May 19, 2024, 11:56 pm

Environment minister calls forced choice between development and adaptation unjust

  • Update Time : Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Photo: Collected

Desk Report:

Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) hosted the Prof. Saleemul Huq Memorial Lecture titled “Promoting Climate Justice: Roles of Courts and Youth” on April 16, 2024 at the IUB Auditorium in Bashundhara Residential Area, Dhaka.

The memorial lectures were delivered by Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; and Professor Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito from New York University School of Law.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, spoke on Promoting Climate Justice through Youth Engagement. He said, “We had the least to do with the creation of the problem, and yet we are the most impacted. So, that is injustice any way you look at it. The other aspect is we are forced to adapt beyond our capacity. That is also injustice. We are also being forced to choose between development — investment in health, infrastructure, education, IT, training, capacity building — and investing in trying to protect our people from the impacts of climate change. That is yet another injustice.”

He also said, “We planted a million trees all over Bangladesh on the centenary of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But the mortality rate [of trees] is high; we will lose 30% of the trees in the first year. But there’s still 70% left. Can we get young people to adopt a tree? You water the tree, you see it grow. This is how we have environmental stewardship.”

“We don’t want the young generation to just listen; we also want to listen to them. We want to see young men and women have a seat at the table. We want them to be partners in implementation. We also want them to do an audit on the value and impact of that implementation. That completes the whole cycle,” he added.

About Dr. Huq, his longtime compatriot in the global fight against climate change, the minister said, “He has inspired a climate generation in Bangladesh. Many of the people I see in the audience today have been touched by his sincerity, commitment and an outstanding ability to convince people, especially when he talked about climate science and attribution — the fact that loss and damage are caused by human action.”

Professor Rodriguez-Garavito focused on Promoting Climate Justice through Litigations. He said, “Last week, the Swiss women’s association, KlimaSeniorinnen, won the first ever case on climate change before the European Court of Human Rights. So, one of the most prestigious regional human rights courts have now said clearly and unequivocally that not doing enough against climate change is a violation of human rights. Heatwaves, cyclones, floods, sea-level rise — these are all massive violations of human rights.”

He also said, “The youth movement had provided the energy, moral passion and the impetus that had driven most of the achievements in climate governance. The law and social mobilization — the youth movement and the use of creative, expansive and rigorous use of the law — go hand in hand.”

Reminiscing his interaction with Prof. Saleemul Huq during the COP27 in Egypt in 2022, Prof. Rodriguez-Garavito said, “One of the things that struck me very deeply was that I had access to him through the leaders of the youth movement. It was not like he was always hanging out with the celebrities and the personalities.”

Md. Nojibur Rahman, former Principal Secretary to the Hon’ble Prime Minister; Dr. Farhina Ahmed, Secretary, MoEFCC; Dr. Ainun Nishat, Professor Emeritus, BRAC University; Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA); Tanweer Hasan, PhD, Vice Chancellor, IUB; Advocate M. Hafijul Islam Khan, Director, Center for Climate Justice-Bangladesh; and Saqib Huq, Managing Director at IUB’s International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) also spoke at the event. Professor Dr. Borhan Uddin Khan, Advisor to IUB’s Department of Law, moderated the event.

The event was a collaborative effort among IUB’s Departments of Law and Environmental Science and Management; ICCCAD; Centre for Climate Justice Bangladesh; Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law; Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS); Friendship; World’s Youth for Climate Justice; and Local Conference of Youth Bangladesh.

Leading global climate scientist Prof. Dr. Saleemul Huq passed away in Dhaka on October 28, 2023 at the age of 71. He was a Professor at the Department of Environmental Science and Management and Founder Director at the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) of IUB. Recognized by Nature as one of the top ten scientists of 2022, Dr. Huq has played a significant role in the IPCC reports and served as an adviser to the LDC group in the UNFCCC. He was awarded the 2020 National Environment Award by Bangladesh and appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2022.

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