Prime minister Sheikh Hasina along with GCA chair and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon jointly opened the GCA regional office in Bangladesh virtually on 8 September 2020
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina along with GCA chair and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon jointly opened the GCA regional office in Bangladesh virtually on 8 September 2020PID

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday inaugurated the South Asian Regional Office of Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) in Bangladesh, urging all countries concerned to increase their “determined contributions” to combat the climate change menace and execute the 2015 Paris Agreement, reports news agency BSS.

“As the climate change is a global affair, I would like to call upon the countries to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 31 December this year in tackling the menace as well as implement the 2015 Paris Agreement,” she said.

The prime minister along with GCA chair and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon jointly opened the GCA regional office in Bangladesh virtually.

The opening of the regional adaptation centre in Dhaka has been dedicated to the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The prime minister expressed the hope that this office will serve as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ and a solution-broker for climate adaptation measures in this region.

“I hope this regional office will share best adaptation practices of Bangladesh as well as other countries and exchange practices within the region. It will serve as a Centre of Excellence and a solution-broker for adaptation measures in the region,” she said.

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Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and the GCA chair joined the virtual function, while GCA chief executive officer in Rotterdam professor Patrick V Verkooijen delivered the welcome speech.

Bangladesh finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen and environment, forest and climate change minister Shahab Uddin as well as ministers concerned of South Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Bhutan spoke at the inaugural function.

South Asia is the most vulnerable region to climate-induced natural disasters like cyclone, flood, tidal surge, drought, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood, landslides and avalanches. Even a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature will have severe consequences for Bangladesh and the region
Sheikh HasinaSheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina also expected that GCA Dhaka office would support Bangladesh during its chairmanship to Climate Vulnerable Forum and Vulnerable-20, two climate-based important international bodies under the UNFCCC process in the next two years.

She simultaneously urged the GCA to explore the opportunity of supporting the Delta Coalition on a long-term basis.

Sheikh Hasina also called for greater cooperation and collaboration among the nations to fight the coronavirus impacts.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic fallout calls for greater cooperation and collaboration among the nations. We should not leave each other rather forge unity to fight the current crisis or any such one in the future,” she said.

She said South Asia is the most vulnerable region to climate-induced natural disasters like cyclone, flood, tidal surge, drought, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood, landslides and avalanches. Even a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature will have severe consequences for Bangladesh and the region.

“We also must not forget the vulnerability of the children, women, elderly people and people with special needs against disasters,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh remains committed to implementing the Paris Agreement and adopting all the measures to prevent rise of temperature from the emission of Green House Gases and other environmental degradations.

The Netherlands is pleased to have Bangladesh as an ally. We stand shoulder to shoulder: two delta countries on the front line of the battle to deal with the effects of climate change
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte

She said her government has undertaken various mitigation and adaptation programmes under Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan formulated in 2009 to offset climate change impacts.

“We’ve established Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund in 2009, and so far allocated US$ 430 million from our own resources to implement the action plan,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina said her government has also been spending about one per cent of GDP equivalent to US$ 2 billion per year since 2010 for adaptation purposes.

She said the government has formulated a 100-year plan called ‘Bangladesh Delta Plan-2100’ as a long-term plan to face the challenges of climate change and natural disasters.

The prime minister said in the past decade alone, nearly 700 million people, half of the region’s population, have been affected by climate-related disasters.

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“Before people can recover from one disaster caused by natural hazards, another one strikes, reversing any progress made. To end this cycle, South Asia needs to build greater resilience,” she went on.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is a unique example of climate vulnerability and resilience and the people here have time and again shown their resilience against natural or man-made disasters. “Yet, there remain a lot of things to be changed.”

The prime minister said she thinks other countries in the region also have similar experiences and some good practices on adaptive measures. “I believe, together we can safeguard and build a better future for all of us,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina extended her sincere thanks to all concerned including GCA chair Ban Ki-moon, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and GCA chief executive officer professor Patrick V Verkooijen for organising and joining the wonderful event.

“We’ll fight together and work together (on climate change adaptation) and we’ll achieve together our goal,” she said.

Ban Ki-moon in his speech highly praised Bangladesh for combatting successfully the climate change effects and natural disasters.

“People around the globe know well that Bangladesh is the best example of successful case to tackle climate change and natural calamities and that’s why we’ve decided to set up GCA regional office in Dhaka,” he said.

The Dutch prime minister in his video message congratulated Bangladesh on being selected for establishment of GCA regional office, the first in South Asia. “It’s clear sign of Bangladesh’s leadership on climate change adaptation,” he said.

He further said he looks forward to seeing Bangladesh grow its regional and global leadership on climate adaptation even more. “Because this is the kind of leadership we need. The Netherlands is pleased to have Bangladesh as an ally. We stand shoulder to shoulder: two delta countries on the front line of the battle to deal with the effects of climate change.”

Rutte also said our countries are only too aware of the importance of climate adaptation. As well as reducing our carbon footprint, it’s the perfect avenue for investment and innovation. If we invest in adaptation now, we’ll be better prepared for climate change down the line. And yes, it will cost money. But the long-term benefit will far outweigh the short-term cost. Investments in climate-resilient agriculture, green cities and infrastructure, and adaptive water management will not only pay for themselves. They will also protect human lives and the natural environment.

“We can already see that in practice. On 20 May, Bangladesh was hit by Cyclone Amphan. Early-warning systems, cyclone shelters, alert citizens and effective measures all helped minimise the impact. Of course, crops were destroyed, and embankments collapsed, but the damage was less severe than in the past. And people were able to reopen their businesses soon after the storm had died down. An example of true resilience, which will only be enhanced by Bangladesh’s ambitious Delta Plan 2100.

“All this shows that we need to stick to this path. Especially now, in this time of coronavirus. It’s certainly a major crisis, but it also offers us a unique opportunity. Now is the time to make the changes we need to build a climate-resilient world. To increase prosperity and improve public health. But also to ‘build back better’, fostering green and inclusive recovery.”

Rutte hoped to seize this momentum. “I hope we can take new steps to prepare the world better for the effects of climate change… And I know that we’ll be able to count on Bangladesh’s leadership, cooperation and commitment, even in this time of crisis.”

The GCA regional centre is housed at the new building of the Department of Environment at Agargaon in Dhaka.

GCA Bangladesh will have both international and locally-recruited staff with some seconded officers from the environment, forest and climate change ministry.

It is expected that the headquarters of the Global Centre on Adaptation in Rotterdam will support GCA Bangladesh through a matrix structure, acting also as the Secretariat of CVF and V20, two climate-based important international organisations under the chairmanship of Bangladesh.

In addition, the GCA will serve as a Secretariat of Delta Coalition to contribute to important works related to blue economy.

GCA Bangladesh will also support Bangladesh in preparing and contributing to the Climate Adaptation Summit on 22 January 2021 and COP26 in November 2021.

GCA Bangladesh will facilitate and develop on-the-ground action in South Asia to accelerate adaptation and address climate change vulnerabilities across the entire region.