US-led leaders’ summit on climate begins today

US President Joe Biden will host leaders from around the world in discussions highlighting the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable countries cope with unavoidable climate impacts, as well as the economic benefits of climate action.

The two-day virtual Leaders Summit on Climate with 40 leaders including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will begin on Thursday.

On the eve of the Summit, ActionAid Bangladesh placed demands before the global leaders to ‘act now’ to stop climate change. “As Bangladesh is a climate-vulnerable country, we need much attention from global leaders,” it said.

 President Biden took action on his first day in office to return the United States to the Paris Agreement.  Days later, on January 27, he announced that he would soon convene a leaders summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.

His Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry visited Bangladesh to hand over the invitation letter to the Prime Minister.

The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action.  It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow, according to the White House.

In recent years, scientists have underscored the need to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.  A key goal of both the Leaders Summit and COP26 will be to catalyze efforts that keep that 1.5-degree goal within reach.  The Summit will also highlight examples of how enhanced climate ambition will create good paying jobs, advance innovative technologies, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts.

By the time of the Summit, the United States will announce an ambitious 2030 emissions target as its new Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement.  In his invitation, the President urged leaders to use the Summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries also will contribute to stronger climate ambition.

The Summit will reconvene the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together 17 countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of global emissions and global GDP.  The President also invited the heads of other countries that are demonstrating strong climate leadership, are especially vulnerable to climate impacts, or are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.  A small number of business and civil society leaders will also participate in the Summit.

 Key themes of the Summit will include: Galvanizing efforts by the world’s major economies to reduce emissions during this critical decade to keep a limit to warming of 1.5 degree Celsius within reach. Mobilizing public and private sector finance to drive the net-zero transition and to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts. The economic benefits of climate action, with a strong emphasis on job creation, and the importance of ensuring all communities and workers benefit from the transition to a new clean energy economy. Spurring transformational technologies that can help reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, while also creating enormous new economic opportunities and building the industries of the future. Showcasing subnational and non-state actors that are committed to green recovery and an equitable vision for limiting warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, and are working closely with national governments to advance ambition and resilience. Discussing opportunities to strengthen capacity to protect lives and livelihoods from the impacts of climate change, address the global security challenges posed by climate change and the impact on readiness, and address the role of nature-based solutions in achieving net zero by 2050 goals.

 ActionAid Bangladesh’s demand

Bangladesh usually welcomes Bangla New year with rain, shower and even hailstorms. This is already the second week of the Bengali New Year-1428, but there has been little or no rain in most parts of the country. Rather unusual for this time of the year and the season. The implication of this depletion of groundwater, scarcity of water, particularly drinking water and salinity intrusion specially for the coastal districts. This change is attributed to climate change!

The southern coastal districts of Bangladesh like Satkhiraand Borguna is facing severe water crisis. Due to the increase in salinity, the sources of fresh water like ponds are drying up, and water in the tubewellsis decreasing day by day.

The usage of contaminated water has led to an increase in diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, jaundice, gastric, urinary tract infections, skin diseases, constipation, genital itching, and sores. The outbreaks appeared to be exacerbated in women with chronic diseases such as tumors and cervical cancer.

During the months of March-April, the water crisis has become severe. If we take the case of 2Unions of the Kaliganj Upazila of Satkhira, Varashimla and Mothureshpur,and 7 Unions of PathorghataUpazila of Borgunadistrtitcs, as a result of low rainfall the water levels of the adjacent ponds have drastically dropped. Attached Pond Sand Filters have become unusable.

For KaliganjUpazila of Satkhira, these ponds became the sanctuary for the tadpoles. Above 600 families of over 10 villages of Kaligonj Upazila collect water from these tadpole-infested water sources for household uses. Rahima Khatun of Narayanpur village stated, “As we don’t have any alternative source of water, so we are using this.”

Women’s prime responsibility in our communities is to collect and preserve water.When there is no water they are unable to address the need and fulfill the responsibility. Therefore, the sufferings of women and girls are escalating leading to  ‘feminization’ of water scarcity and crisis. And we also have learned from the ground that many women are being affected and suffering from diseases due to the usage of impure and contaminated water.

The medical officer of Kaligonj Upazila Health Complex Dr. Mahatab Hossain stated“Now-a-days many women are coming with urinary tract infections, genital itching and lucoria”.

The scarcity of water has a health implication for the women and girls and the entire family because the water is considered as life. It has social and economic implications, and this is doubly jeopardized when there is COVID-19 pandemic going on.The rural resilience is  threatened due to water crisis and scarcity.

A female water user of Satkhira mentioned “ The price has been doubled for the water available in markets. And again our income has been reduced due to COVID-19 pandemic so we cannot purchase water from market sources. So we are forced to use the contaminated water”. So it became a triple zeoparady for the women.

Farah Kabir, Country Director,  ActionAid Bangladesh stated-  As an emergency response, ActionAid Bangladesh is responding to the crisis by providing water to the community in the short term. In the medium term, we are working with communities to find locally led sustainable solutions to the water crisis considering future climate trajectory. But this needs a permanent solution and we are calling on the government and all development actors to work together addressing the climate crisis.

As world leaders gather for President Biden’s virtual climate summit on 22 April 2021, we,along with the communities in southern Bangladesh – who are facing a severe water crisis – argue that climate action cannot wait for far-off emission reduction targets. The global leadership must act now. It is not about the 2025 goal; it is about now. They have to take responsibility, act rationally and ensure that the community does not face this hardship, the ActionAid said.