When we are facing globally the crisis of climate change, at that time unwelcome phenomenon of COVID-19 pandemic becomes a serious concern, not only for health sector but also for environmental pollution. Climate change and Corona pandemic are common threat to mankind. While the world has been focused on dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, climate change has continued to rage on. The frequency and severity of extreme events like global warming, melting of glacial ice, sea-level rise, erratic floods, wild fires, and climate refugee which represent a potentially irreversible threat to human societies; human lives and urgently requires comprehensive response with similar urgency as Coronavirus.
Bangladesh has under gone rapid Socio-economic and environmental progress; a process which is recently hampered by COVID-19. In respect of facing climate change impacts, Organizational aspects of Disaster preparedness and Community Based Adaptation approach of Bangladesh have been acclaimed throughout the world. The country is also joining the global initiatives to address climate change impacts. Climate change is a global problem. Hence, it has to be addressed globally. In the words of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ‘’Both the Climate crisis and the Pandemic are complex problems with many ramifications. The world cannot successfully tackle the climate change without significant action from everyone.”
It has been predicted by climatologist that by 2050, unless drastic measures are taken, temperature could gone up by two degree Celsius. This is why maintaining balance between environment and the trend of development have become worldwide issue of concern. As the world recovers from COVID -19, at that juncture to tackle climate change impacts challenges ahead are: Controlling extreme weather; natural disaster, human made environmental disaster; capacity building of vulnerable communities to adapt natural disaster: preventing biodiversity and mitigating ground water crisis. To address the above challenges, we must not let short term fixes such as rolling back environmental standards, stimulating the economy by subsidizing fossil fuel and heavy industries, as preventive measures to address long term risks like climate change. Coming back of nature should be sustainable by maintaining balance between development and environment. Let us hope that both our national as well as global leaders are up to the challenge. The sooner we will be able to adjust with the changes of post pandemic circumstances -the better.
COVID -19 and Climate Change
COVID -19 virus outbreaks have more to do with how we have neglected biodiversity and eco- systems rather than because of human induced climate change. Both the COVID -19 and Climate change are invincible threats to lives, livelihood and development, particularly for countries with persistent vulnerabilities. Novel Coronavirus has both positive and negative impacts on environment.
(a) Positive Impacts: While earth seems to be healing during COVID -19 pandemic, associated with significant reduction in air pollution and Greenhouse gas emissions. Scientist estimated that due to COVID -19 global carbon emissions decreased to 4.6%, which helped to restore the importance of nature. However, this not a durable environment in the long run, as emissions is likely to rise to previous levels when economic activities picks up again. However, there are lessons from the current crisis that should guide our response to climate change.
(b) Negative Impacts: COVID -19 pandemic increased poverty, malnutrition, and exacerbated the persistent socio-economic and gender inequalities. These inequalities will cause the disadvantaged groups to suffer disproportionately from the adverse effect of climate change, resulting in a greater subsequent inequality, which can be a driver of climate change.
• Vision is needed in the study of global climate change impacts; to interpret this increased knowledge into an analytic framework for improved public policy-making and executive decision-making. Alongside it is needed to listen to climate scientists and policy advisors to win the climate change fight. Major policy thrust would be needed for strengthening the coping mechanism of the poor, through enhancement of community resilience and empowerment. Our expertise and experiences through Global Center on Adaptation will lead us in the right direction.
• Making a cultural shift by developing sustainable consumption and production habits, reducing dependency on fossil fuels and using environment friendly fuels, reducing and recycling of waste, ensuring safe use of chemicals, efficient use of water, massive plantation and risk informed development. Moreover, we should make people the top priority; to bring change in perception of politicians and statesmen, having strong political will, participation of public representatives and lessening role of bureaucrats while applying the cultural shift.
• There should not be gap between policy formulation and enforcement of environmental regulations. Effective supervision and compliance of rules and regulations regarding climate change impacts require constant vigilance. Integration and coordination of all concerned in tune with the national framework on disaster management local government institutions should lead the coordination and implementation of disaster risk reduction activities.
• For ensuring long term water and food security, economic growth, and environmental sustainability, focus must be given to proper Implementation of Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP) 2100.
• After the coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh needs to pay far greater attention to air and water pollution. Draft "Bangladesh Clean Air Bill-2019" for combating air pollution need to be finalized as early as possible.
We need to take massive program to prevent water pollution and to get pollution free water, steps to be under taken to conserve and restore water bodies.
• Formulation of low cost plan to control sea level rise and river bank erosion, involving participation of local communities.
Government efforts to cope with impacts of climate refugee must be complementing to mitigation discourse there by making it a choice rather than force.
•Biodiversity as a national development priority should be maintained by halving the rate of habitat loss, expanding water and land areas under conservation, preventing extinction of species on the threatened list, and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems.
• Keeping in view of probable impacts of climate change, now it is high time to prepare an overall environment friendly and low cost plan to control flood involving participation of local communities. To this end a national Commission may be constituted by government as early as possible.
• With a view to make the marine ecosystem as a driver for the national economy, it is utmost essential to develop climate change resilience Blue Economy through proper strategies.
• For best use of available funds to fight against climate change, formulation of pragmatic policy, tackling political influence, effective monitoring and maintaining transparency is a must.
• Devising and implementing a proper waste management strategy, waste disposal systems and awareness of all concerned can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and disaster risk.
• We must prioritize a green COVID-19 recovery. In this context climate smart agricultural practices through improved land management should be patronized by respective authorities.
• Sundarban can reduce people's exposure to natural hazards such as floods, cyclones and storms surges. Hence, Sundarbans' ecosystem needs rest, and this is why controlling deforestation and regulating tourist’s activities is a must.
We have to increase innovations, keeping in mind the reality of the ever worsening climate change. We will not fight with nature; rather we would maintain coexistence with it. Balanced economic as well as environmental development should be ensured to reach Goals of Sustainable Development. Bangladesh must be fastening the international good will that exists now. Bangladesh was the first country in the world to create a National Adaptation Program of Action. At this moment, we have effective adaptation system and this why, now we should have proper attention to save human lives and property from the catastrophe of the changing climate. Our sensible choice of preserving the environment today, will lead to sound and secure future, as a birthright to future generations.
M. Shamsul Islam, Former Deputy Director BRDTI, Sylhet.