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Bangladesh: From a Climate Victim to the Climate Leader


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Bangladesh has registered a great success in global climate diplomacy by abandoning its passivity and dependence syndrome as a climate victim. What criteria did Bangladesh fulfil to reckon with as a climate leader? Is such iteration self-proclaimed rhetoric, or can it be supported by theoretical and empirical findings? This article investigates these questions by adopting a leadership framework and scrutinizing Bangladesh's role in climate change adaptation, mitigation, negotiation, and knowledge creation. This article reveals that Bangladesh is now acting as an emerging climate leader in the global climate arena. Bangladesh provides unilateral leadership in climate issues through establishing 'good examples' in inspiring others to follow the pathway by drafting multiple domestic climate policies such as the National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA), Climate Change Trust Fund, Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, etc. In addition, Bangladesh assists other climate-vulnerable countries by sharing ideas, knowledge, practice and invention in climate change adaptation, mitigation, and resilience and acts as an intellectual leader. Finally, in climate change negotiations, Bangladesh performs as a problem-solving leader on behalf of the Least Developed Countries. Bangladesh's image as a robust actor with a timely response to climate issues turns it into a legitimate voice on global platforms. Therefore, this article concludes that calling Bangladesh a climate leader is not rhetoric as it shows robust performance in several leadership modes to solve this global collective action problem.
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From a Climate Victim to the Climate Leader
Syed Ashikur Rhaman
Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi,
Bangladesh has registered a great success in global climate diplomacy by abandoning its
passivity and dependence syndrome as a climate victim. What criteria did Bangladesh
full to reckon with as a climate leader? Is such iteration self-proclaimed rhetoric,
or can it be supported by theoretical and empirical ndings? This article investigates
these questions by adopting a leadership framework and scrutinizing Bangladesh’s
role in climate change adaptation, mitigation, negotiation, and knowledge creation.
This article reveals that Bangladesh is now acting as an emerging climate leader in
the global climate arena. Bangladesh provides unilateral leadership in climate issues
through establishing ‘good examples’ in inspiring others to follow the pathway by
drafting multiple domestic climate policies such as the National Adaptation Program
of Action (NAPA), Climate Change Trust Fund, Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, etc.
In addition, Bangladesh assists other climate-vulnerable countries by sharing ideas,
knowledge, practice and invention in climate change adaptation, mitigation, and
resilience and acts as an intellectual leader. Finally, in climate change negotiations,
Bangladesh performs as a problem-solving leader on behalf of the Least Developed
Countries. Bangladesh’s image as a robust actor with a timely response to climate issues
turns it into a legitimate voice on global platforms. Therefore, this article concludes
that calling Bangladesh a climate leader is not rhetoric as it shows robust performance
in several leadership modes to solve this global collective action problem.
Keywords: Bangladesh, Climate Leader, Adaptation, Mitigation, Negotiation, Sheikh
Bangladesh has always been recognized as one of the worst victims of climate change
among the Least Developed Countries (LDC) (Ahmed, Alam, & Rahman, 1999; Ayers
& Huq, 2009; Nishat & Mukherjee, 2013). In the Global Climate Index Report 2020,
Bangladesh ranked seven among the most climate-vulnerable countries (Eckstein,
Journal of Bangladesh and Global Affairs
Volume 01, Number 01, 2022; ISSN: 2791-075X (Print)
Syed Ashikur Rhaman
© 2022 The KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA)
Syed Ashikur Rahman
Künzel, Schäfer, & Winges, 2019). Due to the environmental degradation caused by
climate change, the people of Bangladesh are facing threats in leading their lives as
they lose property and material goods, face food insecurity due to the erosion and
loss of fertility of agricultural land, lose their employment, counter water scarcity, and
diseases. However, this narrative has taken a new shift in recent years. Over the past
ve decades, Bangladesh has registered a great success in global climate diplomacy by
abandoning its passivity and dependence syndrome as a climate victim.
Bangladesh is now represented as an active actor rather than the passive prey of
climate change only. Roy et al. (2016, p.1), for example, argued, ‘people in Bangladesh
now acknowledge that climate change is a reality, and that Bangladesh has to adapt it.’
Therefore, Bangladesh is preparing itself to ght the adverse effects of climate-induced
hazards and has shown remarkable success (Khan, 2022). Inspired by such success,
scholars are urging a shift in Bangladesh’s narrative from the most susceptible to the
most robust and adaptable country to climate change (Huq, 2018). On the other hand,
Bangladesh is termed as a climate leader by many at both national and international
levels (Baillat, 2018a; Huq, 2020; Kazi, 2020; Thomson, 2019). For example, in
his study, Baillat (2018b) has named Bangladesh a ‘Weak Power Climate Leader.’
Similarly, Thomson (2019) has argued, ‘Bangladesh is a world leader in climate
change adaptation.’ This transformation in the image of Bangladesh from ‘most climate
vulnerable to an active climate leader’ has triggered a set of essential questions. What
criteria did Bangladesh fulll in becoming a global climate leader? Is such iteration
self-proclaimed rhetoric, or can it be grounded on theoretical and empirical ndings?
This article will investigate these questions.
This article is divided into seven sections. In the introduction, the context and
key questions are conveyed. The next section focuses on the contours and parameters
of leadership in global climate issues based on the existing theoretical literature. In
the following four sections, this article discusses Bangladesh’s contribution to dealing
with climate change issues. The nal section portrays the concluding remarks with the
key arguments.
Conceptual framework: What makes a state leader in climate issues?
Researchers have made a deliberate attempt to understand the role of leadership in
nding ways to deal with the global climate change. Leadership is indispensable,
according to Karlsson et al. (2012, p. 46), ‘while confronting complex transnational
problems in which the stakes are high and solutions can be blocked by collective
action problems.’ Therefore, a leader needs to work on fullling specic intentions to
come up with some solutions to collective action problems (Malnes, 1995; Underdal,
1994; Young, 1991). Good intention in pursuit of some common good distinguishes
the leadership from narrow self-interest based power politics (Malnes, 1995, p. 92).
It is also essential in the sense that intention works as a catalyst to involve a party in
such a role, which may show disinterest in taking the leadership role though having the
capacity to do so.
Journal of Bangladesh and Global Affairs ■ 93
However, as pointed out by Saul & Seidel, (2011, p. 902), ‘good intentions are
not enough, a leader also needs to nd out specic means to fulll his intentions.’ To
categorize the means of leadership, scholars have provided different leadership modes.
In his study, Young (1991, p. 281) talked about ‘structural leadership, entrepreneurial
leadership, and intellectual leadership which regularly come into play.’ Skodvin
& Andresen (2006, p. 14), on the other hand, ‘distinguish between three modes of
leadership: power-based, directional and entrepreneurial.’ This paper, however, adopted
the framework suggested by Saul & Seidel (2011, p. 902), where they argued for ve
different categories of leadership, namely ‘unilateral leadership, structural leadership,
problem-solving leadership, intellectual leadership, and institutional leadership.’ This
framework is broad enough to capture all the scholarly ideas of the leadership types.
Unilateral leadership simply means ‘leadership by example’ (Oberthür & Roche
Kelly, 2008, p. 36). A leader can do so: a) by ‘demonstrating a credible domestic climate
change policy’ (Karlsson et al., 2012, p. 48), b) by making the rst-move to inuence
others (Skodvin & Andresen, 2006, p. 14), c) by ‘achieving his self-imposed climate
goals’ (Saul & Seidel, 2011, p. 902). However, as mentioned by Underdal (1994, p.
185), cheap talks may not be sufcient, it is essential to signify the role of leadership
to turn his words into actions.
While discussing structural leadership, scholars have mentioned about ‘hard’
power and ‘soft incentives’ to persuade other parties to follow particular climate norms
and rules. According to Young (1991, p. 289), such leadership is exercised by “arm-
twisting and bribery.” In addition, it is also required to be a structural leader to have
‘control over events important to others’ (Skodvin & Andresen, 2006, p. 14). In problem-
solving leadership, ‘a leader pushes on international negotiations and tries to bring
result by using his negotiating skills’ such as by inuencing the agenda of negotiation,
facilitating communications between parties, and linking different problems to each
other (Saul & Seidel, 2011, p. 903). When a party employs its cognitive resources,
namely ideas, norms, and knowledge to deal with a collective problem, it involves
intellectual leadership (Karlsson et al., 2012, p. 48). In doing so, scientic practice,
expertise, and institutions play a central role. In institutional leadership, a leader tries
to develop particular institutions to deal with climate change. Finally, as argued by
Young (1991, p. 303), ‘no one form of leadership is adequate by itself, success in
efforts require the contributions of several forms of leadership.’
Bangladesh in climate change mitigation: Low emitter, but committed to reduce
In managing climate change, one of the key approaches is to adopt mitigation initiatives,
to decrease the emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHGs), especially methane and carbon
dioxide (Fisher et al., 2007). Fawzy et al., (2020) have identied three major strategies
to abate global climate change, i.e. conventional mitigation, negative emissions,
and rediative forcing geoengineering. In practice, the conventional mitigation, the
reduction of fossil-based carbon dioxide emissions, initiatives largely followed by the
countries, both developed and developing, in order to lessen the quantity of human
Syed Ashikur Rahman
emissions of GHGs. Such reduction may be attained by: 1) reforestation, 2) turning the
energy production system to low-carbon emission, 3) implementing the efcient use of
energy in the domestic level, 4) ensuring emission-curbing technologies in industries,
5) introducing emission-efcient waste management (Mukhopadhyay, Karisiddaiah,
& Mukhopadhyay, 2018). If these mitigation initiatives can be successfully carried out
decisively and in an early phase, it will turn out to be an important instrument to ght
against global climate change.
Sensing the importance of abating further climate deterioration, mitigation
initiatives hold particular importance in formulating policies regarding climate change.
However, as identied by Venema and Rehman (2007), in vulnerable developing
nations, reducing GHGs emissions still is a minor policy concern. This policy lacuna is
partly explained by Ayers & Huq (2009, p. 753), where they point out, ‘mitigation has
been treated as an issue for developed countries, which hold the greatest responsibility
for climate change, while adaptation is seen as a priority for the South, where mitigative
capacity is low and vulnerability is high.’ Therefore, the climate-vulnerable countries
want to put the responsibility on developed economies to take mitigation initiatives to
decrease the GHGs emissions.
Bangladesh, however, is an early mover among the Least Developed Countries
to draft necessary policies to contribute her part in reducing global GHGs emissions.
From the beginning, Bangladesh strictly followed the framework of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. In
her speech in launching the program of the 2012 Climate Vulnerability Monitor,
Sheikh Hasina iterated, ‘Let me afrm that Bangladesh, as a responsible member of
the international community, will never exceed the average per capita emission of the
developing countries. This is our commitment to a low carbon development path ‘
(Asia Society, 2012)
Being a party to the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, Bangladesh has undertaken
a number of signicant initiatives and achieved several milestones in mitigating
climate change. For example, it had taken part in the Asia Least Cost Green House Gas
Abatement Strategy (ALGAS) Study in order to develop a national GHGs reduction
plans and projects while remaining in coherence with national development priorities
(Ayers & Huq, 2009). Bangladesh had also submitted three national communications
to UNFCCC to inform the national status of GHGs emissions, climate change and
vulnerability and related matters (Government of Bangladesh, 2002, 2012, 2018).
Bangladesh presented its Low Carbon Development Pathway and NAMAs to the
UNFCCC in June 2011 (Ministry of Environment and Forests, 2011). Finally, in
2015, Bangladesh submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)
to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with
an ambitious GHG reduction target of 15% below business as usual (BAU) by 2030
(Government of Bangladesh, 2020).
As a mitigation strategy, Bangladesh identies six sectors, namely agriculture,
forestry, industry, energy, transport, and waste, where it takes plan to reduce Short-Lived
Journal of Bangladesh and Global Affairs ■ 95
Pollutant from the environment that are responsible for climate change (Kakakhel,
2015). For example, the Bangladesh government has expressed a commitment to reduce
fossil-fuel electricity output. In their study, Baky et al., (2017) claimed that Bangladesh
now generates 3.5% of electricity from renewable sources. In addition, Bangladesh has
shown extraordinary success in establishing solar systems for domestic usage. Islam
and Khan (2017) found out that Bangladesh has the world’s largest domestic solar
system market, with 11% of the population utilizing solar electricity in their homes. In
waste management, Bangladesh implemented the National 3R, namely reduce, reuse
and recycle, Strategy in 2010 to minimize plastic and other waste (Government of
Bangladesh, 2010). In recent years, Bangladesh has also increased its manufacture
of “green bricks” which has had a proven impact on lowering GHG emissions and
improving air quality. Therefore, Bangladesh is strongly preparing itself to increase
climate change mitigation by contributing to reducing global GHG emissions (See
table 1).
Table 1: Policies of Bangladesh Government by sectors to reduce GHG emissions
(Dion et al., 2012, pp. 14-15)
Sectors Policies of Bangladesh Government
Promote agroforestry
Lower emissions from agricultural land (soil carbon sequestration)
Improve water efciency and energy efciency
Develop solar renewable energy capacity
Develop wind renewable energy capacity
Develop hydro renewable energy capacity
Encourage energy conservation, introduce demand management
Efcient building design, refrigeration, more energy efcient
lighting (e.g., CFLs) and cooling
Make cooking less carbonintensive: substitute fuels, have more
efcient stoves, use solar cookers
Make use of waste-to-fuel technologies
Forestry Afforestation and reforestation
Disseminate technologies to modernize brick kilns and make
technology less carbon-intensive
Modernize and rehabilitate old machinery: in urea fertilizer plants,
sugar mills and cement factories
Transportation Improve eet efciency, replace inefcient vehicles and engines
Waste Improve systems of waste management and disposal
Methane capture and electricity production
Though Bangladesh is one of the least GHG emitters, it adopts robust policies in
climate change mitigation. In an article written in The Financial Time, Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina (2021) has argued, ‘Only a tiny fraction of global warming can be
Syed Ashikur Rahman
attributed to Bangladesh’s carbon emissions. Even so, we are committed to leading
the path to a solution.’ Therefore, Bangladesh shows remarkable success in fullling
Renewable Energy Target by introducing clean energy sources. However, there are
several obstacles hindering the ambitious plan of Bangladesh for climate change
mitigation. Still, Bangladesh is a good example for other climate-vulnerable nations to
abate global climate degradation with limited resources.
Bangladesh in climate change adaptation: Early mover and showing the way
for others
Climate change adaptation is a critical approach for managing and reducing the risks
and challenges posed by the changing climate. According to Füssel (2007, p.163),
adaptation is the attempts ‘to moderate the adverse effects of climate change through a
wide range of actions that are targeted at the vulnerable system’. Therefore, adaptation
intends to increase resilience and decrease vulnerability to climatic changes and future
disasters. Since climate change adaptation has been a global agenda, many developing
countries which are adversely affected by the impacts of climate change are trying to
manage the issue. Bangladesh is no exception. Although Bangladesh is regarded as the
most vulnerable country to climate change, surprisingly, Bangladesh has managed to
become a forerunner in the arena of climate change adaptation. Bangladesh has been
a role model by making the world’s rst national adaptation program, which paves
the way for adaptation for the other climate-vulnerable countries around the world.
Hence, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is regarded as an active leader in climate
diplomacy, calls Bangladesh the world’s ‘adaptation capital’ (Khan, 2022).
As climate change is considered a global issue that cannot be resolved by a
single nation, requires collective response, therefore all the countries are following
the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ principle for addressing the effects of
climate change (Cooke, 2018). Bangladesh has been playing as an active subscriber of
the principle. Over the years, Bangladesh has intensied its efforts to promote climate
change adaptation through global platforms. Bangladesh adopted the UNFCCC in 1992
and ratied it in 1994. Bangladesh’s Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) is in
charge of organizing the UNFCCC process in the country. Moreover, it is also playing
an important role to represent the adaptation issues at the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Huq & Rabbani, 2011).
Climate change affects all aspects of Bangladesh and is one of the primary
obstacles to the government’s goal of being a developed nation by 2041. This worry
prompted a dramatic shift in Bangladesh’s policy and institutional structure (Huq
& Rabbani, 2011). Cooke (2018) argues that the response of the Government of
Bangladesh to the climate adaptation has been similarly impressive at domestic level,
and a glaring example for other countries to follow. Bangladesh has taken a number
of crucial climate adaptation policies in the last two decades (See Table 2). In fact,
Bangladesh was the very rst country in the world to complete a ‘National Adaptation
Programme of Action’ (NAPA) in 2005 which highlights on coping with the changing
Journal of Bangladesh and Global Affairs ■ 97
patterns of temperature, rainfall, and sea-level rise in Bangladesh due to the impact of
climate change (Islam, 2021). Moreover, Bangladesh has adopted the ‘Bangladesh
Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan’ (BCCSAP) in 2009, which is seen as an
integral aspect of the country’s overall development plan in order to prioritize the
combating of climate change and promote climate change adaptation (Government
of Bangladesh, 2009). It is one of the rst landmark documents of climate change
adaptation among the developing countries in the world. Bangladesh also develops
‘Climate Trust Fund’ to provide nance for adaptation and resilience program at
community level. According to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, ‘every year our country
is spending $5 billion for climate change sensitive and adaptation projects. Of the
amount, we spent $2 billion on climate-change-sensitive projects and $3billion on
adaptation systems.’ (Dhaka Tribune, 2020)
Table 2: Climate Adaptation Policies of Bangladesh Government
Adaptation Policies Year
1. National Adaption Programme of Action (NAPA) rst adopted in 2005, and
updated in 2009
2. Bangladesh Renewable Energy Policy 2008
3. Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan
rst adopted in 2009, and
updated in 2018
4. Climate Resilient Crop Variety and Technology Devel-
opment Policy
5. Climate Change Trust Act 2010
6. Disaster Management Act of Bangladesh 2012
7. Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Au-
thority Act (SREDA)
8. Energy Efciency and Conservation Master Plan 2015
9. National Environmental Policy 2018
10. Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 2018
11. Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan 2021
In community-based adaptation (CBA), many practitioners and scientists are familiar
with Bangladesh’s contribution (Islam, 2018). CBA is an approach to adaptation that
aims to reduce the risks of climate change to the world’s poorest people by involving
them in the practices and planning of adaptation (Forsyth, 2013). Bangladesh has
introduced community-based afforestation and reforestation, climate-resilient oating
agriculture, and community-based ecosystem conservations, etc. Many climate-
vulnerable and developing countries like Bangladesh are perusing the CBA approach
in order to foster the sustainable community-based adaptation of climate change
impacts. Although Bangladesh is facing some limitations, Bangladesh has been
consistently developing and focusing on the community-led solutions to adjust
to cope with the impacts of climate change (Kakakhel, 2015). Recognizing
Bangladesh’s contribution to and addressing climate change, the United Nations
Syed Ashikur Rahman
Environment Programme (UNEP) announced Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
‘Champion of the Earth’ in 2015 (The Daily Star, 2015).
Bangladesh in climate change negotiation: A voice to reckon with great
No country bargains on climate change alone at the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but rather as a member of negotiating
groups. As a result, Bangladesh is classied as a Least Developed Country (LDC) and
participates in the negotiation as a member of the LDC group. Bangladesh even led
the LDC group from January 1, 2005, to December 31, 2006. Bangladesh currently
plays a vital role in negotiations by remaining in the top tier of LDC negotiators. The
LDC group has chosen several qualied negotiators from Bangladesh to represent
the LDCs on various matters due to their knowledge of those topics (Huq, 2018). In
addition, Bangladesh has also been chosen to serve on the Adaptation Fund Board, the
Green Climate Fund Board, and the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International
Mechanism on Loss and Damage, all of which were established by the UNFCCC over
the years (Huq, 2022a).
Bangladesh is also seen as a leading voice in the international arena on behalf
of climate-vulnerable countries. Bangladesh always plays the role of a critical vocal
in establishing climate change as a collective global problem. For example, at the
16th World Meteorological Congress in 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged,
‘Today some countries face climate challenges, but tomorrow, the whole world will.
To save our planet and ourselves, we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ (World
Meteorological Organization, 2011) In addition, Bangladesh regularly criticizes the
major emitter countries for their ineffective acts to halt the ongoing climate change
and asks for greater participation from them. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (2021) has
Having pledged three decades ago at the Rio Earth Summit to lead the world out of the
climate and nature crises, developed nations have cut their combined greenhouse gas
emissions by less than one-seventh. That is not leadership. If western leaders listen,
engage, and act decisively on what science demands of them, there is still time to make
COP26 the success it desperately needs to be.
Bangladesh is one of the members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the
Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group of Ministers of Finance. The CVF is an international
forum of 55 member states from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the
Pacic representing 1.4 billion people who are most threatened by climate change. It
was developed to nd out the vulnerable countries’ common priorities, take actions both
internationally and locally to ght climate change, and build awareness and support to
provide support and safeguard climate-vulnerable nations. Currently, Bangladesh is
serving as the chair of both CVF and V20 for the second time. During its rst tenure
as chair from 2011 to 2013, Bangladesh had founded the rst Climate Trust Fund. In
addition, Bangladesh also bargains with developed states to lessen GHG emissions by
Journal of Bangladesh and Global Affairs ■ 99
keeping their promise, which indicates Bangladesh’s prospective attachment to climate
negotiations (Islam, 2018).
Bangladesh has played crucial role in negotiating on behalf of the climate-
vulnerable countries in the Conference of the Parties (COP) since its beginning in
1995. During COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, for example, Prime Minister Sheikh
Hasina urged for ‘urgent action’ and an obligatory agreement for most emitter countries
on abating emissions (Gomes, 2019). At present, Bangladesh bargains as chair of
CVF for the delivery of extensive contributions to ensure the Paris Agreement’s 1.5
degrees Celsius goal (Climate Vulnerable Forum, 2020). In addition, during the COP
26, Bangladesh demanded 100 billion dollars annually for adaptation and mitigation
and sustainable technology from the developed countries so that climate-vulnerable
countries could address the climate issue (UNB, 2021). Bangladesh also called for
an immediate global climate coalition to protect the upcoming generations. In her
statement at Thimphu Ambition Summit, for example, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
said, ‘I would like to underscore the signicance of positive and robust international
climate coalitions that can reduce the global carbon emission effectively to move
towards carbon neutrality before the mid-century’ (The Business Standard, 2020).
Two particular ministries, namely the Ministry of Environment, Forest and
Climate (MoEFC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), have contributed to
global climate negotiations on behalf of Bangladesh. For example, these two ministries
successfully organized the Climate Vulnerable Forum ministerial-level meeting in
2011. The representatives of CVF member countries also had adopted a 14-point
Dhaka Declaration, which Bangladesh later delivered as CVF Chair to the High-Level
Segment of the Durban Climate Change Conference (COP17) as a substantial input of
vulnerable countries (Climate Vulnerable Forum, 2011).
Bangladesh’s attempt to employ her best diplomatic instruments in dealing
with the issue of climate change is apparent. As Islam (2018) argued ‘Bangladesh was
found to be in a positive effort to play a leading role in the Conference of the Parties
(COP).’ Therefore, Bangladesh›s capacity and expertise in climate change negotiations
are recognized by other parties, and they emphasize listening to the story of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh in climate change knowledge creation: Gradually moving up in
the ladder
In climate change, effective knowledge, practice and invention are regarded as a crucial
instrument to deal with the adverse effects of climate vulnerability as well as to ensure
a healthy environment for the future generation. Interestingly, in producing climate
discourse, the climate vulnerable countries are in an advantageous position, especially
in climate change adaptation and resilience, as they are facing the climate-induced
hazard directly. Bangladesh is successful in employing such an advantage and has
turned into one of the leading countries in some specic climate arenas by providing
essential understandings, expertise and innovation. To recognize Bangladesh, it is even
termed as ‘Southern Expertise Hub’ by some in research and practice (Baillat, 2018a).
Syed Ashikur Rahman
Over the years, Bangladesh has developed its capacity and knowledge to reduce
climate and disaster risk. For example, the Cyclone Bhola devastated the coastal areas
of Bangladesh in 1970, causing the largest number of demises on record. However,
the scenario has now changed, and Bangladesh has successfully reduced the number
of death and economic losses during the last few cyclones. As Kazi (2020) argues,
this achievement is possible because ‘Bangladesh instituted disaster risk reduction
plans and legal frameworks, climate change strategies, climate change institutions,
supported community initiatives and deployed innovative technologies.’ In addition,
Bangladesh is a pioneer among the developing countries in drafting a number of plans
and strategies to deal with climate change. Sensing Bangladesh’s strength in climate
adaptation and resilience, Ban Ki Moon, former United Nations Secretary-General
named Bangladesh a ‘teacher’ to learn from.
Not only the government or non-governmental organizations are involved in
climate change invention and knowledge creation, the local communities, are also
active actor in generating different alternatives as climate adaptation measures. Anik
& Khan (2012) has identied sixteen adaptive initiatives in the North-Eastern region of
Bangladesh that local people adopt to cope with the changing climate. These measures
are: crop switching, wave protection walls, oating garden, cage agriculture, duck
rearing, re-digging of canal, construction of embankments, etc. In community-based
adaptation, Bangladesh turned into a role model to follow by others in preventing the
worse affects of climate change and disaster risk.
In addition, Bangladesh is now working to disseminate knowledge about climate
change, especially the adaptive techniques and inventions that other vulnerable countries
can adopt. Few years ago, the Bangladeshi research community on climate change
developed a collective platform named Gobeshona for knowledge creation, sharing and
usage. This consortium had already organized a number of international conferences
to establish connection between scholars from both developing and developed parts to
share their ideas. Bangladesh is also planning to establish a ‘South-South Adaptation
Technology Centre’ to disseminate experiences on different adaptation technologies
(Huq, 2022b). Therefore, Bangladesh is playing a critical role in generating knowledge,
practices and inventions on climate change.
Conclusion: Bangladesh as a climate leader
In recent scholarly and policy discussions, Bangladesh is regularly iterated as a climate
leader at the national and international levels (Baillat, 2018b; Huq, 2020; Thomson,
2019). The country has change its image as a climate-vulnerable nation in the global
climate change arena. This article has demonstrated that the image of Bangladesh
as a climate leader is not a self-proclaimed rhetoric rather is grounded in theoretical
and empirical ndings. Based on the theoretical framework the article has identied
four crucial areas, namely climate change adaptation, mitigation, negotiation, and
knowledge creation, to scrutinize Bangladesh’s role in dealing with global climate
Journal of Bangladesh and Global Affairs ■ 101
With the support of empirical data, this paper argues that Bangladesh is an
emerging climate leader. The country is well ahead from many other developed and
developing states in establishing ‘good examples’ and providing unilateral leadership,
which other may follow to deal with climate change. First, Bangladesh has adopted
a number of credible climate policies in domestic level. Being one of the climate
vulnerable nations, Bangladeshi policymakers are well aware of connecting climate
change with national development. Bangladesh has already adopted different national
policies to deal with climate change, namely the National Adaptation Program of
Action (NAPA), Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP),
Climate Change Trust Fund, Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, etc. Second, Bangladesh is a
‘rst-mover’ in a number of climate issues to inspire others to follow the pathway. For
example, Bangladesh is preparing itself to become a prosperous nation from a climate-
resilient one. Therefore, Bangladesh declared to take ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity
Plan’, the rst of its kind, to set an example for other climate vulnerable nations to
adopt a similar plan to transform their vulnerability to resilience to prosperity. Third,
Bangladesh is also working hard to achieve its climate goals.
As an intellectual leader, Bangladesh plays a crucial role in generating ideas,
knowledge, practice, and invention in climate issues, especially in climate change
adaption and resilience. For example, Bangladesh’s leadership in community-based
adaptation is well recognized by many practitioners, diplomats, and scientists (Islam,
2018). In addition, climate-vulnerable countries can use the expertise or suggestion of
Bangladesh in drafting policies to deal with climate change. Because, as mentioned
earlier that Bangladesh is a pioneer among developing countries in creating planning
and strategies regarding climate change. Finally, the creation of a research platform
named ‘Gobeshona’ by the Bangladesh researchers and practitioners contributes
signicantly to generating and disseminating climate-related knowledge and ideas.
In climate change negotiations, Bangladesh is providing problem-solving
leadership on behalf of the LDC members. Since Bangladesh has successfully
developed its image as an actor with a timely response to climate issues, it has
accrued a form of legitimacy in guiding the negotiations in global climate forums. In
addition, Bangladesh has been a leading voice in advancing the collective interests of
the climate-vulnerable nations. For example, during the COP 26, Bangladeshi Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina, the current President of CVF, had urged strongly that the
major emitters and developed countries should propose ambitious NDCs, disburse their
committed funds, disseminate technology and address the issue of loss and damage
(Chowdhury, 2021). Sensing her importance as the voice of the vulnerable, BBC had
included Sheikh Hasina among the most ve inuential dealmakers who could shape
the result of the COP 26 (McGrath, 2021).
The climate catastrophe is a complicated problem with numerous consequences.
It can be xed, either collectively or not at all. A majority of countries’ efforts to reduce
emissions and establish more sustainable economies will be futile if the world’s top
polluters do not follow suit. Still, being the most climate-vulnerable one, Bangladesh
has not the leverage to wait for an international response to climate issues. Thus,
Syed Ashikur Rahman
Bangladesh employed coordinated efforts in the last few decades and now acting as
an emerging climate leader in the global climate arena by establishing good examples
for others, employing cognitive resources to deal the climate change, and leading the
climate negotiations to solve this global collective action problem. Therefore, this
article concludes with the argument that calling Bangladesh a climate leader is not
rhetoric as it shows robust performance in several leadership modes.
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