What awaits Bangladesh’s climate change adaptation in 2023?
As 2022 comes to its end, let's review where Bangladesh stands in terms of two well talked-about concepts related to the climate crisis: Nature-based Solutions (NbS) and locally-led adaptation (LLA).
NbS is when we protect, restore, create or sustainably manage our nature. But, an important aspect of NbS is it should simultaneously improve the biodiversity of a locality and benefit its inhabitants. So, the protection of the Sundarbans, management of Tanguar Haor, the floating agriculture of Barishal, restoring of Dhaka's Hatirjheel, or practising of agroforestry in greater Mymensingh are examples of nature-based solutions.
On the other hand, at the lowest administrative level, when local people and their organisations, local government institutions and other local actors recognise, prioritise, plan, implement, monitor, evaluate and learn from adaptation against climate change, it is known as locally-led adaptation.
Of course, such actions need to be supported by the national and local-level government, private agencies, NGOs and development partners by closely working with the above local entities.
In 2022, the most important progress in Bangladesh's climate policy has been the approval of the National Adaptation Plan of Bangladesh (2023-2050) (NAP) in October.
This became only the second policy instrument of the country that strongly embraces both NbS and LLA. The first one was the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan Decade 2030, drafted back in September 2021.
On November 16, I wrote in my column about how NbS has magnificently been mainstreamed in the NAP by identifying 21 adaptation actions – which would require USD 5.9 billion – for ecological management, ecosystem restoration and conservation. Regarding LLA, the term has widely been noted throughout the NAP. However, its meaning has not been fully elaborated on.
Almost two years ago, the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) developed eight principles of LLA, which essentially focused on local-level decision-making, social equity, flexible financing, investing in institutions, understanding climate risks, learning from actions, ensuring transparency and accountability, and promoting collaboration. Since these principles are now endorsed by almost 100 government and private entities all over the world as a good practice, the Bangladesh government should consider the GCA as well to effectively adopt and mainstream LLA in 2023.
In May 2022, many agencies and individuals shared their experiences and understanding of LLA at a two-day consultation, organised by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). In the first meeting of this platform in Dhaka in September, every attendee shared their vision of and commitment to the future of LLA. ICCCAD has been playing a key role in mainstreaming new concepts and practices of climate change into the country's planning.
Another event was organised in April 2022 at the Planning Commission to discuss the economic recovery potentials (ERP) of NbS in Bangladesh. In 2021, the University of Oxford, ICCCAD, and Peru's Instituto de Montaña developed a methodology to measure how specific NbS interventions (like coastal afforestation, floodwater-storing reservoir, or enrichment plantation within mature mangrove greenbelts) can create jobs, diversify livelihoods or increase local productivity, thus helping communities to recover from shocks. The aforementioned meeting and a preceding session with NbS Bangladesh Network members on this topic gave some important insights into how NbS can be harnessed in the coming years as we try to recover from disasters, the pandemic and economic shocks.
Capacity development is an important part of mainstreaming NbS and LLA, too.
Over the last two years, the National Resilience Programme of the Planning Commission has trained around 350 government officials across sectors in NbS, along with disaster impact assessment and risk-informed development planning. Similar capacity development initiatives are, however, not taking place widely for LLA. But many NGOs have been arranging internal training sessions on LLA and NbS, which is expected to continue in 2023.
Regarding NbS-related knowledge, in the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from February 2022, many pieces of evidence were from Bangladesh, which showcase the country's progress in the knowledge arena.
In September, the World Bank's "Bangladesh: Enhancing Coastal Resilience in a Changing Climate" report proposed some useful solutions regarding building on nature's strengths. Similar compilations of evidence and good practices are much needed for NbS and LLA in order for these approaches to be correctly adopted. And while doing so, we should be careful not to misuse these terms.
In January 2022, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) of the UK government launched the long-anticipated Bangladesh Climate and Environment Programme (BCEP). The first output of this GBP 120 million, five-year-long initiative focuses on scaling up both NbS and LLA, and a collaboration between the FCDO and the GCA's Dhaka office has already started aiming to achieve that.
The second project, expected to be awarded in 2023, would focus on NbS as a means of climate change adaptation. In October 2022, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a USD 250 million loan to implement the second Coastal Towns Environmental Infrastructure Improvement Project, wherein NbS has been explicitly identified as a key project intervention.
Additionally, in April 2022, the USAID launched its new Climate Strategy 2022-2030, which clearly focuses on NbS and LLA. A quick visit to USAID's website on project funding forecast finds several projects for Bangladesh through which the mainstreaming of LLA and NbS would be possible from 2023 onward.
Similar scopes are found in the Global Environment Facility's (GEF) Small Grants Programme 2022, under which the UNDP Bangladesh has recently called for proposals to implement projects in the haor regions and in Cox's Bazar.
We can only hope that the teams designing the above small and large projects realise the needs and opportunities of NbS and LLA for Bangladesh as we move into 2023.
Dr Haseeb Md Irfanullah is an independent consultant working on environment, climate change, and research systems. His Twitter handle is @hmirfanullah