From UK to Bangladesh: We need nothing more than an anti-imperialist green shake-up – by Apsana Begum MP


“as we support a fair transition to a green economy in the UK, through a Green New Deal with public ownership at its heart, we also must support decolonial efforts to enhance this transition internationally”

Apsana Begum MP

Climate change is the greatest threat we face and will require unprecedented international coordination and cooperation.

As such COP26 is not only the largest global climate summit but potentially the most crucial global event in recent years.

The scientific evidence is clear and soon some of the consequences of will be irreversible and even insurmountable.

And it is especially significant for the Global South who continue to bear the brunt of such devastation through little or no fault of their own.

Countries like Bangladesh are highly climate vulnerable and regularly experience floods, cyclones, storm surges, droughts, and other extreme climate events. Bangladesh also faces the risk of sea-level rises.

As the daughter of Bangladeshi migrants, I know first-hand that it is no coincidence that Bangladesh is the sixth largest origin country for international migrants in the world, with millions migrating internationally to escape poverty andnatural disasters.

And yet, Bangladesh’s carbon emissions are almost negligible – with only a 0.28 percent share in the annual share of global CO2 emissions.

Climate change is therefore rife with international injustice and inequality – as the least polluting countries are at the sharp end of the chaos.

Black, Asian, and indigenous peoples are far more likely to suffer the catastrophic effects of climate breakdown.

Research from Oxfam has shown that the richest 1% of the population are responsible for twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest 50% of the world’s people combined.

We only stand a chance of averting climate disaster when rich countries like the UK take responsibility for their role in creating it.

That means stopping shifting the problem to other countries,like Bangladesh, and instead taking responsibility for emissions produced in other countries when they are associated with goods that go on to be consumed in the UK.

Not only is there an urgent need for more ambitious targets, but also solidarity and reparations across the global community are required.

Bangladesh needs more funds for adaptation. This will require resources and technology to make a just green transition.

That is why, as the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), Bangladesh is correctly advocating for not only emissions reductions by all nations but also more support for the climate-vulnerable countries.

Yet, wealthy nations have still not made good on the promised climate funding as it is – never mind delivering on limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees, phasing out fossil fuels, and providing vulnerable countries with the level of urgent resourcing needed.

In fact, the west should be cancelling the obscene damaging levels of debt for low-income countries in the Global South.

This inequity has been played out by the COP arrangements themselves and the Government’s failure to make the conference safe and accessible for all participants – particularly those coming from countries disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Without all the voices and equal representation of those on the front line, the negotiations are likely to reinforce power imbalances and serve the agendas of big polluters, big businesses, and big profits.

In places like Bangladesh, the legacy of British imperialism tells the age-old story of the west extracting wealth, exploiting the workforce, and damaging the environment.

Global capitalism still sees rich nations and giant corporationscalling the shots.

The IMF and World Bank are still the means by whichwestern financial markets project their power across the rest of the world.
Lower income countries are spending over five times more on external debt payments than projects to protect people from the impacts of climate change.
They are literally being held back and forced to hand over billions of dollars in debt repayments to rich countries, banks,and international financial institutions at a time when resources are desperately needed to fight the climate crisis.

The Tories have shown repeatedly that they lack the ambition required.

The Autumn Budget was even a step backwards – with the Government making flights within the UK cheaper, when they should be instead investing in high quality public transport.
At the same time, they are continuing to cut overseas aid andhave embarked on the AUKUS pact that endangers nuclear non-proliferation – undermining the much-needed urgent multilateral global cooperation.

We need nothing less than an anti-imperialist green shake-up – for global democracy and international cooperation to tackle climate change and corporate power.

For socialist internationalism.

At Labour’s first ever International Social Forum in 2019, Jeremy Corbyn talked about withdrawing support from World Bank managed climate funds, in order to channel multilateral climate finance through UN institutions like the Green Climate Fund. John McDonnell spoke of making “reparations for our colonial past” and providing “to the citizens of the Global South free or cheap access to the green technologies.”

Just as we support a fair transition to a green economy in the UK, through a Green New Deal with public ownership at its heart, we also must support decolonial efforts to enhance this transition internationally in places like Bangladesh.

And to do this we need to transform our global economy, so that it prioritises the needs of thriving ecosystems over the consumption of the super-rich and the profits of shareholders.

Whilst it is still unclear what COP26 will actually deliver, I fear that without radical action and fundamental structural transformation, things continue to look bleak.

Meanwhile, inspirational, largely youth-led, climate justice movements across the world, including in Bangladesh, are calling for a complete pivot away from fossil fuels toward ahopeful green future – recognising lifting people out of poverty by standing up against exploitation and oppression, and adopting renewable energy must go hand in hand.

From the UK to Bangladesh and beyond, those of us who aspire to an internationalist future base on solidarity, people power and the protection of our planet, will need to step up to the challenge before it is too late.

Apsana Begum is the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse. In 2017, Begum became the first British Bangladeshi woman elected as Secretary of Tower Hamlets Labour Party.

Follow her on twitter here.

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