of ‘Frontier Asia.’ As per the report, it’s been estimated that by 2050, between 500 million and 700 million people in Frontier Asia could live in regions that have an annual probability of a lethal heat wave of about 20 percent.
Addressing the challenges to climate change, Saleemul Huq, Executive Director of International Centre for Climate Change and Development said in an article that while 2021 marks the final year for all countries to achieve the climate goals as per the Paris Agreement in 2015, Bangladesh can only achieve SDG 13 if the other goals are met as well. As the world continues to live through a pandemic, it’s essential- and especially for Bangladesh to adopt equitable, not to mention eco-friendly strategies going forward.
Micro Approach for a Macro Imapct
The need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through mitigation to keep the atmospheric temperature below 1.5 degrees C is now one of the main concern in the case of Bangladesh. But in order to achieve things in a ‘macro’ scale, let’s look at things from a ‘micro’ perspective- after all it’s the small things that make a bigger impact. Since it’s been predicted that capacity and resilience building in climate will take another ten years, what might be of relevance at this point is to familiarize people, especially the youth with our current climate circumstances. And start them while they are young. ICCAD at the moment provides training to several hundreds of students and professionals from over 50 developed and developing countries. Among other platforms for climate resilience knowledge sharing includes the Gobeshona conference, which was held in January 28; this marks the launch of a global online event which is to be held every January in the upcoming decade to discuss knowledge and best practices to tackle climate change.
In a region like South Asia, natural resources are scarce in supply and the existing ones are being exhausted in diverse sectors such as agriculture, industries and the economy as a whole. Where Bangladesh is particularly concerned, the exchange of country specific climate resilience knowledge may be that innovation the country needs in order to be able to share it with its neighbors in South Asia and eventually with the globe.