Minister Momen: Allow me to introduce President Biden’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, Senator John Kerry. I welcome him to Bangladesh. He came here to invite our Prime Minister, give the letter of invitation to our Prime Minister for the Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change on the 22nd and 23rd. He will be meeting the Prime Minister soon. That is why he has very little time.
By the by, I have a few of my colleagues here. My members of Parliament and my colleague, the Environment Minister Shahab Uddin you just met, and also the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Standing Committee Faruk Khan is here. The Chairman of the Standing Committee of Climate Issues Saber Hossain Chowdhury is here. We have my colleague State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam there. Also fellow of the Global Adaptation Center Abul Kalam Azad is here. And other guests here. So I’m so glad that they had some chance to talk to you.
What we discussed today, we discussed about acceleration of the implementation of NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions] so the global temperature stays within 1.5 degrees centigrade or below. Inform him the varieties of programs that Bangladesh has undertaken like Climate Change Trust Fund; National Energy Roadmap; Bangladesh National Climate Action Plan; that we have created around 14,000 plus cyclone shelters spending our own money of around $10 billion; Mujib Climate Strategy Plan; program to have 11.5 million saplings; planetary emergency resolution; protecting and preserving the Sundarbans carbon seed. We also solicited assistance in the renewable energy. Regional Government Official Center has been established in Bangladesh for the home base climate adaptation initiatives. We would like to share this with others. We want the U.S. as a partnership in that. We have involvement of thousands of volunteers in our climate disaster programs. We talked about support with us.
As the CVF [Climate Vulnerable Forum] Chair during upcoming COP26 in Glasgow we hope to have a high–level side event on climate change and we hope to have high–level participation from the U.S. government and also we will appreciate the sponsor of our high–level event.
Senator Kerry is adored and his track record you know... Whatever he touch he has been a success story. Even in the Paris Agreement it is because of his, you know, his boldness we could achieve the Paris Agreement, and I know him for many, many years. And whatever he touched, he is a success story.
For example, he was a Vietnam veteran. He has three Purple Hearts. And after fighting in the war when he came back he wanted to stop the Vietnam War. He has been successful. He wanted to develop a relationship with Vietnam, the country which tortured him. He has been successful. He wanted to see the [inaudible], he basically was successful. Whatever he takes as his mission, he is always a success story.
Now we would hope that with John Kerry as the Special Envoy of the President Biden, he will achieve at least the $100 billion climate fund each year from maybe next year. That is the one I have requested him, and this could be another iconic landmark. That at least $100 billion a year for the climate change. And out of this $100 billion, 50 percent should be allocated for adaptation and 50 percent for mitigation.
I also talked to him that we are currently chair of V20 Finance Ministers Forum and we would like to have some assistance in that forum.
We talked about rivers and oceans due to erratic climatic change and salinity due to global warming. Each year thousands of our people are uprooted from their homes. We have been trying to rehabilitate them. We look forward to your support to our efforts as river erosion is not caused by us but due to global warming.
As CVF Chair, we want U.S.’ support to create an Office of Special Rapporteur for Climate Change at the UN. That Rohingyas are destroying our forest, these 1.1 million Rohingya, they are destroying our forest and as well as river ecosystem. We hope that the U.S. proactive initiative that can help them for a safe and dignified return back to their country for a decent living.
We discussed U.S.-Bangladesh climate collaboration in adaptation, in resilience, in mitigation, in renewable energy, waste management, and technology transfer, and financing of climate change.
So these are some of the major issues we discussed and we both agreed that we will collaborate in partnership for achieving our goals for a better future for the people of future generations.
Thank you very much. And I give the floor to His Excellency, the Special Envoy, Senator John Kerry. You have the floor, sir.
SPEC Kerry: Thank you very much Minister Momen, my friend of a number of years. I’m very, very happy to be here in Bangladesh, to be back in Bangladesh. I was here as Secretary very briefly. But I’m honored to be here and I bring you President Biden’s greetings and congratulations on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Bangladesh.
It’s an honor for me to be able to be here with the Foreign Minister, with Environment Minister Uddin, with Climate Envoy Azad and other Bangladeshi counterparts and particularly with members of the parliament. I’m grateful for your attendance here and for the lunch we just had.
And Mr. Minister, I should have had you on the campaign trail with me wherever I went. It would have been the strongest introduction possible. I was tempted to say at the end of his comments, I accept the nomination. But I didn’t say that.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here at the request of President Biden because the United States of America has returned under his leadership to the Paris Agreement, to the effort globally to do what we need to do to protect our countries, our citizens and future generations. That’s what this is about. No one country can solve the problem of the climate crisis. And today no country doubts that there is a crisis. We have experienced the hottest day in human history this year, the hottest week, the hottest month, the hottest year; and that hottest year fits within the hottest year in the next few years, fits within the hottest decade; and the decade before that was the second hottest, and the decade before that was the third hottest, and we see the damages all across the world of choices that human beings are making. Damages from fires, flood, droughts, from ice melting and sea level rising, from food production interrupted, from the ability of people who live where they live. Migration is already happening because of climate change.
So we know from the scientists that we must all take action. All. And I’m here because President Biden has called a Summit of the major economies of the world, but also to ask stakeholder nations, powerful nations to come and be heard in the early process walking up to Glasgow so that we deal with adaptation and we deal with resilience and we deal with the challenge of helping to bring technology to places that don’t have it but need it.
We believe the United States can make a difference in that regard and President Biden is determined that we will because it’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do for the planet.
So Mr. Foreign Minister, we’re delighted that Bangladesh will take part in President Biden’s Summit, but equally importantly we’re delighted that we have the ability to work together now intentionally going forward in order to bring technology, research, development, and finance to the table to do what we know we must do.
Paris was the beginning. We always knew we were going to have to measure where we were. I regret that our previous President pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but while he did that, governors and mayors in the United States stayed in that agreement and we have continued to work. And now that we have a President Biden back who is deeply committed to this issue, I believe we can make unparalleled progress on a global basis.
So why am I here? I’m here in Bangladesh after being in India and the UAE, both of which nations pledged to raise their ambition and to do more in order to try to address this crisis, and both of which have agreed to work in partnership with us to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.
Now please make no mistake, this does not require sacrifice. This does not require a lesser quality of life. It is a better quality of life with cleaner air, less disease, less cancer, with the ability to create tens of millions of jobs in the deployment of these technologies, in the creation of this new energy future.
President Biden understands that. He’s just put a $2 trillion –– $2 trillion –– growth plan in front of the United States which will have us go to zero carbon in our power sector by 2035, which will have us deploy 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations so our population can buy the car and go to charge and go to work and go home.
These choices are all in front of us and we’re excited. We’re excited in the United States about the prospect of moving to this cleaner energy, this new future that protects our world for our children, our grandchildren, future generations, and we live up to our global responsibility to lead and to do what young people around the world are asking us to do, which is to behave like adults and get the job done.
So I’m honored to be here in Bangladesh. I thank you, Mr. Minister, for your support. And I look forward to meeting —after this conference, I will meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and I look forward to having a great conversation with her. Thank you.
Question: My name is Masud Karim. I work for the Jugantor newspaper.
Thank you, Mr. Senator John Kerry, for returning to the Paris Climate Agreement. That was the commitment from the Paris Climate Agreement that the loss and damages will be compensated. The loss and damages attending the poorer nations will be compensated by the developed nations. Is there any, are you going to have any plan for implement of these loss and damages?
And also the final thing, and the funding from the developed nations to the poorer nations is not looking very good because we have seen that Bangladesh has their own funding but no funding from the developed nations on adaptation and mitigation and also there is no technology transfer so far.
So what is the response for of some of this? Thank you very much.
SPEC Kerry: What we believe is that we need to move very rapidly to transition to the new economy that I just described. And in order to do that President Biden has asked me to share with you today that we are committing immediately under USAID $15 million right away to begin the process of transitioning so we can accelerate the transition to the new economy.
In addition, President Biden has put in our budget the $2 billion that was missing because President Trump wouldn’t pay it, shut it down. We pledged $3 billion in Paris. We paid the one quickly before we left but now there’s two that needs to be paid from backwards. President Biden is committed to do that. And President Biden will make a further commitment going forward to the $100 billion in order to help us get the $100 billion that should be in there.
Now that’s the beginning.
The other thing we need to be focused on is getting the money that we need for adaptation and getting the money that we need for the resilience. I look at the Sundarbans and I say to myself, we’ve got to try to protect it. And you know, you’re trying to protect it, you want to protect it, but to do that we’re going to have to invest a very significant amount of money. President Biden believes that it is important to be invested. That’s the first step, the first order of priority, rather than being sidetracked into this debate about loss and damage which will have the effect of not producing the other money. So first priorities first. That’s where we think the focus ought to be.
Question: Hello, I am Jhumur Bari. I work in a television channel.
We want to say this is new normal but this is not new normal. We are [inaudible] in here, it is a very difficult time for not only us, for the world. But we have to look above that, new technology. And now this new corona situation, and about the clean energy, about that clean air, everything will behind when the [inaudible] death toll is rising day by day. So have any plan or any kind of [inaudible] strategy to build a situation or technology that can [inaudible] run with this corona situation?
SPEC Kerry: To build what?
Question: That can find during COVID situation?.
SPEC Kerry: Oh, COVID. You’re talking on COVID.
First of all let me say about COVID, that COVID underscores the degree to which we are all in this together. It’s a pandemic. It reaches across all borders, across all races, creeds, ages, and we’re going to have to beat COVID altogether.
Now our country is blessed that we were able to apply a concerted effort to the development of vaccines. President Biden promised in our country that there would be 100,000 vaccines within the first 100 days of his administration. Within about 40 days or so, I don’t remember the exact number, he surpassed 100,000, 100 million, and now he is committed to at least 200 million vaccinations by May or so. By the 100 days of his administration there will be 200 million plus vaccinations.
That means that by sometime in a few months, hopefully, the vaccine will have been fully provided to America, but we will still have vaccine being produced, and the President recently met with the Prime Minister of India, with the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of Japan in the so-called Quad and there they decided on a distribution effort to try to make sure that vaccines were being distributed to countries that can’t afford it and don’t have the technology. And I can assure you when we reach the level of the critical mass vaccinated and we have surplus, we will absolutely make vaccines available in whatever different ways the President decides. That’s up to him. But I know that he believes very deeply that we have a responsibility, moral and practical, to make sure we’re bringing the whole world back from this brink.
So I can’t tell you what the schedule is or what the numbers are, but I can guarantee you there will be a concerted effort to reach out globally to help deal with this pandemic. We all benefit by getting this pandemic conquered. Our economies, our lives, all the agenda that we have to work on would be advanced significantly if we can do this together.
And by the way, we hear of some people in the world today talking about their country first, or no one else, not needing another country. The pandemic and climate crisis underscore, we have to do this together. We have to work together, we have to depend on each other. One country, we could go zero tomorrow in emissions and still we have the same problem. All of us have to come together.
I appreciate your question because it underscores the value of multilateralism. If we didn’t have these mechanisms by which we do this we’d have to invent them.
So I think we can look forward as a result of the lessons learned in the last few years to greater progress over the course of the next few, and that will happen because we stick together. We understand each other’s problems and we don’t get sidetracked by politics and ideology, but we allow our nations the respect that they each deserve and we move together to address a global crisis.
Question: This is Jesmin Papri. I’m with BenarNews. [Inaudible] BenarNews is an online news service affiliated with Radio Free Asia.
I know you are very much aware about the Rohingya crisis. Actually the other day Bangladesh had to pay a lot to shelter them. And my question is, how Bangladesh can help, how the U.S. can help Bangladesh on that front? Actually we know that such a massive destruction of forest for them.
SPEC Kerry: What for them?
Question: We had to pay a lot for the Rohingyas, such as destruction of numerous forests and hills for them. My question is how U.S. can help Bangladesh on that front.
And my other question is how this summit will help Bangladesh with carbon emissions and how we can get technology support easily and free of cost.
SPEC Kerry: Let me answer the first question about Rohingya.
What has happened to the Rohingya and what is now happening to the people of Myanmar is one of the great moral challenges of the planet today. And I know President Biden is very, very grateful for the incredible spirit and helping hand that Bangladesh has given to the Rohingya. It’s an extraordinary act of generosity but it is very expensive in cost, obviously.
The global community needs to help, to step up. This is not a responsibility for Bangladesh alone. This is really one of those things that fits under the United Nations. It’s why we have a United Nations. And individual nations I’m sure are stepping up and will step up to be helpful.
I know that we fought very hard to try to see Myanmar move in a different direction and we had high expectations and we talked frequently with and worked with Aung San Suu Kyi to try to move the process forward. I personally visited Naypyidaw and met with the generals and we tried very hard to hold, to have an accountability that met the highest universal standards of human behavior between nations and peoples. They have not honored that. So Bangladesh has been one of the greatest helping hands. You’ve given them an island, you’ve helped people to be able to find a future, but that’s not a long–term future and that doesn’t resolve the issue.
So the new administration, Secretary Antony Blinken, is very cognizant of this issue and very focused on it. And I know that he and the administration are going to do everything in their power to try to restore democracy to Myanmar, and in the doing of that to try to be able to help relieve the pressure and the challenges that the Rohingya present. But we’re grateful to you for, and to your leadership, to Sheikh Hasina and the government for the extraordinary steps they’ve been willing to take.
Thank you all very, very much. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.