Photo: The Economist, YouTube

Dooming in…

A close friend of mine wrote to me on Thursday evening: “Big emitters won’t commit to a target that can save the world from destruction, simply because there is no business case for agreeing to such targets now. But they are willing to clean up their act in the long run, because they feel there would be a business case for it in the long term. So, are we trying to save the planet or just making sure that the consumers continue to throng the markets?”
I replied: “We are f*cked, then.”
He wrote back: “We know we cannot save the planet, so we are just trying to make some money as long as it lasts.”
As long as it lasts? That sounds like sheer helplessness. To my mind, it means there is a doomsday nearby and before that, let us rejoice life and the earthly resources as long as the Earth is an earth — a place to live and die.
I trust the instincts of this friend of mine; when he comments, he does it after a great deal of thinking, research and monitoring. In the case of COPing-in and COPing-out, he could sense the outcome of the latest edition of conference of parties held in Glasgow.
We heard many loud voices, passionate pleas, statements with flowery diction, but meekness while committing to reduce carbon and methane emissions. Yes, the draft resolution talks about reducing dependence on fossil fuel but the targets of reducing that dependence are far-off ones by which time, half the Earth would be grave.
This COP, however, had many brighter aspects as it concluded. It enjoyed great global focus. We could understand the minds of the heads of states as well as big companies involved in emission. Alongside carbon dioxide, methane is another climate-destructive gas. It was good to witness that many wanted to reduce methane emission. Finally, this edition of COP has been a great source of awareness across the world and the media played a commendable role.
However, one of the prime sources of methane is the livestock industry, which nobody talks about. This industry is run by big meat businesses that are maximizing their profits in the name of supplying protein to the common people. This industry eats up more than 50% of the world’s corn and the entire process of producing meat is a festival of emitting greenhouse gases.
My friend is right — let’s eat and play as long as the world lasts.
Countries such as Bangladesh also don’t talk about the meat industry. I was discussing methane emission and the livestock industry with two environmentalists a few months ago. My question to them was: Why don’t we, in Bangladesh, talk about methane emission? To which, their reply was: On a global scale, we are a tiny contributor to climate change issues; our priority is to ensure food and nutrition for the people, and that is why we don’t make methane an issue.
That is sad news. How can we remain nonchalant at methane emission when our meat and waste volumes are enormous? We have already witnessed methane clouds hovering over our skies in recent times.
We, Bangladesh, along with many other developing nation-states, have played the victim card at Glasgow gathering. Yes, fixing the scars left by the developed countries requires big money and yes, the developing countries are to bear the brunt of development. Bangladesh may be subject to drowning in the long run, and the world understands the fact.
Unfortunately, we are far from realizing this fact. Yes, we must seek a share of the climate fund. However, at the same time, we must assess the state of our own internal environment and find ways to fix it. We must ask ourselves the question: How far or how much have we, as a population, done to protect our own internal environment?
Answering this question would take quite a lot of courage. Are we up for that courage? With so many mega-projects being implemented around us, it doesn’t seem that money is an obstacle for Bangladesh.
What have we done to save our soil from being contaminated? How long will our water reserves last? What is the future of our rivers, canals and other wetlands? Have we stopped destroying our own forests? Where do our wastes go? Who would use those mega-projects when there is no Bangladesh? Could we not plan an embankment along our coast so that the country can be saved from being submerged?
For us, there are many such questions to be answered with deep honesty. Let’s do that alongside seeking the global fund to fight climate change.
There is another aspect that we, the developing countries, overlook while struggling to develop. We are experiencing quite a lot of new investments every day. Local and foreign entrepreneurs are creating new businesses all the time. The developing countries could prioritize the sustainability, I mean the ecological aspect, of the new businesses.
Yes, we have started talking about sustainable and green financing but that discourse is still closeted within the roundtable discussions. Our policies are not prioritizing sustainability. Our policies are makeshift in nature. It is as if we are shouting at the rich countries: “You have made your buck; now it is our time to do so.”
Our shouts echo my friend’s last line — “let’s make money as long as it lasts”.
First published in Dhaka Tribune on 13 November 2021.

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