BD mostly at risk of climate change impact: Anjali Acharya of WB
Locations populated by 134 million people in Bangladesh to become hotspots by 2050, she says
Anjali Acharya is a Senior Environmental Specialist in the World Bank's East Asia and Pacific Region. Based in Singapore, she is taking the lead on developing East Asia Regional Marine Debris initiatives, specifically on Indonesia. Over her 20 years at the World Bank, she has worked on a range of environmental issues including pollution management, climate change, water resources management, environmental health, biodiversity, and environmental policies.
Anjali Acharya talked to Banani Mallick of the Daily Observer on different issues including current adverse impact of climate change in Bangladesh at an event on Innovate4Climate 2019 Conference hosted by World Bank Group in Singapore at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
The five -day programme started on June 3 and concluded on June 7. The excerpts are given below.
Daily Observer (DO) : How do you review the present status of Bangladesh in regards to climate change?
Anjali Acharya: Bangladesh is among the countries mostly at risk from the impacts of climate change. Bangladesh's average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1.0�C to 1.5�C by 2050 even if preventive measures are taken along the lines of those recommended by the Paris climate change agreement of 2015. If no measures are taken average temperature in Bangladesh is predicted to increase by 1.0�C to 2.5�C. Cyclone-induced storm surges are likely to be exacerbated by a potential rise in sea level of over 27 cm by 2050 which will increase the vulnerability of some coastal populations in the country to storm surges. In Bangladesh today, approximately 134 million people live in locations that could either become moderate or severe hotspots by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario. Chittagong and Barisal emerge as most vulnerable to changes in average temperature and precipitation. According to a recent World Bank report, rising temperature and erratic rainfall can depress the living standards of more than three-quarters of the country's population by 2050. Despite the vulnerability, Bangladesh has been a frontrunner in adaptation and disaster preparedness. In addition to adoption of the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (CCSAP) 2009, the country has mainstreamed adaptation into development and invested over $10 billion to make the country more climate resilient and less vulnerable to natural disasters over the last three decades. The World Bank is committed to helping Bangladesh become more resilient to climate change.
DO: Many people are not able to understand the link between plastic pollution and climate change. Could you share your thought in this regards?
Anjali Acharya: Plastics are linked to climate change both in terms of emissions and impacts to climate adaptation. Plastic manufacturing requires oil and gas resources. The oil and gas consumption associated with the plastic industry is expected to account for 20% of total oil and gas consumption by 2050, making up 15% of the total carbon budget required to stay within 2 degrees of temperature change by 2050. Meanwhile, plastic degrading also emit ethylene and methane, two very potent greenhouse gases. On the adaptation side, plastic waste can create a serious drainage problem by clogging up cities' drains, impacting the resilience of urban areas to extreme weather events.
DO: Well, nowadays people are more interested in plastic wastes management rather than stopping plastic production. May I know your opinion which one should we follow?
Anjali Acharya: The priority should be to reduce the use of plastic through a multi-sector approach, while we do need to find a way to better manage already produced plastic as efforts to stop using plastic will take some time. In many countries, including Bangladesh, basic waste management system needs to be strengthened as dumping of wastes into the rivers is one of the major causes of plastic pollution into the ocean. At the same time, use of plastic should be regulated before the per capita amount increases like those in the top list. The World Bank is engaged through Global Plastic Action Partnership, which was launched at the 2019 World Economic Forum to translate commitments into action by fast-tracking circular economy solutions in coastal countries such as Bangladesh.
DO: Now, plastic waste issue is no more an individual concerns rather it is a global phenomenon. So now what steps could be taken nationally, regionally and globally to bring out a positive solution?
Anjali Acharya: Plastic issue is trans-boundary issue and therefore requires global cooperation. In order to address marine litter, the World Bank through South Asia Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP) has developed a regional action plan with the assistance of UNEP's Global Program of Action (GPA). In May, nearly all the countries agreed to add mixed plastic scrap to the Basel Convention, restricting shipments of plastic waste to poorer countries. With such shipments restricted, responsible management of plastic wastes by each country will be also important. Bangladesh is a signatory to the Basel Convention.
DO: Bangladesh government has launched multiple steps to stop illegal plastic production and marketing. For example, banning plastic bags, launching campaign, awareness program but still plastic production is going on, could you share your thoughts?
Anjali Acharya: We believe that awareness campaign is the right first step forward to reduce the demands of plastic. This will eventually be followed by exploring policy options as well as putting pressure on the producers of plastic to think of alternatives. Some companies which use plastic for packaging are already thinking about solution to plastic issues. We have seen the momentum in the workshop on sustainable management of plastic held in Dhaka last February, which was co-organized by the Department of Environment, Ministry of Environment, and Forest and Climate Change, private companies, and the World Bank and attended by many stakeholders.
DO: Environment activists and experts demand some rules and regulation be imposed on the multinational companies in regards of plastic production. Could you share your view?
Anjali Acharya: Some countries are already banning certain types of harmful plastics. In Bangladesh, the notification of banning of plastic shopping bags of 2002 and subsequent amendment notification in 2008 and the statutory regulatory order (SRO) of 2018 are currently in force for regulating use of plastic for packaging, which is the main cause of plastic wastes. Draft rule is being prepared for addressing the challenge of managing plastic waste in more comprehensive manner. While rules and regulations are important, implementing these rules and regulations is equally important.
DO: Many countries are talking a lot about plastic recycling. Do you think plastic recycling is the solution to combating climate change?
Anjali Acharya: Plastic pollution aggravates climate change risks, but it is not the only cause for climate change. While recycling plastics will help mitigate GHG emissions, it will not be a complete solution. Recycling plastic produces fewer GHG emissions than the equivalent amount of virgin plastic production.
DO: Bangladesh is one of worst victims of climate change. Unfortunately we are denied compensation from the developed countries, how do you review this issue?
Anjali Acharya: There are various financial resources available to help developing countries achieve lower emission and climate-resilient development. Bangladesh benefits from some of such resources like Green Climate Fund (GCF).The World Bank is helping Bangladesh increase resilience to climate change. All its recent projects ensure climate co-benefits. The World Bank supports Bangladesh to build stronger disaster-coping mechanisms-such as cyclone shelters that double up as school in regular weather. These shelters have significantly reduced the impact of recent storms, cyclones, and floods in terms of numbers of deaths and economic losses. Most recently, World Bank financing helped build 240 new cyclone shelters; repair 387 km of embankment; complete 17,500 hectares of block plantations and 2,000 km of strip plantations in climate vulnerable areas, among other efforts.