So far, Bangladesh has done very well in the climate change arena. All along the country has shown her seriousness about climate change preparedness, producing the National Adaptation Programme of Action, more popularly known as NAPA and, a strategy paper named Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP).
Many other policy documents such as Agricultural and Health policies also address climate change, albeit in a skeletal form.
In addition to producing these documents, Bangladesh has implemented many of the projects recommended in NAPA and BCCSAP.
We have created a trust fund called Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF) with our own financial resources – a first among least developing countries.
The government allocated more than Tk 30 billion in the last seven financial years, helping undertake 440 projects so far.
Meanwhile, in the international circle, Bangladesh plays an active role and is currently a member of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group.
This is a group comprising nearly fifty developing countries in Africa and Asia plus the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) – a group of over forty vulnerable developing countries from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Small Islands.
We are now in the process of preparing a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) and updating BCCSAP.
Pertinent to mention, recently, three key global agreements have come into play. These are Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and Paris Climate agreement.
Goal 13 of SDG requires all member countries to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Under Sendai framework, impact of climate change on disaster is recognized. According to Paris Climate agreement, governments will provide continued and enhanced international support for adaptation in developing countries.
Why we need a climate policy!
Until now, all activities in the climate change field have been carried out in the absence of an umbrella policy. As a result, sectors which need climate adaptation are fixing their goals and carrying out activities from the sectoral perspective only, whereas climate change cuts across many sectors.
Stands to reason, such cross-sectoral nature of climate change necessitates an umbrella policy.
Many countries now have clearly delineated climate change policies. While developed countries focus more on mitigation, the focus of developing countries is on adaptation. Among our South Asian neighbours, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have explicit climate change policies.
The focus of these are on adaptation though there is commitment towards mitigation through adoption of cleaner energy.
Potential policy directives
Among the policy directives, what is needed foremost is setting the targets we can achieve in the long term. For mitigation, we need to set targets related to carbon emission and energy efficiency.
While we can set targets for forest coverage for carbon sequestering, we can also can set certain targets for reducing adaptation deficit. Some targets are already set in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) that the government produced in 2015 and submitted to UNFCCC.
Then, the policy needs to set sectoral priorities. Since climate change will affect almost all sectors, judicious use of resources demand identification of key sectors for immediate attention.
Although BCCSAP sets some implicit priority, there needs to be explicit priorities too. Considering the future risk of the country to climate change, two priority sectors appear to be agriculture and forestry.
Understandably, disasters will increase under climate change scenarios. Cyclones ‘Aila’ and ‘Sidr’ form the prelude to a grim future.
The very early flash flood in the haor basin is also a sign of climate change. Therefore, a policy direction is needed with the government favouring an integrated treatment of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
In this regard, Sendai framework needs to be duly considered.
Needless to say, climate change adaptation will be costly. Just for adaptation alone, Bangladesh may need more than forty billion Dollars till 2030. There are considerable uncertainties in climate projections- for example, the projected sea level rise varies from 0.26 m to 0.55 m for the scenario where emissions are checked to hold the temperature rise within 2OC.
If the temperature rise can be held within 1.5OC as agreed in Climate Agreement, it might be possible to avoid many of the adaptation tipping points. Given such uncertainties, it may be wiser to invest more on ‘no regret’ options which includes ecosystem based adaptations.
While we adapt, we can also mitigate to show and share global responsibility. Under CCTF, significant investment has already been made in solar energy which has reduced our dependence on fossil fuel while providing electricity in remote places.
Afforestation is another ‘win-win’ solution, helping in mitigation by carbon sequestering and, at the same time, working as an effective adaptation measure against climatic disasters.
Prudent to keep in mind that the gain in poverty alleviation by the country is at a considerable risk due to climate change.
Therefore, policy directives are needed as to how we can reduce the vulnerability of the poor to climate change and simultaneously sustain our progress towards poverty alleviation.
Some of the hotspots, such as the south-western coast, needs special attention.
Migration from the coastal area is already happening and there are reasons to believe that due to salinity intrusion, resulting from sea level rise and frequent cyclones, many people will be forced to migrate inland.
Bangladesh has already expressed her concerns in COP22 at Marrakech and, at the recently concluded international conference of Global forum on Migration and Development held in Dhaka.
The unanimous verdict is that policies need to be in place to manage potentially millions of climate refugee in an organized way.
The financing of climate change preparedness is a contentious issue between developed and developing countries. As mentioned before, Bangladesh has started its preparation through her own resources. But using only own resources for adaptation will not be enough and fair.
Under climate agreement, developed countries have committed to contribute at least one hundred billion Dollars per year from 2020. Bangladesh deserves a fair share of this fund. To generate internal resources, Bangladesh can contemplate introducing the carbon tax.
Relevant to mention, such tax is an important policy tool in India.
Process of formulation
It is high time to consolidate all the knowledge and experiences available in the country into an umbrella policy. Logically, Ministry of Environment and Forest should pilot the policy formulation process.
But since the exercise is so holistic and cross-sectoral, support from Prime Minister’s Office will be helpful. Also, we now have expertise among parliamentary members, which needs to be adequately utilised.
The process does not need to be long drawn as sometimes is the case. Time is of the essence here as the country has already started preparation of NAP and updating the BCCSAP.
Bangladesh needs to prepare for SDG, Sendai framework and climate agreement fast.
Prudent to keep in mind: without a coherent climate policy, these activities may go haywire.