A ten year journey to achieve resilience to climate change

Photo: Ziaul Haque Oisharjh

In January 2021, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh will be holding the 7th annual Gobeshona conference with an overall theme of starting a ten year journey to promote locally led adaptation towards resilience in Bangladesh, as well as in other vulnerable developing countries, including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) countries.

The aim of the proposed journey is not to announce a new grand top-down action plan for the upcoming decade to 2030, as there are already sufficient goals including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In Bangladesh, we have just published the Perspective Plan to 2041.

In contrast, the ten year journey is an attempt to influence and modify all the top-down efforts by national governments as well as international institutions who are supporting adaptation and resilience plans, and to ensure that they genuinely support the empowerment and actions of the most vulnerable communities, in both towns as well as rural areas, in order to enhance their resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change while also tackling poverty at the same time.

The first element of this journey is the structure of knowledge sharing and evaluating our successes or failures (we explicitly accept that we will indeed make mistakes and that we will acknowledge such mistakes and do our best to learn from them and not repeat them). This will be done through three key meetings each year.

The first meeting will be the annual Gobeshona conference held in Bangladesh each January where the partners who will be involved in carrying out the monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) of locally led adaptation (LLA) will meet and share their findings. One such group is the LDC Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC), who will be carrying out a bottom up learning programme in each LDC.

The second annual meeting will be the international conference on community based adaptation (CBA), which takes place mid year in a different part of the world each year. This meeting brings together several hundred participants from all over the world who have been actively engaged in LLA for over a decade. The 14th annual CBA conference this year was supposed to have been held in Bangkok, Thailand in May this year, but had to be postponed to September and will now be an online event. This event brings together the Community of Practice on CBA from all over the world and next year’s CBA15 will be held in Bangladesh in the second half of 2021, hosted by BRAC. At this annual event, the grassroots groups themselves will share their experiences and evaluate to what extent the top-down efforts are actually helping them on the ground. It will be a place for all national and international projects and programmes to come and be answerable to the grassroots communities. One set of LDCs who are part of the LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR) have already promised to allocate 70 percent of their adaptation funding to support LLA and will be invited to report back regarding their performance at each CBA conference.

The third event that takes place each year is the United Nations General Assembly, which is also associated with the UN Secretary General holding a Climate Change Action Summit. At last year’s summit, the UN Secretary General launched an initiative on adaptation and resilience with the United Kingdom and Egypt as the co-leaders with several other countries, including Bangladesh, involved. This will be an occasion to see to what extent this noble, but very top-down, initiative actually enhances LLA.

Finally, the fourth meeting each year is the annual Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is held in November or December each year on a different continent. The next COP26 will be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021 (postponed from November 2020 due to the pandemic) and will bring together all the national governments in the UNFCCC to review progress. Under Article Seven of the Paris Agreement adopted at COP21 in 2015, countries agreed to set up and achieve a global goal on adaptation, which should also include locally led adaptation.

This journey is being planned to include a number of partners, ranging from national governments of some of the LDCs as well as CVF under the leadership of Bangladesh. At the same time, international development partners, multilateral development banks and UN agencies are also invited to join to share their experiences in supporting LLA. The one condition for joining is to be open to being critically evaluated by the grassroots groups that are supposed to be the beneficiaries of their respective programmes.

In the Bangladeshi context, the government is already working on its Eighth Five Year Plan, and then the Ninth Five Year Plan will take us to 2030. At the same time, we also have the Perspective Plan to 2041 and the Delta Plan to 2100 to guide us. The setting up of the Global Centre on Adaptation for South Asia in Dhaka will also be an opportunity for Bangladesh to share knowledge with other vulnerable developing countries on adaptation and resilience.

Finally, the goal of the ten year journey is to enable the countries involved to transform themselves from being some of the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change to becoming some of the most resilient. This will require all the citizens of each country to understand the risks of climate change impacts and also become prepared to deal with them effectively when they occur.

The one big lesson that the global Covid-19 pandemic has already taught us is that in every country where the leaders as well as the citizens have listened to the scientists and acted according to their scientific advice, the death toll has successfully been minimised. This lesson applies to tackling the climate change impacts which will continue for decades to come.

Originally this article was published on August 05, 2020 at Daily Star. The author Prof. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).
Email: saleemul.huq@icccad.org