After twenty years of international negotiations and many years of despair, like desert rain, the historic Paris Climate Conference has brought a long sought gift for the world – a global agreement to combat climate change. At the heart of this agreement, which will determine the future of millions in vulnerable regions such as South Asia, are the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
The term “INDCs” may come across as one of the many acronyms that permeate climate change lingo. However, INDCs are simply the commitments that different countries have made regarding their plan to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees. Given the increasing frequency and intensity of climate change induced disasters, developed and developing nations alike have agreed to reduce carbon emissions and their proposed quantifiable measures are laid out in these INDCs.
Among South Asian nations, Bangladesh was the first to submit its INDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Unconditionally, the country has pledged to cut emissions by 5% from business-as-usual level by 2030 from the high emission sectors like power, transport and industry.
“Although we emit only 0.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capita per annum, which is one sixth of the average of developing country emissions, to be in harmony with the world we have committed to reducing emissions,” said Q. K. Ahmad, a leading Bangladeshi economist, environmentalist and activist. “We have agreed to not let our emissions go above the average of that of developing countries,” he added.
Bangladesh has achieved remarkable success in promoting a shift to renewable energy. The Central Bank of Bangladesh finances investment in solar home systems and solar irrigation. It is the first central bank to provide dedicated resources for sustainable development. Moreover, the Government has set up the Infrastructure Development Company (IDCOL) to encourage private investment in renewable energy. The Government also provides biogas and solar power to four million homes in energy starved off-grid rural areas, thus paving the pathway for sustainable development.
The 5 percent carbon emissions reduction target of Bangladesh can be increased to 15 percent if the country gets adequate international assistance in the form of finance, technical help and capacity building support. “Funding should be more easily accessible for Bangladesh, especially since there has been a clear demonstration that we are not sitting idle and are taking steps to combat climate change,” said Hasan Mahmud, the Parliamentary Standing Committee Chairman of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and a former environment minister of Bangladesh.
The country is already facing impacts of climate change in form of inundation of low lying areas due to sea level rise, more intense storms, drought, floods and variable rainfall that is affecting its agro based economy. In spite of its minimal contribution to the global warming – its emissions being less than 0.35 percent of the global total – Bangladesh’s mitigation efforts and commitment to building a low carbon future are commendable. Moreover, its INDC contains measures that have already been undertaken using its own resources and demonstrating initiatives led by the Government.
While Bangladesh’s INDCs provide hope and inspiration for a climate resilient future, the current INDCs of several other nations are way below half of the reduction in emissions required by 2030 to keep global temperature rise below catastrophic levels. The commitments of all major developed countries fall short of their fair shares, as determined on the basis of their historic responsibility and capability.
Industrialized nations should take a page from the books of countries such as Bangladesh, which have very limited resources and yet are taking impressive steps to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change – for which they are barely responsible but are suffering the most. Developed countries need to prevent backtracking on their INDC commitments, no matter the cost. They should also assist vulnerable nations so that the vulnerable nations are able to undertake the expensive and complicated measures required to transition to a low carbon economy.
A climate resilient future is no longer a distant unattainable dream, and countries like Bangladesh are proving that a little political will can go a long way. The Paris Deal and the INDCs presented is the beginning of the journey towards a sustainable future. It is now time for all nations to ratchet up their ambitions and put their best foot forward to save the planet.