Bangladesh contributes less than 1% to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, the country ranks 7th and 9th in the global climate risk index and number of deaths, due to climate-induced disasters, respectively. While Bangladesh’s high population density (~1200 people/ sq km) – is conducive to building businesses, in the case of climate vulnerability, it further exacerbates risks for the nation.
Given the current trajectory, the rapidly changing climate conditions will trigger annual GDP losses, in the range of 1 to 2%. Beyond these macro implications, there are lasting consequences for food security due to the loss of arable land (up to 1.75% per year), for education due to the breakdown of school infrastructure, for health due to high salinity and waterlogging, and for livelihood due to loss of income and assets.
At a policy level, the country has adopted policies like Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2009 and Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, and National Adaptation Plan 2023-2050 for building climate resilience in Bangladesh.
However, to combat climate change, synergistic initiatives are needed from both public and private players. Additionally, as the LDC graduation takes place in a few years, the country will lose access to development financing like the Green Climate Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund.
Embracing human-centered climate smart product designs with incentives for the private sector to contribute. The applications can be public services, including transportation, water, and waste management, and in industries like affordable housing, healthcare, financial services, skills, and education, where the private sector can take leadership. Cities will invariably face a continued influx of people, and it would be imperative to build sustainable infrastructure to support the growth. Decentralization and building important commercial hubs other than in tier 1 cities would be crucial as well. Lastly, circular economy initiatives centered around citizen participation will go a long way toward building a recycling culture.
Incentivizing the benefits of decarbonization can help abate emissions from the industrial, energy, agriculture, and transport sectors. Additionally, doing so will improve health conditions and enhance the air quality in cities. With the current rate of air pollution, both children and the aged population are vulnerable, and decarbonization can save up to 1 million lives by 2030. While sectors like RMG/ Textile are already uptaking green technologies – boosting uptake can also help improve industry competitiveness. For example, a greener-knit composite factory can command better export branding as well as save costs through resource optimization and access to lower cost of funding. Smart low-carbon agriculture can also help, but practices need to be incentivized and scaled. Lastly, renewable energy needs to be a stronger focus. This is tricky for Bangladesh, given its limited land mass. However, innovations like rooftop or street solar can help push the boundaries while exploring other options like wind and tidal waves.
Promote sustainable practices like circularity to ensure resource utilization. A circular economy can help in bolstering climate resilience by minimizing the extraction of natural resources, increasing waste prevention, and optimizing the environmental, social, material, and economic values of materials, components, and products throughout their lifecycle. This is perhaps the most needed in the ready-made garments (RMG) and textile sectors of Bangladesh since these two sectors contribute to 15.4% and 12.4% of total industrial CO2 emissions in the country, respectively. With the help of development partners, philanthropic bodies, private sector players, and key stakeholders, the process of “going green” and becoming more sustainable is already underway. To that end, LightCastle Partners will be conducting a series of dialogues and private-public engagements to bring together key stakeholders within the garment and textile ecosystem to bolster sustainability and greater competitiveness in the face of the fourth industrial revolution and automation as part of the Oporajita: Collective Impact on the Future of Work in Bangladesh project funded by the H&M Foundation and implemented by Asia Foundation in Bangladesh.
Easing and improving the enabling environment will not only help the adoption of national plans and policies but would also encourage domestic and international investments. In the public sector, local government agencies need to be further empowered so that they can implement and plan through a decentralized approach. Sectors like renewables, water and waste management, and agriculture would need smart capital and collaboration with international players will open new avenues for capital and technical expertise. However, for that, we need to improve the business environment as well as make domestic capital/ profit repatriation processes easier. Lastly, the greening of the financial sector will be imperative to encourage more green investments and enable more green businesses to flourish. Stronger policies around impact investing, including better impact measurement and management practices, along with the right incentives for the investors, will ensure more capital flow.
An inclusive and synergistic effort is needed between the public, development, and private sectors as Bangladesh combats climate change and builds sustainable solutions.
WRITTEN BY: Bijon Islam
Bijon is the co-founder and CEO of LightCastle Partners, an organization that focuses on creating data-driven opportunities for growth and impact for development partners, corporates, SMEs, and Startups. Over the last ten years, Bijon has led the company in engagements across 150+ businesses/development partners, 650+ SMEs/Startups, and 40+ accelerator programs in multiple industries including Technology, Agriculture, Health, Ed-tech, Energy, E-commerce, Logistics, and Manufacturing.
Previously Bijon has worked with Citibank, N.A. and Citi Foundation and oversaw the execution of Bangladesh's first Interest Rate Swap, Equity Convertible Bonds, Largest IPO, Microfinance Securitization, and Block Equity Trades. Due to outstanding performance, Bijon received the CEO Excellence Awards for two years in the organization. He completed his BBA and MBA from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka.