Climate justice

by Ataur Rahman | Published: 00:00, Aug 10,2020


Civil society organisations, government institutions and other stakeholders in the development sector should come forward to present the cause of Bangladesh in international forums, writes Ataur Rahman

IN THE face of increased air, water pollution and deforestation, global warming is becoming a major global challenge. Since climate change is a global concern, no country can solve it independently. As countries and communities, we have to work together across the world to address the concerns of climate change. And, we must act quickly enough before it becomes too late. Millions of people from vulnerable and marginalised communities are already facing the consequences of climate change.

Globally, green activists have coined the term climate justice to frame the issues of global warming and its immediate consequences as an ethical and political concern rather than matters of environment and ecology. By linking the concepts of life, equality, justice, inter-generational equity, historical responsibilities, the idea of climate justice embraces a broad spectrum of human rights issues. The crude reality is that the people least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences over time. The term climate justice indicates the actual legal action on climate change issues which are realities in many countries now. Efforts have been increased in many countries and communities to use national and international judiciary systems for enforcing climate justice against federal governments and industrial entities.

Developed industrial countries are liable for the emission of greenhouse gas, which causes global warming. So, disbursement of funds as compensation to climate change affected countries is mandatory for enhancing their adaptation facilities. In this respect, the historical responsibilities of high carbon-emitting states should be determined following existing legal mechanisms.

In Bangladesh, the effects of climate change led to rising sea levels, severe flooding, prolonged droughts and frequent cyclones. And the impact of climate change on human lives are loss of lives, colossal damage of assets, endangered livelihood, displacement of people from their lands, and continuous stream of internal migration. There are nineteen coastal districts that are most vulnerable to the effect of global warming. Reports showed that nearly six million people in Bangladesh are already exposed to high salinity and the number is expected to increase to 13.6 million by 2050 and to 14.8 million by 2080. These vulnerable districts are facing saline intrusion causing steady destruction of crops and grains production. The visible deforestation in the area is also a result of climate change. Effect on natural fish breeding is also recorded in the coastal belt. As these districts are situated in low-lying lands, the predicted sea-level rise will affect gravely the people of these areas. Farmers’ fields are already affected as heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding and waterlogging and increasing soil and water salinity are hampering agricultural production. The Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest known for its biodiversity and wildlife, is particularly under threat because of its topography and coastal location. Saline intrusion in this region will negatively affect 14 mangrove species, especially the Sundari tree.

Bangladesh has achieved tremendous economic growth and development in recent years, but climate change is posing major threat to future development and economic growth. There is a paradoxical relationship between development and climate change in Bangladesh.

The economic growth and other development successes did not change the scenario of climate hazards and their deadly consequences on people’s lives. It is because the development policies and practices did not include environmental consideration and marginalised communities. The marginalised people are more exposed to climate hazards, but they have resource scarcity and weak adaptation mechanisms. They aren’t getting proper means to combat those hazards. They don’t have access to information that will help them to better adapt with the changing climate. While climate change is increasingly threatening women, minorities, and indigenous people, their access to resources is decreasing or static.

But, can the government alone be made liable for all these hazards and their deadly consequences on human lives? No. This is where the question of climate justice play role. It allows compensation from states and multinational corporations responsible for emitting carbon gas, global warming, risking biodiversity and wildlife.

So, we have to raise voice for formulating climate justice mechanisms in the judicial system, which will ensure compensations for people and communities endangered by climate change. Civil society organisations, government institutions and other stakeholders in the development sector should come forward for presenting the cause of Bangladesh in international forums. The debate should take place in public sphere for raising awareness among people regarding climate justice, which will help to mobilise people’s voices for immediate action.


Ataur Rahman is a researcher and development professional.

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