COP26 Regional Ambassador Ken O'Flaherty has said it is possible for countries like Bangladesh to significantly expand its renewable energy sector as it has been the cheapest option for new energy in Asian countries.

"It's clear that over the next decade the cost of renewable energy will continue to fall. So countries which don't invest in renewable energy risk losing competitive advantage," he told UNB in an interview at the British High Commissioner's residence in Dhaka recently.

Across the region, the envoy said, he is seeing governments recognize the opportunities offered by renewable energy and said countries like Bangladesh can also look into potential cooperation at the regional level on hydropower.

He thinks the countries which want to grow faster over the next decade will need to be harnessing renewable energy.

Ambassador Ken said there is a lot of interest in investing in renewable energy and hydropower but what the investors need is a clear signal from the government.

"We're working with the governments like Bangladesh to ensure that there's a clear framework for supporting that investment in domestic and regional power systems," said the envoy.

Ken, who was appointed the UK government's COP26 Regional Ambassador to Asia-Pacific and South Asia in March 2020, said renewable energy is the cheapest source of energy worldwide compared to coal.

Talking about clean and cheap energy, he said they think there is a strong appetite for it and they have seen countries in Asia announcing their policies to move away from coal.

"We're seeing more and more countries adopt similar policies. I'm very confident that ahead of COP26, we'll see more countries in this region adopt a net-zero target," he added.

Ken laid emphasis on ensuring that countries have access to climate finance to help them take advantage of cheap and clean energy.

'Bangladesh active in climate-change arena'

Responding to a question, he said Bangladesh is already very active in the climate change arena and the country has a lot to teach the world in building resilience to climate impacts.

He said Bangladesh also has a role in raising the voices of vulnerable countries to encourage the big emitters worldwide to take strong actions as consequences of climate change are visible.

"Bangladesh has a very strong moral voice in the international community," he said.

Since Bangladesh is currently the chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), Ken said, they very much hope that there will be another way for Bangladesh to ensure voices of vulnerable countries calling for strong climate actions be heard.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

"We want to see strong action by the governments to deliver on what was agreed five years ago," Ken said, underlining the urgency of action to tackle climate change.

He said the consequences of not meeting the target (1.5°C) will be "catastrophic" in particular for countries that are vulnerable such as Bangladesh. "It's clear that action by governments is essential."

'Climate change detrimental to economies, societies'

Ken said economies and societies will be devastated by climate change and they are calling on governments to commit net-zero targets. "We're also calling for short-term actions."

The envoy said worldwide they are seeing more and more extreme weather events and these extreme weather events will only increase in intensity and frequency.

He said the COP26 should deliver three pillars - mitigation addressing emissions, adaptation and resilience and international climate finance. "Of course, the three pillars are interlinked."

There is a call to developed countries to make good on their promise to mobilize $100 billion annually in climate finance to support the needs of developing nations.

"We're working very hard to encourage the international donor community to step up further to make sure that the $100 billion promise can be met," Ken said.

During his recent daylong visit to Bangladesh, Ken met Special Envoy to the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Presidency Abul Kalam Azad and discussed COP26 preparations and plans for the climate-vulnerable country engagement.

He was accompanied by British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson.

He welcomed the recent CVF Asia communique and commitment to no new coal and expects greater action by major emitters must be acted upon.

COP26 Ambassador Ken also met Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin and discussed COP26 preparations and Bangladesh's priorities on climate adaptation, finance, losses and damages. He hoped that Bangladesh would confirm the 2050 NetZero target before Glasgow.

He also met State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid to discuss plans for increasing renewable energy, including solar power.

Both global and regional support is required for Bangladesh's energy transition, they agreed.

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