Bangladesh is truly a climate success story

Fa few years agoBangladesh gained independence from Pakistan amid a devastating climate catastrophe. The year before, in 1970, Hurricane Bula had killed up to half a million people. The human cost of the disasterOne of the deadliest hurricanes In recorded history – it has been amplified by a woefully inadequate response by the Pakistani government. Faced with renewed demands for independence in what was then East Pakistan, the military launched a brutal and genocidal campaign of repression. In the war of independence hundreds of thousands kill what he can 200,000 women were raped, And 6 million homes It has been destroyed.

From these beginnings, Bangladesh has been, in the imaginations of much of the developed world, a child poster of poverty and a looming climate catastrophe – a warning of what will happen to the world’s poor if climate change is not addressed.

The country’s low altitude and high population density make for it clearly weak To rising sea levels and natural hazards such as hurricanes. But the narrative of Bangladesh as a climate victim in waiting is almost entirely misinformation. From the struggle for independence so far, as I wrote recently hack magazine, Bangladesh actually represents a success storyThe power of self-determination emerges when it comes to development and climate policy.

accurate saying Recent development in Bangladesh has to start with natural gas. The country’s rich domestic wealth from this resource was the impetus for its modernization.

In 1974, the government nationalized Bangladesh’s energy resources, but instead of selling its gas abroad, the country chose to keep much of it. Instead of using the gas for domestic consumption, the authorities directed it to activities such as power generation for industrial growth, fertilizer sector development, water supply for irrigation, and cement production.

This, in turn, led to the massive expansion of agricultural production, and by 2019, Bangladesh was self-sufficient in food, and had also become an important exporter of textiles, clothing, and leather products. Its economy is now the fastest growing in South Asia, but with natural gas making up more than 60 percent of its primary energy uses, the country is greener than many of its neighbors, such as India, who rely more on coal. Besides this economic progress, Bangladesh has cut both Extreme poverty and child mortality About 70 percent from 1990 to 2016. life expectancy Seven years only shy of the United States. In 2015, Bangladesh’s progress was recognized by the World Bank, which elevated it to a “lower middle income” country.

Bangladesh also has adapt to climate change With improved forecasting, training and education campaigns at the general community level, and infrastructure investments. As a result, the death toll from hurricanes since Pula occurred ticked down to double or triple digits in recent years. These casualty numbers are still tragic, but they are a far cry from the shocking human cost of half a century ago. These adaptive efforts certainly have their limits, particularly as the effects of climate change worsen, but Bangladesh has bought itself the time to make an energy transition while not compromising the needs of its people.

NSA large part of the growth in Bangladesh The model has flew in the face of recommendations from international development institutions, well-meaning NGOs, and global environmental groups.

For example, the International Monetary Fund has long criticized subsidies such as those used by Bangladesh in the energy sector, and downplayed the benefits that the collection and domestic use of gas brought to the economy of Bangladesh. Others urged to diversify countries’ economies And energy sectors to reduce carbon emissions, it is usually promoted Investments in “greener” energy sectors and phase out fossil fuels, including natural gas. And there is still more arguing that in order for the Low Countries to survive global warming, significant reductions in energy consumption are now needed.

But the general recommendations did not make much sense for Bangladesh in the past. And in the future, they may be outside the norm.

First, although the nation has opportunities for hydropower, harnessing it would not be possible without the large-scale displacement of communities. The potential of wind and solar energy is also limited: most of Bangladesh’s land is fertile and required for food production, while untapped non-agricultural land is scarce.

Additionally, in order to lift millions more out of poverty and raise living standards across the country, Bangladesh needs to produce and consume more energy, which means that imagined reductions in energy consumption are off the table.

In short, Bangladesh demonstrates why priorities at the international level are not always appropriate at the local level. For countries like Bangladesh, the question should not be how to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but how to make the best and cleanest use of them – and the infrastructure around them.

Doing so will mean continuing to prioritize the productive domestic use of the country’s remaining natural gas reserves and finding ways to use the sector’s infrastructure, resources, and knowledge to take advantage of cleaner energy sources that make sense for local conditions, such as geothermal energy and hydrogen.

Geothermal energy has been used in many countries for heat and power generation, but it does not constitute a very large share of total global power generation, mainly due to the high cost of the required infrastructure. However, the use of oil and gas exploration wells and depleted wells to generate geothermal energy is becoming possible, as recent study Show me and my colleagues. In the meantime, hydrogen became first An important part of the energy industry in the mid-20th century, but has recently received a renewed focus as a possibility Oil and gas replacement. As with geothermal energy, Bangladesh’s existing infrastructure can be repurposed in a number of ways to support the hydrogen economy: Already, half of the world’s hydrogen is produced with natural gas.

Sure, all of this will require huge levels of investment, but Bangladesh, with its well-developed gas sector, has opportunities to transition to geothermal energy and hydrogen over time – and in ways consistent with both climate and development goals. But to achieve this, both imperatives must be taken seriously, and actors who are best placed to balance them are local.

TIt is a vision of Bangladesh As a place about to be submerged by rising seas is outdated, just as the idea that it might quickly transition to renewable energy is unrealistic. In the 50 years since Hurricane Bula, the nation has carved a path of development thanks to natural gas. Departing from this path too quickly would cut off the nation’s fossil fuel assets and undermine its sovereignty and its hard-earned development gains.

For countries like Bangladesh, it is not possible to abandon fossil fuels overnight, at least not within any global framework for mitigating climate change that can be described as sustainable or just. The transition to a low-carbon economy in less developed countries should take place as quickly as possible rather than faster—which means that affordable, abundant energy services and all the associated economic and human development benefits cannot be forsaken in pursuit of them. Climate change mitigation goals.

There will be multiple transitional paradigms, all deeply intertwined with development imperatives, local history, governance, and resource endowments. Choices must be made democratically. They must respect sovereignty. It should allow developing countries to build the technology, infrastructure, and institutions they need to chart their own course.


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