Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Saber Hossain Chowdhury said on Wednesday the world must act, and commitments of rich nations must be fulfilled to address climate change impacts.

“Climate change is underfunded. Each time there are pledges by developed nations, they remain unfulfilled. In Bangladesh, we have plans and locally-led adaptation to engage communities. However, without funding, our efforts are limited,” he said.

The minister said this while addressing the Climate & Health Finance Dialogue held in Geneva, Switzerland last night, according to a message received in Dhaka on Wednesday.

In the current fiscal, Saber Chowdhury said the government of Bangladesh allocated US$ 3.5 billion for adaptation, including health. “Our annual requirement is about US$ 9 billion. So, where will the money come from?” he questioned.

In his speech, titled “Country-driven Climate-Health Actions and Financing Needs,” he underscored the critical intersection of climate change and public health, emphasising the immediate need for robust, country-specific actions and financing mechanisms.

The environment minister stressed the importance of global solidarity, pointing out the significant trust deficit that hampers collective action.

“We cannot trust each other because promises and commitments are always unmet. We cannot allow climate change to worsen. If we continue to pump emissions into the air while discussing adaptation and resilience, we must recognise that resilience and adaptation have their natural limits. Unless we control our emissions, we will face even deeper challenges,” he said.

Saber Chowdhury highlighted the immense pressure that climate-induced events, such as heatwaves, place on health systems, forcing countries like Bangladesh to prioritise between critical issues like climate change, health, education and development.

“Bangladesh faces a spectrum of events. With the Hindu Kush Himalayas to the north and the Bay of Bengal to the south, we are squeezed between melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Additionally, we face numerous challenges in between, with many agreements, commitments and pledges,” he explained.

The minister pointed out that the impacts of climate change extend beyond health, affecting water resources, nutrition, food security and women’s health. Salinity intrusion, for instance, causes severe health issues for women, including kidney problems, respiratory issues and hypertension.

“The whole approach to ‘One Health’ - addressing the interconnection of animal, human, and environmental health - is now threatened. It’s a steep challenge, but it is necessary for implementation,” he emphasised.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury detailed Bangladesh’s proactive measures through its new National Adaptation Plan, which addresses health risks and considers slow-onset events like rising sea levels, salinity intrusion, melting glaciers, biodiversity loss, and the increasing intensity and frequency of natural disasters.

“We are following our new National Adaptation Plan, addressing health risks.  We must consider slow-onset events, such as rising sea levels, salinity intrusion, melting glaciers, biodiversity loss, and the increasing intensity and frequency of natural disasters. We need to manage all of these challenges,” he said.

The minister’s address was a compelling reminder of the urgent need for global action and adequate financing to combat the intertwined challenges of climate change and public health.

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