It will take time for Bangladesh to tap renewable energy due to infrastructure constraints, according to Atiq Rahman, a prominent environmentalist and scientist.
“The alternative, green or renewable energy will take time in terms of infrastructure because it’s a new type of thinking,” he said.
Rahman shared his thoughts on climate diplomacy during the second episode of bdnews24.com’s “Inside Out” as he joined the live show on Sunday. The event was streamed live on bdnews24.com and its Facebook and YouTube channels.
“Solar reflectors in one village in ideal systems worked well for about 100 families. When it comes to a million families, it becomes complicated,” Rahman said.
The executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, Rahman has transformed the nongovernmental organisation into a leading think-tank on the environment, resource management and sustainable development.
In 2008, Rahman was honoured with the highest UN environmental award, the Champion of the Earth award, in recognition of his outstanding and inspirational leadership and contribution to the protection and sustainable management of the earth’s environment and natural resources.
The same year, the Bangladesh government honoured him with the National Environment Award for innovative environmental research and technology development.
Rahman is a long-standing lead author and convening lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As a lead author of the IPCC Fourth Assessment, he was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, jointly awarded to the IPCC and Al Gore.
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and the government has placed a great deal of emphasis on mitigating climate risks.
In a stark warning to the world at the COP27 summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said humanity is "on a highway to climate hell" as he called on countries to phase out the use of coal, one of the most carbon-intense fuels, by 2040 globally.
While Bangladesh decided to shut down 10 coal-based power plants, many countries are restarting them. Is this an indication that countries are prioritising economic growth over climate concerns?
“First of all, decisions are taken naturally on interest. And this is calculated based on some baseline. How much can you reduce or how efficient can you be? And how much does that cost and can the economy move on?” Rahman said.
We’re in an earlier stage where we need a lot of energy to move things. Our basic need is food and water. We have to grow more food and make sure that clean and safe drinking water is on everybody’s tap.Atiq Rahman
During the COVID-19 pandemic, global energy consumption was at its lowest. But as the pandemic started to ebb, energy consumption started to peak, and there was a shift to petroleum, according to Rahman.
Bangladesh demands rapid growth for its burgeoning population, while also keeping the economy mobile, he said.
“We’re in an earlier stage where we need a lot of energy to move things. Our basic need is food and water. We have to grow more food and make sure that clean and safe drinking water is on everybody’s tap. Those are the baseline hard work of economic development.”
To help vulnerable countries meet the challenges of climate change, the International Monetary Fund has created a climate resilience fund.
Assessing its benefits for a country like Bangladesh, Rahman said, "It's early days first of all, secondly, how much money and how to get it is not yet clear. But if there is a substantive amount of money -- billions going into trillion, then there are a few things one could do.”
Everybody has to do better. And that means much bigger collaboration between countries. That's just beginning now.Atiq Rahman
"The future lies in the industrial sector, being able to provide efficient, low energy-consuming systems. For a larger population, our transport system has to be smarter, which means more roads, more money, and more energy,” Rahman said.
"Bangladesh is fortunate enough to have all these rivers inside and around us. So we can use the river transport [system], which is far more cost-effective than road transport.
As climate change is a global issue, Rahman believes each country must play its part in combatting environmental challenges through 'diplomacy' and 'collaboration'.
“Everybody has to do better. And that means much bigger collaboration between countries. That's just beginning now.”
‘RICH NATIONS MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY’
It is urgent for industrialised nations to make the tough decisions to fight climate change, Rahman said.
“Climate change was growing slowly, like that, but now, we have hit a steeper part. And the easy options have been taken over and the hard options are left. These hard options will have to be handled by the rich countries.”
“Poor countries have been affected and decimated and not been able to develop their line while the early developers have taken the low-hanging fruit and used them. Any development now will be at the cost of the planet.”
Emerging economies have little option but to take climate change into consideration while trying to develop, the environmentalist said. It is unfortunate that many of these countries are also those with the largest populations, like China and India.
Asked if richer countries are dedicated enough to climate change alleviation to change their policies and systems, Rahman said: “Sadly, the reality is, they don’t want to. But, if they really want to do business, get cheap food, get cheap materials, which they do, it’s China, India and the upcoming countries who are delivering goods at a cheaper cost. If they want to get that, there is no other option but to allow the developing countries to come forward.”
Developing nations, with their high populations, want to progress at a faster pace, Rahman said.