Realigning our climate change goals
In climate change jargon, the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate change and its effects seeking to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities is defined as adaptation. Being one of the most at-risk countries to the impacts of climate change, adaptation has become a priority for Bangladesh. The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process is one tool at the disposal of the government of Bangladesh in this regard.
The NAP process was established under the Cancun Adaptation Framework in 2010 at the sixteenth session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as Conference of the Parties (COP). At the seventeenth COP, the following objectives of the process were agreed upon: (a) to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change by building adaptive capacity and resilience, and (b) to facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation in a coherent manner into relevant new and existing policies, programmes and activities. Guiding principles and four flexible elements as initial guidelines for the process were also adopted specifying the process as country-owned, country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and transparent.
Expanding on the four elements, in 2012, the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG), a constituted body under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) mandated to provide technical guidance and support to the NAP process, developed comprehensive technical guidelines to help the governments steer through the process.
Each of the four elements comprises several steps. The generic guidelines are non-prescriptive and are not equally fit for all countries. As different developing and Least Developed Countries have different national circumstances with different development priorities, they can customise the steps and their sequence as needed.
In contrast to the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), established in 2001, NAP is a continuous, progressive and iterative process rather than a one-time programme. NAPA was aimed at addressing urgent and immediate adaptation needs of the Least Developed Countries containing a set of climate change adaptation projects, while NAPs are medium to long term plans.
In 2015, three ground-breaking international agendas were adopted in three different months, cities and forums but having major shared goals. Many of these goals are achievable through climate change adaptation planning and, needless to say, their proper implementation.
At the twenty-first session of the COP, in December 2015, the historic Paris Agreement was adopted with a long-term global goal of "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels." Article 7 of the Agreement establishes the global adaptation goal of "enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the temperature goal." Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the mainstay of Paris Agreement, outline the countries' intended actions towards achieving both goals. NAP is another available tool noted by the Agreement in meeting its adaptation goal.
Aiming for "the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries", the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) was adopted in March 2015 at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. To achieve the aforesaid outcome, SFDRR set forth four priorities for action and seven specific global targets. According to a 2018 study, between 1998 and 2017, 91 percent of all disasters and 77 percent of the economic losses caused by them were due to climate-related hazards such as floods, storms, droughts and heatwaves. Thus, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are woven together.
"Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" containing 17 goals (SDGs) was adopted in September 2015, during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit. The targets of the SDG 13—taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts—resonate directly with the objectives of the NAP process. Several other SDGs are contingent on adapting to climate change. For example, SDG 1, 11 and 13 have direct linkages with the SFDRR which could be delivered through the NAPs.
All three agreements, having the same timeframe, have overlapping goals that relate to climate change adaptation. This provides an ideal opportunity for us to achieve the targets of these international agendas in unison which would shape the global development pathways until 2030.
Monitoring is a crucial part of the SDGs and the SFDRR, and the fourth element of the NAP process is Monitoring, Review and Reporting. There exist two sets of indicators having synergies among some to track the progress made in achieving the SDGs and the SFDRR. Development of a Monitoring and Evaluation framework for the NAP process can draw on those indicators as appropriate.
Bangladesh is a global leader when it comes to tackling climate change. The country was one of the first two countries to complete their NAPAs in 2005. It has already accomplished some of the steps associated with the NAP process. A roadmap for developing a NAP was approved in 2015. A Nationwide Climate Vulnerability Analysis—a major building block for the NAP process—was completed in 2018. BCCSAP 2009 (now being updated) has done most of what a NAP should do. With a USD 2.8 million grant received from the Green Climate Fund, the process of NAP formulation has commenced recently.
Since there is an opportunity to translate the goals of the three international agendas into national actions in an integrated manner in line with the national development priorities, Bangladesh should keep this in mind while formulating its first NAP. In addition, doing so can help avoid duplication of efforts by different stakeholders, thereby saving resources and ensuring that the impacts of climate change do not undercut the developmental gains.
Md Fahad Hossain is a former National Adaptation Plans and Policy intern at the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC) and currently works at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).