Aligning climate plans for a greater impact

Bangladesh should align its many different plans and goals related to climate change for a greater impact. PHOTO: REUTERS

Bangladesh has a long tradition of national development planning under the aegis of the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission, through the seven Five Year Plans prepared since we became an independent country. Recently, there have been a number of additional types of planning which will need to be well-aligned if we wish to achieve our goal of becoming a climate-resilient country by 2030. Some of these require examination and we need to discuss ways to ensure their mutual alignment going forward.

The first and longest-term one is the recently approved Delta Plan that has a time horizon up to 2100. Only the Netherlands has drawn up such a long-term plan and Bangladesh is the second country in the world to do so. It is more of an aspirational evolution towards our future development rather than a detailed plan, as the normal five-year plans will still remain the overriding planning vehicle, with the next one being the 8th Five Year Plan (8FYP)—which will start from 2021 onwards.

The second vehicle is to the year 2041 which is a perspective plan that is supposed to earn Bangladesh the middle-income status over the next few decades. This will also need to be translated into five-year segments to feed into the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Five Year Plans to be implemented over that time period.

Then we have a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which have a time horizon of 2030 to be achieved. These goals are global goals agreed at the level of the United Nations for all countries to implement at the national level, using common metrics to measure progress towards each of the 17 goals. In case of Bangladesh, all 17 SDGs have been mapped onto different lead ministries and support ministries for each goal by the Planning Commission. In addition, a high-powered monitoring unit has been set up at the prime minister’s office to track progress by each ministry for each of the 17 SDGs.

In addition to these development-oriented goals, there is also a goal on disaster risk reduction under the global Sendai Framework which each country is supposed to try to achieve disaster resilience by 2030. In case of Bangladesh, the lead for this is assigned to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (DMDR). There are also civil society and military allies and actors that are involved in the implementation of this plan.

Finally, there are two climate change related goals agreed globally under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to be achieved by 2030. The first goal—which is about mitigation—is to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases that cause climate change so that global temperatures are kept below 1.5 Degrees Centigrade by achieving 100 percent reliance on renewable energy in every country by 2050. The second goal is to achieve transformational adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change in every country in order to make them climate-resilient by 2030. In case of Bangladesh, we have a number of planning documents under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC).

The first is the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP), first prepared in 2009 and now being updated to take it to 2030. There is another called the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) that every country has to prepare to show how it will achieve the mitigation goal of the Paris Agreement. The Bangladesh NDC has pledged to reduce the national emissions of Greenhouse Gases by 5 percent by 2030, and if we get additional funding and technology, then we can reduce them by up to 15 percent. Finally, we are about to develop the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) which every developing country has to prepare to chart its objective of becoming climate-resilient by 2030.

In addition to these plans and goals, there are also others in different sectors, such as health, energy, agriculture, and water development, which are being developed by the respective ministries and departments.

It is clear from the above discussion that there is a lot of potential overlaps and lack of synergies unless these are addressed from the very beginning to ensure that each plan is well-aligned and linked, where necessary, to the other relevant plan(s). Also, it is imperative that the Five Year Plans should be the main vehicles into which all the others will be mainstreamed, starting with 8FYP which we will have to start developing very soon.

There are three overarching ways in which we can ensure that such synergies and mainstreaming is effectively achieved over the coming decades.

The first is to ensure that all the plans are aligned with each other while the 8FYP is started and developed. This is the responsibility of each ministry to liaise with the General Economics Division in the Planning Commission to ensure that the 8FYP receives inputs from all the other plans and goals. It is up to the GED to lead this process.

The second major action that has to take place is a very robust monitoring system for all the plans and goals cutting across the different sectors. This has already been put in place by the prime minister under her own direction with a well-respected former civil servant in charge. This is indeed a very good development. In this connection, it will also be useful to add a section of academics and researchers so that in addition to simply monitoring progress, we also have genuine learning-by-doing to inform and improve future Five Year Plans after 8FYP.

Finally, it is important to recognise that one of the biggest differences between the past and the future of the country is the shift from public sources of investment to private sources and also for the private sector to implement most of the plans. Hence, the country will have to become better at ensuring a whole-of-society approach rather than just a whole-of-government one with regard to both the planning and implementation of all these tasks. Bangladesh would do well to ensure that we find synergies and alignments among all the different plans.

Originally this article was published on January 23, 2019 at Daily Star. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).