Climate Adaptation in Bangladesh: From Vulnerability to ‘Best Teacher’ | 2019-07-16

Climate Adaptation in Bangladesh: From Vulnerability to ‘Best Teacher’

Bappy Rahman

16 July, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Climate Adaptation in Bangladesh: From Vulnerability to ‘Best Teacher’

Bappy Rahman

Recently Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary General, termed Bangladesh as the best teacher about how to adapt to climate change impact. He also lauded Bangladesh as ‘miraculous’ in addressing the climate change issues. Ban Ki-moon, the chair of the ‘Global Commission on Adaptation’ specifically said the following while speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Dhaka meeting of the Commission: “We are here to learn from Bangladesh’s experience and vision about how to adapt to the climate change impact. Our best teacher, who is on the front lines of climate change impact, opened doors. Among few countries, which have experience to teach the rest of the world about climate change adaptation, Bangladesh is the best to teach in this regard. So Bangladesh is the best teacher from whom we can learn about climate change adaptation. While the rest of the world debate about climate change, Bangladesh is adapting to a warmer, more violent and less predictable climate.”

It is well known that Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, as well as one of the most disaster-prone ones. Bangladesh’s flat topography, low-lying and climatic features, combined with its population density and socio-economic environment, make it highly susceptible to many natural hazards, including floods, droughts, cyclones and earthquakes. However, following the devastating cyclones of 1970 and 1991, Bangladesh has made significant efforts to reduce its disaster vulnerability and is today considered a global leader in coastal resilience due to its significant long-term investments in protecting lives.

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, the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) was developed and was published with great international appreciation. BCCSAP has six thematic areas: Food security, social protection, and health, comprehensive disaster management, infrastructure, research and knowledge management, mitigation and low-carbon development and capacity building and institutional strengthening. Both the NAPA and BCCSAP offer frameworks for moving the country from vulnerability to resilience by building enhanced Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) programmes into existing sustainable development strategies. There are various coping mechanisms, formal and informal, already in place. What is new is the urgency of the matter to be integrated within the development process so that when the Climate Change impacts become more clearly discernible, the nation shall be ready to handle that as almost a routine affair in its development process.

The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has consistently supported policy reforms and investment activities aimed at improving the environment, enhancing climate mitigation and adaptation and improving forest and natural resources management since 2009 when it unveiled the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. Bangladesh is at the forefront of international efforts to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and is among the first Fifty five nations to ratify and enable the Paris Agreement to enter into force by the twenty second Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November 2016. Bangladesh’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), the post-2020 voluntary climate targets which countries committed to in preparation for the Paris Agreement, envisions a significant role for forests in its mitigation efforts as well as in enhancing resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Over the last two decades, Bangladesh has implemented a number of successful pilot projects in natural resource management and climate resilient afforestation using multiple sources of financing, notable among which is the BCCRF (Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund) which financed the Bangladesh Climate Resilient Participatory Afforestation and Reforestation Project (CRPARP).  Bangladesh has been a UN REDD+ partner country since 2010 and has made progress on its national REDD+ Readiness Roadmap. In partnership with UNDP and FAO, the Bangladesh Forest Department has made progress on key elements of the Roadmap - a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) Action Plan, capacity building for forest monitoring, an assessment of REDD+ corruption risks, and development of nationally-appropriate social safeguards. The country has also established a national steering committee for REDD.

Since coming to power in 2009, the Awami League government has created two separate climate change alleviation funds. The funds are named Bangladesh Climate Change Trust (BCCT) and Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF). Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) is a ‘one-stop’ mechanism for large-scale climate change financing in Bangladesh. Under the BCCRF, the Community Climate Change Project (CCCP) is allocating funds on a competitive basis to Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to implement community-driven interventions that build resilience to climate change impacts. BCCRF has recognised the long-indispensable roles of local empowerment and numerous NGOs in community-based programs and services by allocating US$12.5 million of its climate-resilience funding to NGOs through its CCCP. Of this amount, US$ 10.4 million will focus on competitive grants to NGOs to implement community-driven adaptation to climate change. The remaining funds will be allocated to monitoring, learning and sub-project refinement, through knowledge sharing and dissemination of lessons learned. The BCCRF Governing Council designated the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) as the responsible agency for this project. The CCCP focuses on the communities hit hardest by current weather extremes: populations who live in coastal areas affected by saltwater intrusions, in flood-prone chars and river basins, or in areas afflicted by recurring droughts. The target Upazilas have been identified based upon the degree of exposure to climate risk, and level of poverty.

The government of Bangladesh has rechristened the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) as the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The government agreed to add ‘Climate Change’ to the name following an agreement with neighbouring countries. The name change is indicative of the strong commitment and the acceptance of climate change as a real challenge in Bangladesh’s progress. However, Bangladesh now needs to focus on building a long term adaptive capacity that embeds a structural change to the social processes.

(The writer acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.)    


The writer is a Chinese Government PhD Fellow and Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jagannath University, Dhaka