The need of the hour

Challenges and the way forward to establish a national mechanism for addressing climate-induced Loss and Damage in Bangladesh

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that the impacts of human-induced climate change have already become a reality and that the world needs to step up its investment for both mitigation and adaptation, while also addressing Loss and Damage.

As the negative effects of climate change, including more intense cyclones, super wildfires, frequent floods, heat waves, and droughts become more and more visible around the world, the issue of Loss and Damage has emerged intensively in recent years.

The IPCC made mention of Bangladesh’s economic and non-economic losses this year. Climate-related disasters destroyed about 850,000 homes and 250,000 hectares of arable land and in consequence, this loss of agricultural land also led to crop failure. 

Bangladesh has significantly improved its approach to managing its climate risks and related policies over the past several decades. In order to increase its resilience to climate impacts including Loss and Damage and decrease associated vulnerabilities, there are numbers of government ministries are involved: Disaster risk reduction is handled by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR), while adaptation to climate change is handled by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Other related ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Ministry of Planning (MoP), and the Prime Ministers’ Office (PMO), are also crucial for the implementation of related policies in these fields.

Nevertheless, despite the proficiency and success in managing risks associated with climate change, the current policy and response framework has holes that need to be proactively filled. The key weakness is the lack of a comprehensive national legislative, institutional, and policy-related system that expressly addresses Loss and Damages brought on by climate change and supports those affected, especially the most marginalized groups and individuals in the countries.

Additionally, there is a lack of integrated guidelines to address Loss and Damage for different tiers of government (local, regional, national, etc), as well as a lack of a framework to assess non-economic Loss and Damages resulting from climatic disasters or quantify slow-onset processes.

Going back to the history, a workshop on Loss and Damage was held by the MoDMR in Dhaka on February 16, 2016, with funding from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), Action Aid Bangladesh, Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research (C3ER), and Nature Conservation Management (NACOM).

The primary audience for the program was MoDMR officials, with the goal of educating staff on how a national system to address Loss and Damage could be incorporated into a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategy. In order to begin conversations about how the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) may be translated at the national level, the workshop brought together the minister of MoDMR, senior officials, policy-makers, field specialists from MoDMR, together with the civil society, researchers, and experts working on (DRR) and Loss and Damage.

The workshop served as a first step in enlisting important stakeholders who could then understand and support the creation of a national system or mechanism to address Loss and Damages brought on by climate change. The MoL, MoWR, and MoEFCC have all agreed to contribute and support the mechanism's process under the direction of the MoDMR. After that, a number of regional and national consultations were held.

The main proposal that came out of these consultations was that the government of Bangladesh should take into consideration establishing a national mechanism on Loss and Damage through the formation of a new technical team with clear terms of reference. Later a scoping study was undertaken that outlined the steps involved in creating a national framework for Loss and Damages. 

Unfortunately, the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) hasn't done much work on the national mechanism since the scoping study was submitted. The absence of a motivating factor within the MoDMR has always hindered the establishment of the national mechanism on Loss and Damage. The MoDMR has been preoccupied in recent years with responding to the Covid-19 outbreak as well as the Rohingya crisis.

The development of the national mechanism has also been hampered by a lack of coordination and interaction between the MoEFCC and the MoDMR. For the National Mechanism to be established, these two major ministries must work together more effectively. It has been suggested that until then, the national mechanism be hosted by a different entity.

Later, a window of opportunity opened up as a result of the creation of the new Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA). The proposed national mechanism on Loss and Damage being advanced in Bangladesh as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative for a two-year action research project involving government ministries and agencies, non-governmental organizations, academics and researchers, as well as the private sector, such as insurance companies, which is one real-world example that other developing countries can look at and possibly learn from. Bangladesh will initially trial this with its own resources.

The goal is for Bangladesh to create mechanisms that are dependable, transparent, and capable of identifying climate change-related Loss and Damages and helping victims not only recover but also become better climate change adapters in the future. If it is successful, other vulnerable countries might follow its lead.

To expedite the process of national mechanism on Loss and Damage, the Multi Actor Partnership (MAP) concept can play a key role. The MAP concept is predicated on the idea that cooperation with a high degree of commitment, going beyond simple consultation of many partners and taking into consideration the complexity of interests of participating and affected actors, results in long-term fixes.

The challenges of addressing Loss and Damage, as they relate to Agenda 2030 and the Global Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement in particular, can only be overcome if actors from civil society, politics, business, and academia collaborate on jointly developed goals at eye level. This is also applicable for the development of the national mechanism of Loss and Damage.

On the other hand, the role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can’t be denied in establishing the national mechanism. A number of CSOs formally collaborate with the government to develop policies and plans, such as the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) revision and the National Adaptation Plan (NAP), which are currently under development. Along with institutionalizing cooperation among various CSOs, CSOs can create a bridge between government actors and local communities to develop the national mechanism on Loss and Damage.

Also, building CSO’s capacity will significantly improve the effectiveness of efforts to avert, minimize, and address L&D in Bangladesh given how CSOs assist the government in developing policies and strategies. Additionally, CSOs might support continued high-level leadership to make Loss and Damage a top priority for the Bangladeshi government. Representatives of CSOs that interact with the government on a high level could develop this leadership.

Moreover, given how CSOs help the government to formulate policies and strategies, a feasibility study conducted by a Bangladeshi consultant funded by German Watch claims that boosting CSO capacity will improve the efficacy of efforts to address Loss and Damage in Bangladesh.

Additionally, local CSOs that are doing a lot of the work to assist households in addressing Loss and Damage as well as the communities they serve are frequently left out of the process of developing policies, plans, and strategies that affect them. This needs to be changed, and their participation must be guaranteed.

To conclude, the establishment of a sustainable national mechanism depends on the high-level leadership on Loss and Damage, ideally at the political level with the backing of a minister and preferably from the Prime Minister's Office. Additionally, the MoDMR needs a champion to provide government leadership.

One way to develop the political leadership required to drive Loss and Damage is through high-level discussions between representatives of the government, experts, NGOs, CSOs, and other stakeholders. The MAP concept has a great potential in bringing together committed leadership for implementing the nation's Loss and Damage response mechanism.

SM Saify Iqbal is working as a research officer at ICCCAD. He can be reached [email protected]