The UN's 26th Climate Change Conference or Conference Of Parties, COP26, is scheduled to meet in Glasgow, UK, between November 1 and 2. Heads of states from close to 200 nations will join this summit along with thousands of other stakeholders. They will discuss how far the world has progressed towards fulfilling the ambitious pledges made at COP-21 summit held in Paris in 2015. At that landmark climate talks, also called Paris Climate Agreement, the participating nations agreed to arrest future rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees celsius. About a decade back, rich nations also promised that they would raise US$100 billion worth of fund, called climate fund, by 2020, so that poor nations vulnerable to climate change might get financial support from it to cope with the challenges they face and at the same time take measures to adapt themselves to those. Fund commitments to the tune of US$80 billion have reportedly been made so far. The development indicates that, historically, the biggest contributors to the global warming, the rich nations, are gradually coming out of their lukewarm attitude towards facing the issue of global warming squarely. Evidently, the devastating climate events like wildfires, floods, heatwaves, downpours, hurricanes and typhoons-previously thought to be the preserve of only the poor countries of the South- that in recent times visited upon parts of the world in the northern hemisphere awakened them to the reality of climate change. There were also many climate-sceptics in the West. Some of them were, in practice, lobbyists pursuing corporate interests. The fossil fuel lobby, for example, has traditionally been a very influential quarter behind such scepticism. An example of the power of such lobbies was evident from US's withdrawal from the Paris climate Agreement under former President Donald Trump. Till now, we have political leaders like the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, who does not mind destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
As one of the most vulnerable nations facing the climate change, Bangladesh has a huge stake in this summit. And the stake is more than just getting a piece of the pie, the climate fund, that is. In fact, no fund will ensure the protection of around 15 million people in the low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh who may become climate migrants within the foreseeable future. If, as projected by climate scientists, the sea level rises by 50 cm within the mid-21st century, 11 per cent of Bangladesh's land will go under seawater. Being basically an alluvial plain, around 66 per cent of Bangladesh's land area is less than five metres above the sea level. The sea has been encroaching on the coastal areas through land erosion since long. In consequence, people who lost their cultivable lands and homesteads need to be rehabilitated. Worse still, the level of salinity in the soil of the coastal districts have been increasing. Water control structures built in the upstream of major rivers including the Padma are another reason for the increase in salinity of the coastal regions. This is a double whammy for the people of the low-lying areas close to the sea. As such, destruction of the coastal ecosystem and climate migrants from sea level rise are the issues that should figure prominently in the talks at various forums to be held during Glasgow Climate Summit. Bangladesh will require technical knowhow to deal with these climate change-related issues. Countries like Holland that practically reclaimed their country from the sea can be an example for our own climate experts to learn from. The point is to make a common cause with such countries in our struggle against the sea.
It must be understood that climate change, especially, that of sea level rise is not a mere talking point for Bangladesh. It is an existential threat for us. And the threat is immediate. It is believed that our leaders attending COP 26 summit will be able to make the world listen to our concerns.