British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson has emphasised the need for urgent climate action, pinpointing that there are three areas where Bangladesh has a particular role to play at COP26.
Mentioning that the world has a lot to learn from Bangladesh, he said this is the last opportunity to avoid dangerous climate change and secure a brighter future for everyone on the planet.
The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on October 31- November 12.
While speaking at DCAB Talk, the High Commissioner said he would bid farewell to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday on her departure for the UK for COP26 and other bilateral meetings.
DCAB (Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh) hosted the event. DCAB President Pantho Rahaman and its General Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke at the event.
The High Commissioner said there are three areas where Bangladesh had a particular role to play at COP26.
First, he said, as a leader on climate adaptation and a country highly vulnerable to climate change, Bangladesh could make the moral case for increased investment in adaptation as well as offering its practical experience as one of the founding members of the Adaptation Action Coalition, which puts a particular emphasis on the locally-led adaptation on the ground.
Secondly, Dickson said, Bangladesh could show leadership on mitigation by publishing an ambitious nationally determined contribution (NDC).
The High Commissioner commended the radical transformation of Bangladesh's forward energy plans, including the removal of significant elements of coal-fired power from the plans that the government has to generate the electricity that Bangladesh needs to power its economic growth.
The UK hoped Bangladesh would be ambitious in this space.
Third, the High Commissioner said, Bangladesh had a particular role to play at COP26 through the Prime Minister's role as Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which brings together 48 climate vulnerable countries.
Bangladesh's international leadership will be important in ensuring sufficient pressure is applied to the big emitters by the climate-vulnerable to reach the ambitious global deal that will be needed, he said.
The High Commissioner highlighted all the things the UK hoped would be accomplished over the next two weeks.
Scientific evidence from the International Panel on Climate Change, and evidence from each day's news, showed unprecedented climate events happening around the world.
The Paris Agreement of 2015 agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would lower the risk of these catastrophic events. It was clear that the event in Glasgow was the last, best opportunity to work out how to meet the Paris targets.
Over 20,000 delegates are expected at COP26, bringing together all the people who would need to work together to achieve the targets set by world leaders.
The High Commissioner welcomed the large delegation that would attend from Bangladesh, led by the Prime Minister, and which represented many strands of interest for the country.
Four Goals for COP26
He said the UK, in its role as President, had set four goals for COP26.
First, Dickson said, the UK hoped all countries would agree to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with ambitious interim emissions reductions targets, as set out in each country's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), by 2030.
This would enable the world to keep the goal of 1.5 degrees alive. The UK had published a detailed plan of how it would radically transform its own economy in order to do its part, as a major industrialised economy, to help deliver those targets.
The second, he said, was adaptation: improving the way in which countries adapted to the climate crisis and encouraging countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences and put warning systems in place.
The High Commissioner said the world had a lot to learn from Bangladesh in this regard.
The third was to mobilise finance, including the $100 billion annually that had been promised by developed countries to help developing countries, and help unleash the trillions of dollars that would be needed from the private sector to make sure the other goals happened.
On October 25, the UK had published a Climate Finance Delivery Plan to provide coherence and clarity on when and how developed countries would meet the $100 billion climate finance goal.
The fourth was to accelerate collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society so that ambition could be turned into outcomes.
The High Commissioner then provided his reflections on the wider bilateral relationship between the UK and Bangladesh beyond COP.
High Commissioner Dickson said anything related to election should be a Bangladesh-driven and Bangladesh-led process, noting that it is not foreigners to say how the election should be held here.
"It's not for the foreigners to say how the election should be carried out," he said, adding that it is a matter for the Bangladeshi people to decide.
The High Commissioner said there is plenty of expertise and talent in Bangladesh to make the election a Bangladesh-driven process reflecting the values of the country's constitution.
The British envoy said it would be good to have an election that is transparent and openly contested.
He thinks it is important that all the voices and all political parties are able to participate in the elections and are able to have confidence in the electoral process.
The High Commissioner referred to the Bangladesh constitution and laid emphasis on fulfilling the constitutional ambition.
The High Commissioner said the UK's strong view was that stability and economic growth - which he hoped would continue in Bangladesh - flourish best for the long term in open and democratic societies with strong institutions, public accountability and "competitive elections".
He said the UK would continue to support plural and democratic practice in Bangladesh as was set out so admirably in the Constitution, and support as far as possible, as external friends, a fair electoral process with protections for voters and participants when the next general election is held.
The British envoy said the UK would watch with interest as preparations were made for institutions like the Election Commission and looked forward to that sending a strong commitment on a free and fair process for the elections when they were next held.
The High Commissioner said he had watched recent events around communities in Bangladesh with concern.
He had made clear in public and in conversations with senior people that the UK stood with those who supported tolerance and religious freedom, as set out most admirably in the Bangladeshi Constitution, which enshrined freedom of expression and religion.
Security of MPs
Asked what steps were taken after Labour MP Tulip Siddiq's car was vandalised in a targeted attack outside her family home, the High Commissioner said he cannot comment on the investigation process but said it has been taken very seriously making sure that MPs are given safety and security.
Tulip is the granddaughter of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and niece of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
More MPs have opened up about their own personal safety following the death of their colleague, Sir David Amess, who was stabbed multiple times during a meeting with his constituents in Essex on Friday.
"We've seen a tragic and appalling incident in the UK," said the British envoy.
Former Labour MP Jo Cox was also murdered in 2016. "It's really an appalling trend," said the envoy, adding that the whole issue of MPs' security is taken extremely seriously.
The High Commissioner said free media played an important role. "The UK was leading with the Canadians a global campaign on free media."
He said it was a great pleasure to see so many journalists today because the ability of the press to ask important questions and hold the powerful to account is a crucial role in a free society.
"One could see from the global rankings this was not always an easy task in Bangladesh," Dickson said.
The High Commissioner admired the courage, persistence and commitment of the media community in Bangladesh in continuing to carry out the role and duties of a media in a free society, even though there were sometimes challenges in doing so.
Returning to trade, the High Commissioner said he was pleased to hold the first bilateral UK-Bangladesh Trade and Investment Dialogue in February, which addressed market access barriers and improvements that could be made to the business environment in Bangladesh, to realise the potential of Bangladesh's impressive growth.
The UK hoped the market could be opened up more than in the past, to the sort of high-value services that British companies excelled in globally, including in finance, education and health services in which the UK led the world.
Describing the UK's admiration for what had been achieved in Bangladesh over the past 50 years, High Commissioner Dickson said they will continue to work with Bangladesh in its efforts to achieve a smooth and successful graduation.
"Graduation is a milestone, not a finishing line. We'll continue to work with Bangladesh to achieve a smooth and successful graduation," he said, adding that they have also decided to provide continued duty-free, quota-free access to the UK market for three years after graduation, to 2029.
The envoy said he was delighted that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would be visiting London and Manchester to engage with British businesses during her visit to the UK.
The High Commissioner reflected on the huge challenge ahead at COP26 and said the UK is looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and welcoming the Bangladesh delegation to Glasgow.
"This was just one sign of the way that the UK was working with an increasingly confident, prosperous and outward-looking Bangladesh on the world stage, as we headed into the next 50 years of partnership," he said.
At the High Commission in Bangladesh, Dickson said his teams were engaged deeply in issues such as climate and biodiversity, maritime security and many other areas, including working with British businesses to build a trade and investment relationship as Bangladesh graduated from Least Developed to Middle Income Country status.
Regional Security Challenges
The High Commissioner said the UK is working closely with the government of Bangladesh on regional security challenges.
A particular challenge is the Rohingya crisis that was created by the actions of the Myanmar army over four years ago, he said.
The UK was very clear that the shared objectives were for the Rohingya to go home to Rakhine state, as soon as it could happen in a way that was "voluntary, dignified and safe".
"No one wanted to live in a refugee camp. Events in Myanmar were moving in a way that was worrying, so it seemed the Rohingya would likely remain in Bangladesh for some time to come," said the High Commissioner.
The UK is working closely with the government of Bangladesh to ensure the extraordinary generosity in hosting the Rohingyas continued, and that the funding was there to provide the refugees with the healthcare, food, shelter, water and sanitation they needed until they could return to Myanmar.
The UK had contributed over £320m to the global response, working closely with allies on camp conditions and building resilience, including against Covid-19.
The High Commissioner was concerned about recent violence at the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.
He said the UK was exploring ways that refugees could be given more productive ways to spend their time, with the opportunity for them to volunteer, provide camp services and basic livelihoods, and for children to be educated.
On a global stage, he said, the UK also makes sure this crisis is not forgotten. "The UK is the penholder on the crisis in the UN Security Council and works hard to keep it on the agenda, despite not having full support from all UNSC members."
Dickson said the UK is also using its new status as a Dialogue Partner to ASEAN and supporting the ASEAN Special Envoy to support better outcomes in Myanmar.
The High Commissioner said the solution was leadership - leaders needed to lead people away from exploiting division, towards healing it.
He said the UK was continuing to support the government of Bangladesh in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On vaccines, the envoy said, the UK was providing all its support globally, including to Bangladesh, through the COVAX programme. "The UK was not on the front page but was a significant part of the effort."
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