The Financial Express

Developing countries should have zero-emission target, too

| Updated: November 09, 2021 21:02:04

Developing countries should have zero-emission target, too

Almost eight billion people living on this planet will face an existential crisis in a matter of decades if the global economy continues to be powered by coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil-fuel-powered development would not only stall, but it will also cause the planet to face an apocalyptic disaster making it inhabitable for any living species if the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide keep piling up as rapidly as it is doing today.   

 Since 1995, there have been conferences on climate change, now termed climate emergency. Reams of papers have been churned out detailing action plans, mandates, and protocols. The summits resulted in mostly flimsy commitments and acrimonious breakdowns. Despite uproars inside the conference halls and shouts of protests on the streets the rise of greenhouse-gas content in the atmosphere and the warming of the climate continues unabated. Global carbon emissions have risen rapidly and remain too high to avoid severe and irreversible climate change impacts. 

The only summit that yielded some tenable agreements was held in 1995 in Paris where all parties, rich and poor, committed to keeping the rise in Earth's temperature since the mid-19th century well below 2°C.  

COP26 climate summit of politicians, diplomats, scientists, activists, the media, and entrepreneurs begins on today (Sunday, October 31). COP stands for 'Conference of the Parties" where governments get together to make crucial decisions about what they will do about the climate crisis. Pundits believe, such a global gathering in Glasgow will be different from those in the past and may force change in the government policies of the countries bound by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Let's hope for the best. 

Bangladesh is one of the developing countries that is severely impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences. In fact, the whole continent of Asia is the most vulnerable area where about one and a half billion people live in the tropics. Millions of Asians live near the coasts. They will have to bear the heaviest costs of living with floods, storms, heat waves, and droughts unless fossil fuel is replaced by green fuel for their development. They must not wait for what the developed countries aim to ensure zero-emission in the future. It would be suicidal if we the Asians believe that the industrialised countries alone must reduce their emissions to compensate for their historical overuse of fossil fuels in the past centuries. 

As the world heats up, Bangladesh along with other Asian countries must leave fossil fuels behind. We cannot afford to refuse to embrace carbon neutrality.  

While contributing less than 0.35 per cent of global emissions, Bangladesh earned plaudits from world leaders for taking long-term initiatives such as Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan up to 2030, National Solar Energy Roadmap, 2021-2041, National Action Plan for Clean Cooking, 2020-2030, etc. Bangladesh is trying to adopt climate-resilient initiatives and adapt to inevitable climate change. But, as to mitigation, Bangladesh is behind many developing countries. In the 'Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)' to UNFCC submitted in 2015, Bangladesh committed to reducing its Green House Gas-emissions only by 5.0 per cent below business-as-usual level by 2030 using only domestic resources and this reduction level may be extended up to 15 per cent if sufficient external fund is received. Such poor commitment sounds very much non-Bangladeshi. While India plans to reduce 30-35 per cent and many other developing nations are setting greater reduction targets, Bangladesh does not exhibit promising signs in this regard. It is time Bangladesh should keep up with the rest of the world, take concrete actions and frame laws on climate change and shun away from coal and fossil fuel, if not entirely from natural gas. 

Our people have displayed their indomitable resilience in the face of hurdles to achieve national goals. We have shown spectacular performance not only in cricket but also in achieving many millennial development goals (MDGs). In 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced to make Bangladesh free from tobacco by 2040---a gigantic goal even a superpower would not dare to target. The goal is achievable as smoking has already declined in Bangladesh. Why not should we set a target of zero emission of carbon dioxide by 2040, too? It may sound outrageous when Australia sets the target of zero-emission by 2050. Saying goodbye to emissions is difficult as our economic interests are geared towards fossil fuels and carbon-intensive activities, with coal, oil, and natural gas fuelling our economic development. Still, achieving such an audacious goal is possible if we have a resolute and enduring commitment. All countries, developing or developed, should have zero-emission target.  

We have a hydroelectric power plant and a nuclear power plant in the making. Solar power plants are already in place generating electricity. The government has set a target of generating 1700 MW from utility-scale solar plants and 250 MW from the solar home systems by 2030.

With a view to attaining zero-emission, our objectives should be an effective climate policy aligned with growth, more infrastructure investment, higher energy security from non-fossil sources, technological transformation, and a healthier environment. We must go for more solar panels, electric cars, and more forests. By embarking upon a goal of attaining carbon neutrality in two decades Bangladesh may emerge as a trailblazer in the war against carbon emission.

 Glasgow conference is happening at a difficult time when energy is so hard to come by. Some provinces in China are rationing electricity, Europeans are paying sky-high prices for liquefied natural gas, power plants in India are on the verge of running out of coal, and the average price of gasoline is going up all over the world. The sudden energy crunch hitting the world is threatening already stressed supply chains, stirring geopolitical tensions and raising questions about whether the world is ready for the green energy revolution.

Leaders and pundits heading to the Glasgow climate talks have made progress in recent years in their respective countries. Over the past decade, the industrialised nations have started slowing the emissions, thanks to the rapid rise of clean energy. But Earth is still on a dangerous track. Herculean efforts must be taken by governments and businesses of the entire world to shift course to avoid a dangerous rise in global temperatures in the years ahead. 

Just the other day, 18-year-old Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist, gave the oldies of the world a lecture on what we are doing to the planet using "Blah Blah Blah" like a lightning rod for satire. Greta mugged politicians for being namby-pamby on climate change. Greta was a bit bellicose in her tweet: "We can no longer let the people in power decide what hope is. Hope is not passive. Hope is not blah blah blah. Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action." 

Let's hope Greta Thunberg doesn't come up with another piece of comedy after the COP26 climate summit on Sunday.

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