Runa Khan is the Founder and Executive Director of Friendship in Bangladesh. Her work is firmly rooted in the development sector with Friendship, an organization that approaches development issues through innovative models vis-à-vis the most climate vulnerable and remote sections of the population. She hopes the upcoming Paris COP21 summit will serve as the voice of communities for whom climate change is an every day ordeal.
Runa Khan was chosen as the first female Director on the Board of AB Bank. She became the Global Dignity Country Chair for Bangladesh in 2012. She has also received numerous awards, among which are Social Innovation Leadership Award by the World CSR Congress (2014), Schwab Foundation's Social Entrepreneur Award (2012), the Ashoka Fellowship (1994), Rolex Awards for Entrepreneurship (2006), IDB Award for contribution to Women in Development and SCWEC Women Entrepreneur Excellence Award (2010).
The Daily Observer recently caught up with Runa Khan to share her perspectives on significant issues relating to climate change that could be prioritized at the upcoming Paris COP21 summit. She is looking forward to the summit, and believes that the adaptation issue as a future step will be a safeguard in terms of facing climate change. It is her opinion that besides working on mitigation, the government of Bangladesh along with other organizations should work on adaptation so that people could be well equipped in the areas vulnerable to climate change in order to be able to face any future crises. She also noted that all parties at the conference should be prepared to sacrifice their interests with the objective of arriving at a fruitful result for all. She is convinced that as citizens of this planet we all have our own responsibilities to save it.
Excerpts from the conversation with Runa Khan are given below
The Daily Observer: As you know, the upcoming Paris COP 21 conference will be very significant for Bangladesh since it is one of the worst victims of Climate Change. How do you assess the situation?
Runa Khan: Earlier there were many such conferences that took place and while most of the outcomes were fruitful, there was never a truly conclusive agreement amongst nations. What we are expecting at the Paris COP21 summit is getting some people who are very determined and committed to arriving at a fruitful result. I think French President Francois Hollande is expected to play a balanced role to bring about a holistic result at the December summit. A deal can be done as the biggest emitters have committed themselves to reducing emissions significantly. Bangladesh, like many other nations, wants the world leaders to agree to a legally binding agreement on mitigation and bear the cost of adaptation in the Least Developed Countries. We also need to take into consideration the reality responsibilities on the ground. Any agreement that is made needs to be beneficial for everyone, solidarity is the key. And I think it is possible as very recently we have seen so many instances, including EU and specially Germany's overwhelming assistance of giving shelter to the refugees in light of the Syrian crisis. This is a great example of fraternity feeling and the developed countries should do the same thing when it comes to climate change and climate refugees.
The Daily Observer: There are so many issues that could be raised during the conference, but in your view, which major issues should be prioritized at the conference?
Runa Khan: Adaptation, absolutely! We need an absolute adaptation solution. The effects of climate change are already a reality and part of the everyday life affecting the people in the field. We have to realize it. We cannot wait for a time when developed countries will pay us. Rather we have to prioritize and develop our own adaptation plans considering our own demography and crises. Sometimes money cannot provide all the solutions. We have to plan adaptation based projects, and ensure their proper implementation. Of course we must address the damages caused by climate change but simultaneously we must also adopt a holistic plan to combat the effects of climate change for the future. Another issue that could be raised is that any agreement should specify reality responsibilities for each country separately. For instance, Bangladesh faces a reality which China does not. Now if Bangladesh and China get the same treatment at the conference relating to Climate Change, it will be an injustice for Bangladesh. China's economy, its economy and industries, is not comparable with Bangladesh. So we expect proper guidelines; policy and strategy should be specific for each country.
The Daily Observer: How do you view the use of solar panels in the remote parts of Bangladesh as a measure towards adaptation?
Runa Khan: I believe we must consider the demography of each area before going for any adaptation measures. And we should not introduce anything which is beyond our people's capability, such as solar panels. It is very expensive and our poor people cannot afford it. Through my work I have come to know that a poor woman from a char bought a solar panel, to be paid for in installments, but that has prevented her from providing food to her children.
The Daily Observer: Our government is talking about compensation for climate change from developed nations and at the same time is planning to set up the Rampal Power Plant, which is highly sensitive to the environment of the Sundarbans. Could you share your opinion?
Runa Khan: There will always be some pros and cons over this issue. Bangladesh is a poor country. And to change its present status, introducing power plants is very essential. We need to set up power plants as well as look for alternative, renewable and environmentally friendly solutions. I think besides setting up these power plants we also should have some measures put in to protect our environment.