Climate change budget must be used efficiently

Other vulnerable countries can learn from Bangladesh’s innovations

Photo: AFP/Munir Uz Zaman

Earlier this month, the Finance Minister of Bangladesh presented a special Climate Change Budget as part of the national budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, which accounts for approximately 7.5 percent of the national budget. This is the fourth year in succession that the Climate Change Budget has been included to cover 25 different ministries across the government. The total amount of the Climate Change Budget is almost USD three billion.

At the same time, ActionAid Bangladesh, together with the International Budget Partnership and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), carried out an evaluation of the Climate Change Budget from the perspective of civil society and academia for the second year, which was also presented at a press conference last week.

In this regard, my first thought is to commend the Government of Bangladesh for being a pioneer in preparing such a Climate Change Budget for four years in a row, enhancing the coverage of the ministries over the years and allocating as much as 7.5 percent of the national budget, which is a significant amount.

However, as we have now been making these budget allocations over several years, we need to also gather information on actual expenditures, and more importantly, evaluate the effectiveness of the expenditures. This should involve the government’s own Independent Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) under the Planning Commission, as well as evaluations by independent researchers, civil society and media. This can be done by setting up a multi-stakeholder task force where the different groups can be involved in monitoring and evaluation of expenditures.

At the same time, it is important that all 25 ministries must be enabled to understand what they need to be doing to tackle climate change in their regular activities, and also be able to report back on what they have done. This calls for a major investment in raising capacities of all the relevant ministries and their relevant technical agencies, which needs to go well beyond simply understanding the problems of climate change impacts, but rather learning and practicing solutions to tackle the adverse impacts of climate change.

An opportunity for doing this may be to use the National Adaptation Plan (NAP), which is being developed by the Department of Environment (DOE) with support from UNDP. The NAP should focus on ensuring long term training for all the different sectors and stakeholders on tackling climate change, which goes well beyond simply raising awareness about the problem. If this can be done, then Bangladesh will be well placed to make these budget allocations more effective going forward.

Another aspect that has come up from the civil society analysis is the need to link the budget to assisting the most vulnerable communities in the country, with a focus on the most vulnerable locations as well as special populations, particularly women. One way for us to take this forward might be to look at the Gender Budget as well as the Climate Change Budget and seek out opportunities for synergies across both of them.

Finally, it is worth thinking about sharing Bangladesh’s experience in preparing such a Climate Change Budget with the other countries in the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which Bangladesh has now become the leader of for next two years. The Finance Ministers of the nearly fifty countries in the CVF have their own group (called V20) which the Bangladesh Finance Minister will chair for the next two years. This could be a potential South-South knowledge sharing and capacity building exercise under Bangladesh’s leadership of the CVF and V20. As climate change impacts become reality around the world, every vulnerable country in the CVF will have to allocate part of their national budget to tackle climate change and they can learn from Bangladesh.

Originally this article was published on June 24, 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).