Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited Bangladesh with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius on Monday (21 September). The effects of climate change pose a particular threat to Bangladesh as it is densely populated and broad swathes of the country lie at sea level. Both Ministers called for an agreement at the world climate summit in Paris in December and for progress in global efforts to combat climate change.
Inclement weather prevents a planned visit to a shelter
Bangladesh is one of countries in the world particularly affected by climate change. Foreign Minister Steinmeier warned that if the sea level were to rise by even one metre, a fifth of Bangladesh would be under water. The country is less than half the size of Germany, yet has approximately twice the number of inhabitants. Thus, a rise in the sea level would force millions of people to flee. The country is already suffering from the consequences of global warming, for instance severe storms, floods and saline soil.
The German and French Foreign Ministers had therefore specifically chosen Bangladesh for their visit in order to gain an insight into the effects of climate change, something which they did in a more direct manner than expected – a planned visit to a shelter for tropical storms, constructed with support from Germany, had to be cancelled due to heavy rainfall.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier noted that Bangladesh only contributes 0.15 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet “faces grinding poverty and has suffered more than nearly any other country from the effects of climate change.” That is another reason why Steinmeier believes that the industrialised countries have a particular responsibility within the climate negotiations. According to the German Foreign Minister, an agreement would have to be legally binding and backed by sufficient funding in order to be successful.
Positive sign from the business sector
During their visit, the two Foreign Ministers also held political talks with their colleague Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Here, too, the spotlight was on climate change. A further focus was the country’s political, economic and social development.
Following the talks, the German Foreign Minister spoke about the positive development in the economy, stating that in recent years, Bangladesh had enjoyed stable growth of around 6 percent and had increased the volume of its trade with Germany to some 4.5 billion euros. Even the often‑criticised working conditions in the textile industry were slowly improving and more inspections were being carried out.
Furthermore, Bangladesh pledged to support the preparation of a special conference on the topic of climate and security which Germany will host at the end of September on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. Steinmeier warned that the next generation of conflicts would likely be over water and other natural resources.
Topping‑out ceremony, a symbol of Franco‑German friendship
At the end of their visit, Steinmeier and Fabius attended a topping‑out ceremony symbolic of the Franco‑German friendship, held because Germany and France are about to move into a shared Embassy building in the capital, Dhaka.
For Steinmeier, the project is the result of extraordinarily good Franco‑German cooperation. At the end of the day, everyone knew that joint construction plans could put relationships to the test, even within a family, he said. Yet in light of this successful project he confirmed that, “At least between Germany and France, the climate could hardly be better!”