A blueprint for adapting to climate change
How the upgraded project aims for long-term solutions
Climate change is an ongoing global phenomenon that has and will bring about significant changes in the ways through which environmental systems, and subsequently the ways of life for human beings, function.
As time goes on, changes in various environmental variables, both on a global and local scale -- such as sea levels, temperature rise, rainfall patterns, et cetera -- will result in significant changes to environmental and tandem human life and livelihood contexts. Loss of life, homestead, livelihoods, and ways of living has and will keep occurring due to the effects of climate change.
That is why efforts must be undertaken on various levels of society, from international to national to local community levels, to change and adapt human-environmental systems to the various unique contextual impacts of climate change.
To further the goal of safeguarding against climate change for significantly vulnerable countries such as those classified as “Least Developed (LDC)”, Guidelines for “National Adaptation Program of Actions (NAPA)” were implemented at the 7th conference of parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2001.
This guideline, developed by the LDC expert group (LEG), provides technical guidance to least developed countries to assist them in identifying climate change effects, impacts, and vulnerabilities, and in designing activities and actions to address key climate change issues that require urgent and immediate intervention.
From NAPA to NAP
NAPA is a national-level plan that usually entails country-specific climate information analysis, such as current and future trend analysis and forecasts, and possible social, human, and environmental impacts due to such changes. Using such analysis, the plan outlines key sectoral impacts and their vulnerabilities, prioritizing sectors that need immediate attention to ensure short-term climate change harm reduction and resilience.
Actions plans are then formulated based on priority sector needs, and the plan usually outlines key specific actions and programs that will be implemented to address adaptive capacity gaps and reliance building needs.
In 2005, Bangladesh, through the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, formulated the NAPA and then submitted it to the UNFCCC. Notably, the document set out 15 key priority activities addressing immediate and urgent climate change adaptation (CCA) needs of the country, with a key focus on sensitizing climate change concerns in water and food security, infrastructure development, land and water resource management, knowledge dissemination, and national development planning concerns.
An updated version of Bangladesh’s NAPA, submitted to the UNFCCC in 2009, partially integrated medium- and long-term concerns regarding food, energy, water, and livelihood security needs in light of future climate change effects.
This particular issue of medium- and long-term planning is the primary focus of the “National Adaptation Plans (NAP)” project currently underway. This plan will specifically focus on actions necessary to solidify Bangladesh’s climate change adaptation efforts in the future, to ensure that efforts and actions are continued, designed, and implemented in ways that make sure that the adaptive capacity and resilience building is persistent and sustainable in medium- and long-term timeframes.
The beginning of the NAP process
The inception of the National Adaptation Plan process (NAP process) saw its inception with the Cancun Agreement in the 16th conference of parties of the UNFCCC in 2010. The NAP process involves countries formulating plans for medium- and long-term adaptation efforts. For Bangladesh the NAP formulation process began in 2018, spearheaded by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) of the UNFCCC.
In essence, the NAP would act as a spiritual successor of the country’s NAPA, building upon the knowledge, experiences, and achievements gained from the formulation and implementation of the NAPA process. While the NAPA was primarily concerned with immediate and urgent climate change adaptation concerns, the NAP will focus on medium- and long-term planning to strengthen, cross-connect, and augment previous and existing endeavours to be sustainable in the long-term, and create new processes for long-lasting adaptive capacity building and reliance against the effects of climate change.
How it differs from NAPA
A key difference in the NAP process in contrast to the NAPA is that it allows a more flexible approach for countries to develop plans for CCA. The NAP process guideline ensures that the plans are formulated based on the unique contextual needs of specific countries in assessing vulnerability and adaptation planning.
While climate change is a global phenomenon, the actual effects of such are highly variable in local contexts. The exact nature and intensity of its effects are dependent on a locality’s environmental, geographical, social, cultural, political, and socio-economic conditions.
As such, the NAP process and, subsequently, the plans themselves will be different for different countries, as they require different actions to build capacity and resilience. Even on a national scale, the effects of climate change on the country will not be homogenous.
Different regions will face impacts unique to their specific contexts. While the NAPA also facilitates such approaches, the nature of the document focused on more discrete interventions for issues that required immediate action.
The NAP, on the other hand, will be designed as a national directive, integrating climate change action concerns in the program and national-level plan. Thus, it will ensure that climate change concerns are integrated into overall policy-making, development planning, and program designing and implementing (climate focus or general) endeavours undertaken by the country.
The final version of the NAPA was formulated in 2009. In the following decade, the knowledge base on climate change has expanded exponentially. From updated data on current and future climate change trends, effects, impacts, and vulnerabilities to various macro and micro-level research focusing on biological and environmental impacts are now available.
There is also an abundance of research on the social, cultural, and political dynamics of climate change on human life and livelihood. New methodologies, assessment tools, and technology now exist, providing more accurate and relevant data, both quantitative and qualitative, regarding environmental and human systems.
NAP is complementary to national plans
Many developments in international and national climate change policymaking and commitments have occurred, such as Bangladesh’s submission of its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) and the inception of the Paris Agreement on climate change at the 21st COP in 2015, ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the UN General Assembly, finalization of the country’s five-year plans with a specific focus on climate change, Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP 2100), etc.
Among these, the Delta Plan deserves special attention in formulating the NAP. Adopted in September 2018, BDP 2100 laid strong emphasis on achieving a "safe, climate-resilient and prosperous Delta" by 2100, which is very much in line with the objectives of NAP. For long-term economic growth, environmental sustainability, and water and food security, it has proposed several interventions by building climate resilience and reducing vulnerability through an equitable, robust, and adaptive water governance system.
Besides, this plan has a strong focus on sea-level rise, erratic rainfall patterns, and temperature rise among other climate change adaptation issues following an Adaptive Delta Management (ADM) approach. It has also taken the climate change issue as an external factor in developing its macroeconomic framework.
As such, these new developments must be considered when building the adaptive capabilities of the country to ensure long-term resilience. The NAP process is designed specifically to facilitate such. As outlined in its guidelines, the NAP and its proposed actions are guided by the best science available for effective adaptation. As the successor to the NAPA and companion to Bangladesh’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Plans (BCCSAP), a key process in the formulation of the NAP would echo this exact sentiment.
Engaging the stakeholders at all levels
As a long-term plan, the formulation of such is not only seeking consultation from only top-level policymakers, bureaucrats, private and NGO personnel, and academics but also engaging in dialogue with all levels and sectors involved and most affected communities by climate change. People of all groups and communities, especially those who are marginalized under their current social contexts and intersectionality even in each sex, will be included in the feedback, dialogue, and discussion-making process.
Through this process, Bangladesh has developed the draft NAP. It is now undergoing a thorough validation process. It was first shared with the stakeholders for feedback on February 24, 2022 and later hosted on the MOEFCC’s website for public opinion and feedback. The process involved more than 30 consultations held at the national, divisional, district, and upazilla levels in 11 climate stress areas in the most climate-vulnerable regions across Bangladesh.
The draft NAP identified 14 climate hazards that include extreme temperature, erratic rainfall, riverine flood, riverbank erosion, drought, cyclone and storm surge, sea-level rise, salinity intrusion, flash flood, landslide, cold snap, lightning, urban flood, and ocean acidification.
The goal of the NAP is to be people-centric, instead of just developing interventions implemented by top-level “outsiders.” The final NAP will contain guiding principles and actions for creating and enabling an environment. If implemented properly, it will not only establish sustainable ways of climate change adaptation, but also organically incorporate specific group and community agencies in planning and designing states of capacity and resilience-building actions.
The effects of climate change are variable in local contexts. The effects of such are asymmetrically distributed among various groups and people based on their social, cultural, and socio-economic contexts. As such, great emphasis has been given to integrating gender and minority sensitivity in the NAP process. Women, children, the elderly, and differently-abled and minority groups are often more severely impacted by the effects of climate change due to differences in power relations and restricted resource access.
No climate change adaptation measures can ever be considered as effective if they can safeguard only select groups. As such, the inclusion of minority considerations and agency in climate change planning and operations is a key feature of the NAP process. This is not only just limited to mainstreaming such concerns, but also the creation of targeted specific planning to ensure short-term remedial actions and long-term systematic change to ensure that adaptive capacity and reliance are sufficiently strengthened.
It is worth mentioning that UNDP launched a global NAP support program from which technical guidance and experience from various countries have helped to steer the process in even more meaningful ways.
A living policy document
The formulation and finalization of the NAP document is not the definitive end of the national adaptation planning process. The process is designed to be continuous, constantly adjusting and readjusting itself to incorporate the latest science, agencies, and developments related to climate change.
For such purposes, the process from the beginning is set up in ways that ensure that progress and operations of the NAP are constantly evaluated. Feedback from multilevel sources is analyzed, and learnings and shortfalls are periodically incorporated to modify and realign the implementation of the NAP as needed.
This is a major feature that distinguishes itself from other planning documents, as the process itself is designed to continuously seek and consolidate new knowledge, tools, and technology along with expert and indigenous feedback to ensure that plans are aligned with up-to-date national and community needs, and goals and concerns.
The purpose of the NAP is to ensure that a country can effectively integrate matters about climate change adaptation into the overall planning of the country. This means that the NAP will not just serve as a national scale plan, but also promote and facilitate the creation and design of plans and other initiatives on regional and sectoral levels. It will facilitate improved coordination among both public and private entities, utilizing a holistic approach to prioritize, design, and implement actions necessary for sustainable resilience and adaptive capacity building.
Many issues, as we discussed previously, are relatively unique based on multiple sociological and environmental contexts. Furthermore, the nature of climate change impacts transverse among various dimensions.
For example, increased salinity levels affect not just agriculture but also biodiversity, which in effect might reduce the effectiveness of natural systems safeguarding capabilities against extreme climate effects. Thus, the cause and effects of the different impacts of climate change on different dimensions can have a cascading effect, where issues are exacerbated in a continuous cycle of constant deterioration of life, livelihood, and environment and increasing vulnerabilities.
While isolated monocular approaches to address such issues can have positive short-term effects, they act only as band-aids, delaying the inevitable. To fully ensure sustainable rectification and adaptation to these changes, multi-dimensional, multi-level approaches must be taken.
The way forward
As a national-level plan, the NAP is expected to build upon the learning and limitations of its predecessors such as the NAPA, to guarantee that Bangladesh is properly equipped for addressing the effects and issues of climate change through effective medium- to long-term adaptation planning. The plan hopes to establish climate change as a norm in national policy dialogue and developmental planning.
Utilizing the flexibility of the NAP guidelines the formulation of the plan would be able to take a more holistic approach to climate change planning and design by engaging dialogue from and between various groups, with special emphasis on grassroots and marginalized communities who bear most of the brunt of the harm caused by an increasingly hostile climate.
Besides improving coordination for effective planning and implementation, a continuous, comprehensive, and inclusion evaluator process and the push for mainstreaming and establishing legal mandates to ensure full commitment to climate change adaptation are but a few fundamental objectives of the NAP process in ensuring that Bangladesh can indeed create and execute concrete measures for effective long-term adaptive capability to withstand and exploit the challenges and opportunities of climate change.
Meer Ahsan Habib is a Hurbert Humphrey Fellow at Arizona State University. AKM Azad Rahman works at UNDP.