Tackling climate change: Achievements and challenges ahead

Focus Writing
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Focus Writing
Tackling climate change: Achievements and challenges ahead

Bangladesh has been considered a success story and role model being comparatively a young nation born out of the ashes on marking fifty years of independence. This year Bangladesh has stepped into a new journey as it qualified to graduate into a developing nation from a least developed country.

Centre for Economics and Business Research, a UK-based leading economics consultancy, stated that “despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh was able to escape a contraction in 2020”. But it has already been established that climate change poses an even greater threat to public health than the COVID-19 pandemic. ThusBangladesh needs to do to tackle climate change and its adverse effect on every aspect of life.

On that note, it is worth mentioning that addressing climate change usually requires two types of responses called adaptation and mitigation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defined adaptation as the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects that moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.

In contrast, mitigation is defined as an anthropogenic intervention to reduce anthropogenic forcing of the climate system. The same ultimate purpose of adaptation and mitigation is to reduce the undesirable impacts of climate change. But mitigation has been treated as an issue for developed countries.

On the other hand, adaptation is seen as a priority for developing countries. Bangladesh’s efforts to tackle climate change have focused mainly on adaptation rather than mitigation.

Bangladesh is ranked among the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The Global Climate Risk Index published by the Bonn-based environmental think tank Germanwatch has placed Bangladesh in the seventh position among countries most vulnerable to climate change in its annual report for 2021.

As per the index, Bangladesh lost 11,450 people, suffered economic losses worth $3.72 billion, and witnessed 185 extreme weather events from 2000-2019 due to climate change.

Surprisingly, at the same time, Bangladesh is recognized internationally for its cutting-edge achievements in addressing climate change. The country became one of the most active countries in planning and action on climate change. Bangladesh has already invested a massive amount in climate change actions for enhancing community resilience.

The relevant government agencies have initiated and implemented a number of projects like strengthening river embankments and coastal polders, building emergency cyclone shelters and resilient homes, adapting rural households’ farming systems, reducing saline water intrusion, especially in areas dependent upon agriculture, and implementing early warning and emergency management systems.

Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General, termed Bangladesh as the best teacher to adapt to climate change impact. He also lauded Bangladesh as ‘miraculous’ in addressing climate change issues.

In 2019, Ban Ki-moon, the ‘Global Commission on Adaptation’ chair, 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 that have experience teaching 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.” In 2005, Bangladesh was the first least developed country to prepare the National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPA). It 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.

Furthermore, the 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). The BCCT is a government trust in Bangladesh that utilizes funds to take action against problems caused by climate change.

At the same time, BCCRF is an innovative partnership between the government of Bangladesh, development partners, and the World Bank to address climate change impacts.

The government 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 BCCSAP.

In 2014, Bangladesh adopted its Climate Fiscal Framework to make the public financial management climate inclusive. But the most notable development is that the government of Bangladesh has rechristened the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) as the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The name change is indicative of the strong commitment and the acceptance of climate change as a real challenge in Bangladesh’s progress.

Although the government has made several strides in addressing climate change, poor governance,e.g., corruption, lack of voice, and weak accountability, arbitrary policy-making, etc., creates difficulties. Comprehensive Strategies and practical action plans are in place, but the central problem remains in the execution phase.

Recently a Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) study titled “Governance challenges in disaster response and way forward: Cyclone Amphan and other recent experiences” has found between 14.36% and 76.92% corruption in four climate change projects on development of coastal infrastructure, renovation, and repair.

The studied climate change projects were also plagued by lack of skill and management, lack of coordination with weather forecasters, union-level disaster management committees’ ineffectiveness, and lack of coordination between government and private stakeholders.

No doubt that there are various coping mechanisms, formal and informal, already in place. But Bangladesh now needs to integrate climate change issues within the development process urgently.

The government needs to focus on strengthening formal and informal institutions that deal with climate change issues and the long-term adaptive capacity of the community that embeds a structural change to the social processes.

For doing this, policymakers need to support decentralized policy development so that appropriate adaptation strategy can be initiated and implemented to prevent ‘one size fits all solutions. Furthermore, government activities need to support resource distribution and local level service extension, community awareness and capacity building, research for technology generation, and international lobbying.

Most importantly, effective collaboration with the government, non-state actors, and of course, the citizen is required to implement the policies for building community resilience to climate change. We should remember that Bangladesh achieved a lot of success, but the climate change threat is actually severe, and we all should be definitely prepared for the massive challenges that come with it.

Dr. Bappy Rahman is an
Associate Professor, Department
of Public Administration,
Jagannath University

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