GCA Meeting
Vulnerable countries merit greater attention

Climate change is occurring at a faster rate than previously thought. PHOTO: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON

This year marks a clear break with the past in terms of the climate change problem now becoming a “climate change crisis” with the adverse impacts of human-induced climate change getting visible across the world. The most recent manifestation of it was the unprecedented heatwave in Europe, which was several degrees higher than normal. This also means that all countries have to put in place adaptation measures at both national and local levels to prepare for what is about to come in future.

Bangladesh is playing a major role in both trying to prepare to tackle climate change impacts at home as well as share our knowledge with other countries and to raise our voice in global forums such as the upcoming Climate Action Summit in New York in September, which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been invited to attend by the UN secretary-general.

This week, Bangladesh is hosting a meeting of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) that was set up last year to prepare a Flagship Report on Adaptation for the Climate Summit and then promote a number of action tracks to take forward after the summit in 2019 and 2020.

The GCA is co-chaired by Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the UN, Kristalina Georgieva, chief executive of the World Bank, and Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. There are also a number of other Commissioners including Dr Musa, CEO of BRAC International, as well as many others.

The Commissioners will meet in Dhaka to discuss the preparation of the Flagship Report and plan the action tracks to take forward after the report is launched. They will also meet with the representatives of civil society and focus on the Action Track to Support Local Level Adaptation, which is the track that is of the greatest importance for Bangladesh and other Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Having been personally associated with this action track with the GCA, I am rooting for their success in taking it forward both in the report and after the report is launched. I am sharing below some of the aspects that we are keen to see in both the report and its follow-up.

The first point is for the world to recognise that the government of Bangladesh under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as well as the civil society, academia, private sector and the media have been working as part of a whole-of-society approach to making Bangladesh transition from being one of the most vulnerable countries to one of the most “resilient” countries by 2030.

The second point is to expect the global community to further lend their support to the efforts of vulnerable communities around the world, who have been active in enhancing their own adaptive capacity but with little support so far. This was well-demonstrated at the 13th annual International Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA13) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last April. The vulnerable communities had a clear demand that future adaptation plans, programmes and projects must be designed with them, not just for them.

With regard to the funding support for adaptation, it is still much less than for mitigation and needs to be enhanced considerably. However, even the insignificant amounts that have so far been allocated to support adaptation in vulnerable countries have failed miserably to reach the most vulnerable of them, who should have been the priority.

Hence, the major demand regarding funding adaptation is not only for much more funding, in many tens of billions of dollars a year, but also for better channels and procedures to be put in place to deliver it (as those who were supposed to do so have failed).

Finally, the demand for knowledge sharing on adaptation is not necessarily for higher-resolution climate change models (although they are certainly useful) but rather facilitating South-South sharing of experiential-knowledge generated by planners, implementers and practitioners in the developing countries with each other. Unfortunately, the global support tends to be only available to fly in and fly out international “experts” for short workshops, but not to support South-South peer-to-peer learning, which is the need of the hour.

So, while we certainly wish the GCA well in challenging the prevailing paradigms and increasing funding, we also expect it provide it in a manner that is truly supportive of the bottom-up efforts of the vulnerable communities themselves, and not just the usual top-down methodology that we have seen so far (which has failed to deliver).

We would, therefore, like to invite the three co-chairs and as many Commissioners as possible to come back to Bangladesh in January 2020 to participate in the 6th annual Gobeshona conference on climate change. This annual conference has been held for the last five years and the next year’s event will become a global event where we will be inviting participants from around the world to come and learn from Bangladesh. It would, thus, be an ideal platform for the GCA to launch their Local Level Adaptation Action Track in Dhaka in January 2020.

Originally this article was published on July 09, 2019 at  The 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