Rohingya crisis damaging Bangladesh environment, says Hasina at COP25

The ongoing Rohingya issue is aggravating the challenge faced by Bangladesh to tackle the imminent threat of climate change, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.

Golam Mujtaba
Published : 2 Dec 2019, 04:14 PM
Updated : 2 Dec 2019, 06:12 PM

Addressing world leaders at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, in Madrid on Monday, Hasina urged the international community to step up efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis.

Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingyas. As many as 750,000 members of the Muslim minority group in Myanmar's Rakhine state fled ‘ethnic cleansing’ in their homeland in August 2017.

The South Asian nation has repeatedly called on the international community to put pressure on neighbouring Myanmar to take back its citizens.

But despite several attempts to repatriate the refugees, no-one returned to their homeland citing Myanmar's failure to create conditions conducive to their “voluntary, safe and dignified” return.

The Bangladesh leader once again raised the issue before an international forum and said sheltering the Rohingya refugees has resulted in 'an environmental and social havoc' in the country.

"The presence of 1.1 million Rohingyas has caused an environmental and social havoc in an environmentally critical area, Cox’s Bazar, with loss of forest, hills, biodiversity and local livelihood. So, we already have the dreadful experience of how the situation after a climatic calamity may turn out."

According to a study, Bangladesh has incurred damages worth over $6 billion in terms of the socio-economic and environmental impact of extending refuge to the Rohingyas over the last 17 months.

Addressing a discussion at the COP25 conference, Hasina warned that the international community will have to collectively bear the liability for a failure to implement a plan to combat climate change.

"Any consequence of failure to deliver a climate action plan must fall equally on every country, especially on the countries which are more responsible for contributing to climate change, and the cost of our inaction is devastating for every living person," she said

"It is the responsibility of the leaders and the politicians to make public aware of the critical situation and the actions required to stop it from developing," she added

The prime minister noted that the world is wage a battle against climate change on two fronts.

"First, mitigation measures to reduce and eventually reach to zero emission in future. Second, adaptation measures in areas where irreparable damage has been done."

"Lives and livelihoods of millions of people would continue to be at risk unless we deliver on both these two fronts."

Hasina also highlighted the findings of the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warns that adverse impacts of climate change will continue to intensify over the current century and amplify if drastic actions to reduce or stop carbon emission are not taken.

"And if the IPCC 1.5 degree centigrade Report was bad enough, the recent WMO Statement on State of Global Climate 2018 shows that we are even worse off than what was originally thought," the prime minister said.

"The time is ticking fast to the point of no return. We urgently need to limit temperature increase to 1.5oC and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, by cutting 45 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050."

Bangladesh, the largest delta in the world, is the worst affected country considering its small size and the huge population to be affected by adverse impacts of climate change, according to Hasina.

"Up to 2050 from now, our annual GDP loss will be 2% and at this rate by 2100, the loss will be a staggering 9%."

"According to the World Bank, more than three-quarters or 134 million of around 165 million population of Bangladesh are at the risk of declining living standard as a result of rising temperature and erratic rainfall due to climate change."

The decline in living standard as a result of changes in average weather could cost a loss of 6.7 percent or $171 billion of Bangladesh's Gross Domestic Product by 2050, the prime minister warned.

"By 2080, some 40 million people will be homeless due to sea level rise and UNICEF, in last April, published that in spite of excellent progress on resilience and adaptation, Bangladesh has 6 million climate migrants already."

But the number could more than double by 2050 with 19 million children in Bangladesh already under threat, according to the prime minister.

"We will never achieve the SDGs and eradicate poverty if the adverse impacts of climate change are not stopped."

Highlighting the initiatives taken by her government to deal with climate change, Hasina said, "Domestically, we are the first LDC to establish a Climate Change Trust Fund. We have so far spent more than $415 million from our own resources for mitigation and adaptation purposes. We are set to spend as much as $10 billion to make the country less vulnerable to natural disasters."

Hasina pointed out that in 2016, displacement due to climate change was more than three times of the displacement due to conflict and urged world leaders to raise awareness of the critical situation and the actions required to stop it from developing.

"We cannot decide to be undecided."

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher