Climate change is one of the great problems across the world and its impacts upon the agriculture, human health & environment are adverse and prolonged. Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and it is not immune to the adversities of the effect of climate change. The change in climate causes a huge loss to the agricultural production, damage to the livelihoods of millions of people, particularly in the haor areas, ecology and biodiversity and huge loss of fishery and other aquatic resources. Many studies and researches have revealed the adverse effects of climate change in Bangladesh. Global Climate Risk Index (GCRI) 2017 developed by the Germanwatch has highlighted that Bangladesh is the sixth disaster-prone country in the world. The report developed by the Germanwatch has also highlighted that out of one lac inhabitants, 0.48 people die from the adverse effects of climate change. Climate is getting changed due to many reasons, basically classified into two categories, firstly, natural causes and secondly, manmade causes.
In 2007, the term “loss and damage” appeared for the first time in a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) document, the Bali Action Plan – from the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP). The decision called for enhanced action on adaptation, including “disaster risk reduction and means to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries” (UNFCCC, 2008). In 2010, a work programme was created under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to enhance understanding of loss and damage and the possible means to address it. The work programme has had the following three thematic areas: (1) Assessing the risk and current knowledge of loss and damage, (2) Exploring a range of approaches to address loss and damage, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset event, and (3) Determining the role of the Convention, or the UNFCCC, in enhancing the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage. Three years later in Warsaw, the Warsaw Mechanism on loss and damage was agreed upon. The parties of UNFCCC including Bangladesh at COP 18, which took place in Doha in December 2012, agreed for strengthening institutional arrangements and enhancing capacity building at the national levels to address loss and damage associated from climate change including the possibility of an international mechanism (decision 3/CP.18).
Recently, loss and damage has been discussed several times within the global climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). While the loss and damage is being discussed at the global level, it is being incurred at the local level. So, it is important to understand how loss and damage is being experienced within states as well as communities and more importantly, how it can be addressed appropriately to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change. Now in the third decade of the UNFCCC, there is a realisation that neither mitigation nor adaptation efforts are enough to prevent both current and future climate change impacts. Bangladesh has established policies and developed institutions and strategies to address climate change impacts. Being vulnerable, Bangladesh has developed significant national capacity to address climate change impacts. Climate change Adaptation (CCA), Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and to some extent mitigation measures are a priority in Bangladesh.
On November 17, 2017, the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended in Bonn, Germany. The event was held in Germany, but the official host of COP23 was Fiji, and the President of the COP23 was the Prime Minister of Fiji himself. More than 20,000 people around the world have directly participated in the conference in order to express their opinions on making the planet safer and greener by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The primary focus of this conference was on the urgency to set up the guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement (PA), which was achieved at COP21 in Paris, France in December 2015. One of the challenges was to find alternative way to fulfill the Paris Agreement, if and when the United States of America pulls out of the Paris Agreement. Everyone expected that the USA will keep its promises to reduce its greenhouse gas emission, when it, alone, emits about 14% of the global emission. Another challenge of the conference was getting the fund for both mitigation and adaptation as promised in the Paris Agreement. While many island nations, developing and vulnerable countries, wanted to get support for their adaptation programmes to mitigate the loss and damages caused by climate change, there was consensus neither from the developed countries nor from the USA. In the opening ceremony of the conference, Germany alone pledged to provide an additional 50 million euros to the Least Developed Countries Fund, which will be used to finance adaptation in areas such as agriculture, climate information systems, and catastrophe risk management. Germany has already committed 240m euros in 2014, which is the biggest bilateral contribution to the fund. However, this contribution is still far too little to help all the countries to carry out their adaptation programmes. In Bonn, under Fiji’s leadership the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group, the Africa group and the vulnerable countries, including Bangladesh, urged for developing innovative funding sources for loss and damage. At the end of the convention, the group of vulnerable countries won a partial victory with the developed countries, led by Germany, agreeing to provide insurance against loss and damage for 400 million poor people. COP23 also came out with a decision, namely a Gender Action Plan to involve more women as well as recognising local governments and indigenous peoples’ groups. As always finance was the most contentious issue during the official negotiations in Bonn. But this time at the COP23, it was about finance for compensation to the victims suffering loss and damage from climate change. Least Developed Countries including Bangladesh are also not benefited from Green Climate Fund. Particularly it is difficult for the affected countries to avail the fund because of tough paperwork and lengthy process. So the money is going out to the developed countries for mitigation, not for adaptation, and the most vulnerable are not getting funds for their projects. At the COP23, the LDCs and the Bangladesh expected some level of cooperation concerning the Green Climate Fund (GCF) but the overall progress did not correspond to the expectations.
Bangladesh’s Environment Minister “Anwar Hossain Manju” was leading the country’s delegation in COP23. He said in a statement that “We have to work very hard in the next session to advance the negotiations aiming to produce draft-negotiating text on Paris Rulebook,” His statement also revealed that Bangladesh has sought a simple procedural decision regarding the Adaptation Fund for it to serve the Paris Agreement. “This fund is very important for the vulnerable developing countries and particularly LDCs and SIDs,” the minister said. He added that Bangladesh has to address the issues of adaptation with the technologies that can deal with protecting its population by providing early warning and by minimising the potential economic and livelihood damages from the extreme climate change impacts that the country is already facing. In a separate speech during the high-level segment, the minister expressed that the delivery mechanisms for support are not as effective as expected and he expressed the demand for the need for substantial support for vulnerable countries in terms of finance, technology and capacity building.
The round of UN climate talks at the COP23, closed without a clear direction on how climate adaptation measures will be funded in developing countries such as Bangladesh, putting the discussion on hold until next year’s climate summit. Loss and damage occurs everywhere, including the rich countries, and they need to support and provide compensation for it through providing some support and helping communities. A lot can be done with limited resources by educating and capacitating youth, adults and women and providing drinking water in the dry lands and saline-prone coastal areas. There are many kinds of adaptation interventions that can be supported without insurance. The solutions to deal with climate change are very often the same solutions that deal with food security and taking care of poverty.
The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on loss and damage under UNFCCC is evolving along with structures and functions, generating knowledge and information and providing guidance to take initiative at the national level. So, the government of Bangladesh has to develop appropriate national mechanisms to address loss and damage with clear linkages and synergies with the WIM which could also provide bottom-up support to structuring the WIM to address loss and damage at international level. Therefore, there is a need to understand the national context and the range of implementation options available for loss and damage at the national level. In addition, progress in one country can inform other Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in developing potential pathways for understanding and addressing loss and damage. However, in order to benefit from international arrangements at the international level, countries will have to establish institutions to address loss and damage at the national level. Now a day, it is very clear that adaptation will not be sufficient enough to avoid loss and damage caused by the adverse effects of climate change. Hence, the issue of loss and damage must be incorporated into existing national institutional and financial arrangements on climate change, disaster, and environment in Bangladesh.
The loss of agricultural production, resulted from the climate change can be quantified economically and also compensation can be determined for the victims. But the challenges persist with non-economic loss and damages are associated with loss of crops, including damage to food security, damage to health- particularly of women and children, damage to education, migration and damage to social coherence and resilience, loss of values, cultures, and so on. These sort of non-economic loss and damage require a specific set of tools and methodologies to assess and to quantify for compensation. Approaches to address loss and damage from both extreme events and slow onset processes can be divided into four categories. These include: risk reduction, risk retention (social safety nets and contingency funds), risk transfer (insurance) and approaches to specifically target loss and damage from slow onset processes. There are a number of risk reduction approaches under way in Bangladesh – including early warning systems and cyclone shelters. The most work needs to be done in improving and scaling up risk retention programmes and ensuring that the most vulnerable areas and people are targeted. In order to develop and implement the appropriate package of approaches to address loss and damage in Bangladesh, a number of steps are needed to be taken. The climate risks of loss and damage and who is most vulnerable to those risks must be better understood. Their needs must be established and institutions must be in place to meet those needs. A comprehensive risk management portfolio for Bangladesh must be designed and developed. Good governance in local, national, regional, and international forums is required. Finally, funding, technology, and capacity at the national level must be available in order to implement approaches that successfully address – and ideally reduce – loss and damage and create a more resilient Bangladesh.
The technical and human capacity are also absent in Bangladesh for addressing loss and damage. Loss and damage resulted from climate change demands a unique financial mechanism, which will facilitate the emergency response, compensation and corrective measures including rehabilitation. In particular, a separate financial wing to facilitate loss and damage resulting from disasters and slow on set processes can be associated with Climate Change Trust Fund in Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh and the people of Bangladesh have invested huge amounts of funds of their own into a climate change trust fund, a climate change strategy and action plan. The separate financial wing, of the trust fund can mobilise financial resources from global funds related to disaster and climate change. Existing institutions can be strengthened to address loss and damage, but the limitations identified in the existing framework suggest that a specific institution/mechanism should be established in Bangladesh in order to provide oversight and guidance to all relevant institutions to deal with loss and damage.
Bangladesh has been implementing hundreds of projects on adaptation at the grassroots and the national level. Current institutional and financial arrangements in Bangladesh provide limited scopes to address loss and damage associated with climate change. To protect the country from the adverse effects of climate change, some policies should be undertaken, such as green community culture, energy efficient production and service, use of renewable power, waste management, penalty system for the polluters, etc. Apart from those, by deeply digging of canals and rivers, by planting trees, by reducing fuel use, the negative impact of climate change can be reduced. In addition, everyone should be very sincere to this issue and the Government of Bangladesh should be very much careful to implement effective policies to combat with this loss and damage resulted from the climate change. The existing national policies, legislations and institutions in Bangladesh relevant to loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change and their existing mechanisms relevant to loss and damage are not adequate. Further research works and comprehensive studies are needed to develop the appropriate structure of the National Mechanism on loss and damage in Bangladesh. With policy makers, experts and environmental specialists a national committee and technical working group could be formed accordingly to the further development of this issue in Bangladesh.
The writer is a policy advisor of a community-based organisation in Bangladesh and PhD Fellow, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh