Bangladesh is one of the countries which is most vulnerable and affected by the impacts of climate change. According to Global Climate Risk Index 2017, Bangladesh ranked 6th among the hardest hit by the impacts of extreme weather events. Bangladesh is already experiencing the consequences of climate change through sea level rise, cyclones, deeper penetration of saline water, erratic rainfall, floods (intensity and frequency), droughts, river bank erosion, landslides in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and increased deaths due to lightning. These climatic factors and impacts of climate change are affecting people’s food, water, energy, health and livelihood security causing human displacement and migration.
The Bangladesh government has made several strides to address climate change. One of the biggest strengths of Bangladesh for addressing climate change is that there is no political difference between the political parties on the issues and urgency to address climate impacts. In 2005, Bangladesh was the first Least Developed Country to prepare the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and was eventually revised in 2009, which documented the urgently needed adaptation actions for Bangladesh. Moreover, Bangladesh is in the process of initiating the National Adaptation Plan (NAP). In 2009, Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) was developed and was published with great international appreciation. BCCSAP has six thematic areas:
i) Food security, social protection, and health
ii) Comprehensive disaster management
iv) Research and knowledge management
v) Mitigation and low-carbon development and
vi) Capacity building and institutional strengthening.
To reduce the adverse impacts of climate change it is crucial to implement the BCCSAP. However, arranging funds to implement the actions becomes a great challenge.
As the first country, Bangladesh developed the Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) with its own resources to tackle the adverse effects of climate change. Another fund called Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund initiated with funds from development partners. In 2014, Bangladesh also prepared the Climate Fiscal Framework which provides guidelines for planning and managing climate change related finance efficiently. Bangladesh has submitted the First and Second National Communications to UNFCCC. Third National Communication was submitted more recently. The National Communication (NC) is the report developing countries submit to UNFCCC every four years with the ‘information on greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, measures to mitigate and to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change, and any other information that the Party considers relevant to the achievement of the objective of the Convention’ (UNFCCC).
TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE POLICIES, STRATEGIES AND ACTION PLANS ARE IN PLACE, BUT THE MAIN CHALLENGE REMAINS IN THE IMPLEMENTATION.
Bangladesh has shown some noteworthy achievements to combat climate change, and as a result of that in 2015, the Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina received the Champions of the Earth award for her outstanding policy leadership role. Following the Paris Agreement, Bangladesh submitted the first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2016 which describes Bangladesh’s plan to tackle greenhouse gases (GHG). In July 2017, in a meeting of National Environmental Council chaired by the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, considering climate change as a top priority issue decision has been taken to redesign the Ministry of Environment and Forests as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
A few key scientists and think tanks from Bangladesh provided the leaderships in UNFCCC and IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) from their inception in late eighties and continued to give leadership in adaptation discourse, assessing vulnerability and impacts in Bangladesh and other developing countries, highlighting issues of inequity and need for global climate justice. These thought and action leaders from Bangladesh were duly recognized and four experts were awarded Nobel Peace Prize as Lead Authors of IPCC. Several key scientists and institutions continue to be global leaders in National, Regional and Global discourse, planning science and policy mobilization across the world, more particularly to LDC and poor developing countries. BCAS Executive Director was awarded the highest UN environmental Award “Champion of the Earth in 2008” for his “outstanding and inspirational leadership in the field of environment,” stated the UN Award.
The NGOs in Bangladesh have incorporated climate change in most of their programs and developed extensive training of local government and communities across different ecosystems in the country. Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) have organized ten worldwide International Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA) focusing on many initiative and efforts by countries to develop climate change adaptation in strategies and actions. These include wide-ranging efforts in food production, water and land management, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, energy efficiency, education and training, gender and child-sensitive adaptation practices, better ecosystem management and biodiversity production, to mention a few: Bangladesh government with support from its research, NGO and academic committees has developed a leadership role in climate change negotiations, global climate governance, and financial mechanism related discourse.
In the areas of mitigation, Bangladesh has become the world leader in Solar House Systems with 4.5 million households using solar photovoltaic systems. BCAS, Grameen Shakti, BRAC, Rahimafrooz, BCSIR, IDCOL, etc. have contributed towards the dramatic increase in this sector. Improved stove, biogas plants and solar irrigation are also growing in numbers.
Although Bangladesh has made outstanding progress, the people of Bangladesh face constant challenges related to climate change. The development of Bangladesh is hindered due to this problem. According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2015, climate change is impacting Bangladesh’s economy more than any other country by depressing GDP by 0.5%-1% annually. Sea level rise and salinity intrusion are affecting the agricultural sector while increasing water scarcity is causing displacement of people and destroying the coastal and aquatic ecosystem. People of the coastal areas in the south east and the people of the drought-prone areas in the north east are suffering the most from the shortage of fresh drinking water. This water scarcity has made an immense impact on the women and children of the community as they have to travel a long way for collecting drinking water. This has increased their workload, created social tension and girls are dropping out from schools. Sea level rise and salinity intrusion have also intensified the risks of food security and water-borne diseases. Migration will push people towards uncertain livelihood options and create competition and conflict for limited resources. At the grass root level, poor people are coping with the impacts of climate change by adaptation at their own capacity level. The local people have limited ability for adaptation.
To address climate change policies, strategies and action plans are in place, but the main challenge remains in the implementation. Institutionalization of these policies, financial and technical capacity development of the implementing institutions; integration of science, policy and local knowledge; increasing inclusion of the local people within the development projects; a collaboration with the government, NGO, and local people are required for proper implementation of the policies for building resilience of the communities. Bangladesh achieved a lot of success but the climate change threat is real and severe and we must be prepared for the enormous challenges that come with it.
A FEW OF THE KEY RECOMMENDATIONS CAN BE SUMMARIZED AS FOLLOWS:
• Ensure ‘Climate Smart Planning and Development’.
• Consider SDG, Sendai Framework and Paris Agreement in every development plan, programme and projects.
• Arrange local fund for adaptation and mobilize international particularly Green Climate Fund for both adaptation and mitigation.
• Integration of Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Local Adaptation Plan Action (LAPA).
• Prediction and long term projection of climate trend for effective disaster management.
• Special attention for children and women.
• Proper use of resources by integrating science and policy and better monitoring and evaluation.
The BCCSAP has greater detail of the activities that need immediate implementation. The recommendations above provide a summary that shows the need to build institutional and implementation capabilities within the government, local governments, NGOs, civil society, research institutions and think tanks to address the multiplicity of issues under climate change and its challenges.
The writer is the Executive Director at the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and the recipient of the Champion of the Earth in 2008.