When you first hear about it, ‘climate diplomacy’ may seem like a term that doesn’t hold any real value in the world and just limited to some long-forgotten conference. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong!
‘Climate diplomacy’ is important – not only for the countries, but also for the people living in it.
Climate change has long been a global problem. Both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Climate Agreement sealed its validity and recognised the far-flung impact climate change could have on a global scale. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change may cause approximately 2,50,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. They identified malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress as the major reasons for this death count – all of which may be caused by changes in the climate. Not only this, climate change also has the potential to create millions of ‘climate refugees’ and trigger violent regional conflicts. In fact, according to this article in the Guardian, 150 million people may become ‘climate refugees’ by 2050.
Least-developed countries like Bangladesh are especially vulnerable because of the lack of proper funding and infrastructure. To make matters worse, Bangladesh is one of the seven climate- changing hotspots around the world.
So, the question is, how can Bangladesh, a country with such limited resources, solve and mitigate the problems of climate change?
There are many answers to this question, but one of the answers is through ‘climate diplomacy’. A report published by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) defines ‘climate diplomacy’ in the following manner: “Climate diplomacy is the interface between national interest debates and international cooperation.” Aptly put, ‘climate diplomacy’ is exactly what’s been said before, along with a desire to mitigate the adverse changes inflicted upon people by climate change.
For vulnerable countries like Bangladesh, learning the intricacies and jargon related to ‘climate diplomacy’ should be prioritized. In an article, Saleemul Huq, a guest lecturer on ‘climate diplomacy’ for the Bangladesh Foreign Service Academy says exactly this. He argues that “every new diplomat from Bangladesh needs to be climate literate, if not a climate expert.” Success in ‘climate diplomacy’ can be compared to a light at the end of a tunnel. It’s only that the tunnel is a herculean maze. This may become clear after observing the major commitments Bangladesh has to manage towards ‘climate diplomacy’. As can be seen here, Bangladesh has to manage expectations from a lot of stakeholders – and surprisingly, Bangladesh has been doing it successfully for the past few years.
Bangladesh has already gained some reputation for its efforts in climate negotiations. Alice Baillat, in her doctoral dissertation titled “The weak power in action: Bangladesh Climate Diplomacy” showed that Bangladesh’s climate leadership is defined by its “first-mover advantage” and how it worked to “transform its vulnerability into comparative advantage”. In an article written to explain the dissertation, Dr. Imtiaz A. Hussain draws our attention to Baillat’s apt summary of Bangladesh’s success in ‘climate diplomacy’ in three main points:
1. In 2005, Bangladesh, along with Mauritania, submitted its National Adaptation Programme to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFPCCC) before any other country.
2. Bangladesh has the ‘moral leadership’ accolade around the world owing to its oft-repeated vulnerabilities.
3. Bangladesh has greater visibility and authority around the world for its ‘first-mover’ advantage. That’s why Bangladesh is suited to put pressure on developed countries for help in mitigating climate vulnerabilities through finance and technological transfers.
As a weak power, Bangladesh is trying to make its mark on the global ‘climate diplomacy’ arena. Bangladesh’s successes and failures can be a learning point for other vulnerable countries around the world.
Like Bangladesh, vulnerable countries should learn how to raise voices on global platforms and make themselves heard, even though they may be insignificant at the global level. In an era when even the President of the United States (US) has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, ‘climate diplomacy’ has indeed become extremely essential.
‘Climate diplomacy’ has become a moral imperative for countries – not only to claim compensation for ‘loss and damage’ but also for standing up for what’s right.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.