Just Transition in COP 28 and Bangladesh experience sharing to global community

For the first time, at COP 28 Bangladesh shared its own experience of the Just Transition and its impact on the working class. Dr S M Morshed, Vice Chairperson of Bangladesh OSHE Foundation, recaps discussion about Bangladesh's Just Transition initiatives among global community at COP 28 held in Dubai.

COP 28 was held in Dubai from 29 November -12 December 2023, on global climate negotiation and commitment for future actions. Key outcomes included an agreement signalling the beginning of the end of the fossil-fuel era, global commitment to setting actual targets to phase out non-renewables, the decision to inject money into the Loss and Damage Fund to make it functional, with an initial contribution of more than US$700 million, the  Adaptation Fund set up under the UNFCCC to raise money for vulnerable countries to cope with the climate crisis, which mobilized nearly $188 million in new pledges, and the global stock-take, i.e. a comprehensive evaluation of progress against the goals and ambitions set out in the Paris Agreement adopted at COP 21 in 2015.

The latest COP also delivered a three-year Just Transition Work Programme, to start immediately. This aims to ensure that implementation of the Paris Agreement is equitable, and enshrines the importance of labour rights and social protection as intrinsic parts of adaptation within the UNFCCC process.

COP 28 also delivered on a Mitigation Work Programme, which was established at COP 26, to highlight both the challenges and the solutions around closing the gap between ambition and implementation.

For the first time, at COP 28 Bangladesh shared its own experience of the Just Transition and its impact on the working class. The Government of Bangladesh’s plan and program to address the Just Transition was presented at a side event in the Bangladesh pavilion on 6 December. In collaboration with FES Bangladesh and Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE) Foundation, a thematic discussion was held under the title “Climate Actions for Just Transition and Adaptive Social Protection: National Initiatives and Expectations from COP 28”. A documentary on Just Transition and social justice screened at the outset of the session, produced jointly by FES Bangladesh and the OSHE Foundation. Senior policymakers from the Government of Bangladesh, renowned climate experts, representatives from UN agencies, and development partners including the FES headquarter representatives, participated in the discussion.

Aminur Rashid Chowdhury Repon, executive director of the OSHE Foundation, presented the transition scenario in Bangladesh as part of climate action and emphasized the need to ensure the transition as a fair and just action that protects the life and livelihoods and rights of the working classes. He mentioned that the transition in the leather sector had resulted in employment losses for thousands of workers, and explained that the Bangladesh Government initiative for electronic transportation is an emerging issue of concern for the workers in the transport sector if upscaling, rescaling and alternative livelihood options are not guaranteed.

The government has appointed the National Skill Development Authority to initiate dialogue with trade unions to assess skill development training and the modalities of upscaling and rescaling of the working class to cope with new technological transformation and green actions.

During the discussions at COP 28, the voices of various stakeholders echoed the urgent need to intertwine climate actions with social justice principles. Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, additional secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Bangladesh, expressed gratitude for the OSHE Foundation's endeavours to share Bangladesh's Just Transition initiatives. He underscored the significance of the government’s inclusion of Just Transition as one of the six priority agendas for climate actions in Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan for 2022-2041, a $90-billion investment strategy to boost economic growth and in coordination with green and adaptative initiatives.

"Investment in social protection is crucial," said Jara Bischier from the Social Protection Unit of the International Labour Organization in Geneva. She emphasized the multifaceted benefits, highlighting how such investments fortify livelihood security, eradicate poverty, and foster self-reliance among beneficiaries. "Climate-stressed people deserve the right to social protection for their dignity and resilience in society."

Alison Tate, representing the International Trade Union Confederation, stressed the global resonance of social protection for working classes in light of climate change. She highlighted the imperative for climate action to integrate environmental protection with Just Transition principles. "Climate Change is an emerging threat to the lives and livelihoods of the working people," she said. "Climate action needs to consider environmental protection along with the Just Transition for the interest of climate justice." These sentiments underscore the collective call for policies and initiatives that uphold the rights and dignity of individuals, particularly those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Their words make up a resounding plea for concerted efforts to address the intersectionality of climate action and social justice on a global scale.

As a follow-up action on the COP 28 outcome, the Government of Bangladesh developed a Loss and Damage Assessment Framework and a survey on climate-induced displaced populations in coastal areas. The Department of Environment is working on these actions with the funding support from government’s Climate Change Trust Fund. The Loss and Damage Assessment Framework will support the management of finances to implement National Adaptation Plan 2023-2030, where Just Transition is also an important part of the agenda.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change hosted an event around the National Adaptation Plans of Least Developed Countries. NAP Expo 2024 took place in last week of April in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is an outreach event organized by the Least Developed Countries Expert Group in collaboration with relevant bodies and organizations, to exchange experience and build partnerships between various actors on how to advance national adaptation plans (NAPs).

Bangladesh is scheduled to graduate from the group of designated Least Developing Countries (LDC) in 2026. Many transformations will occur in the country’s economy and trade, as some tariff exemptions and special interest rates are linked to the LDC status. Also, there will be a reassessment of development assistance; some of that will create opportunities while some may create challenges. Environmental compliance is one of the key considerations for the industrial sector in Bangladesh to sustain its access to the global market. Considering all the risks and potentialities, proper planning is necessary, and there is no alternative to Just Transition for any reforms.

S M Morshed studied political science at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He earned a PhD from the University of Dhaka on child labour elimination in Bangladesh.

Morshed has long been engaged in research on labour issues and social protection dynamics for the working people. As a vice chair of the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE) foundation, he has played an advisory role in several research projects and contributed national-level policy planning related to labour standards and social protection. He has consulted with the partnership projects of the International Labour Organization, the World Bank, the European Union and the UN Development Programme in Bangladesh.

Morshed is currently supporting the Government of Bangladesh in developing an institutional framework to address climate-induced human mobility as part of climate action.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of FES.

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