Time to ramp up investment in adaptation to climate change

Vapour is released into the sky at a refinery in Wilmington, California. Photo: Reuters/Bret Hartman

2019 is proving to be a game-changing year with regard to the issue of global climate change in a number of ways.

First, we are seeing the unequivocal attribution of incidents starting from hurricanes, wildfires, floods—such as in the mid-Western states in the US—to human-induced climate change repercussions. From now onwards, it is fairly safe to say that the severity of such climate-related events is enhanced due to the global temperature rise of over one degree centigrade which has already happened due to human emissions of greenhouse gases.

The second important development is the recognition that the climate change problem has indeed become a matter of urgency due to our inaction in the past. This message is reverberating amongst both the young and old generations around the world—especially among the citizens of the developed countries who are demanding more proactive action from their leaders.

Thirdly, the responsibility towards tackling this global emergency is shifting (albeit slowly) from the developed world to the developing world with China and India both concentrating on investing in renewable energy.

At the same time, there is a growing realisation that the adverse impacts of climate change will affect everyone sooner than we had estimated, and hence investment in adaptation must be prioritised urgently around the globe.
There are two upcoming parallel but connected processes and events that offer an opportunity for ramping up investment in adaptation globally.

The first is the climate change summit called by the secretary general of the United Nations to be held in New York in September, where Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh is one of the key invitees on the resilience and adaptation track of the summit. This track is being led by the UK and Egypt and also includes Bangladesh together with Malawi and the Netherlands. The UNSG has asked leaders to come with “plans not speeches” and this will be a great opportunity for Bangladesh to speak not only for itself but also for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which have asked Bangladesh to speak on their behalf.

The second process is the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) which has three high-level commissioners (namely Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva of the World Bank) and around 20 others. The GCA will produce a flagship report on global adaptation for the summit and then continue to support the action tracks from the report for another year after the summit is over.

The GCA is currently drafting its flagship report and action tracks and holding meetings to finalise them. I have had the privilege of being part of the drafting team for the local-level adaptation track of the GCA.
The government of Bangladesh—which is a co-sponsor of the GCA—will be hosting the next meeting of the GCA in Dhaka on the 9th and 10th of July and the prime minister is expected to welcome some of the high-level commissioners to the meeting. It will be an opportunity for Bangladesh to showcase itself as a global leader on adaptation at both the national and local levels.

This is a great opportunity for Bangladesh to demonstrate its own strategies to adapt to climate change, build resilience as well as offer to share our knowledge and experience with others.

Originally this article was published on June 12, 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).
Email: saleemul.huq@icccad.net