Table of Contents
1.1 Research Objectives
1.2 Research Questions
1.3 Structure of the Dissertation
Background to the Study
2.2 Climate Change Vulnerability: Bangladesh Context
2.3 National Responses
3.1 Adaptation to Climate Change
3.2 Adaptation at Global, National and Local Levels
3.3 Adaptation, Climate Change and Development
3.4 Facilitating Adaptation: International and Institutional Policies
3.5 Adaptation and Vulnerability to Climate Change
3.6 Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation
4.1 Analytical Approach
4.2 Methodological Approach
4.2.1 Research Areas
4.2.2 Methodology Limitations
5.1 Role of Public Institutions: Advisory and Capacity Building
5.2 Role of NGOs and Donor Agencies: Community Based Adaptation
5.3 Towards a National Climate Change Policy
5.4 Limitation to Climate Change Adaptation in Bangladesh
Household and Community Level Findings
6.1 Climate Change and its Impacts on Rural Livelihoods
6.2 Women and Climate Change
6.3 Indigenous and Physical Coping Mechanisms
6.4 Dependence on Aid and Role of the Government
Conclusions and Recommendations
Indigenous and Physical Coping Mechanisms
Field Visit, Gaibandha District
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Climate change is a global concern with its impending threats to economies, human development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Climate change impacts are currently being observed and studies show that poor countries are the most vulnerable. Using Bangladesh as a case study, this research examines the impacts of climate change to poor, rural communities and further explores the measures that are carried out to combat its existing and future threats. This research also aims to look into the existing socio-economic vulnerabilities of Bangladesh in order to establish the linkage between climate change and development.
Findings of this study show that poor communities are impacted by climate change through the loss of lives, assets and livelihoods. Adaptation to climate change is therefore necessary and should be integrated in development planning and objectives, to ensure that the most vulnerable groups are represented. Overall this research has observed that Bangladesh is still lacking this capacity, despite the spontaneous adaptation being practised by local communities.
This study has further observed that the most common response in addressing climate change impacts to vulnerable communities in Bangladesh is community-based adaptation, which focuses on local coping strategies and mechanisms. Community-based adaptation in the context of this research is focused on securing livelihoods and building a knowledge base for climate change awareness, among poor, rural communities and households. The findings of this study affirms that CBA programmes are increasing the resiliency of poor communities to climate change impacts however, certain limitations still exist which are further linked to policy formulation and integration, along with structural weaknesses in relation to addressing climate change in Bangladesh at the national level.
Effective adaptation strategies that address climate change induced stresses are based on the participation of stakeholders and the key actors in policy making at the local, regional and national levels. This research demonstrates that this is the challenge currently facing Bangladesh and the overall conclusion presents that coordination, development and implementation of a national adaptation strategy that addresses climate change at all sectors, as well as the integration of common methodologies observed by local communities in adaptation, should help establish the framework in reducing the country’s present and future vulnerabilities, in relation to climate change.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Climate change is considered to be one of the most vital issues of this century, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) affirming that its effects have already been observed, and scientific findings indicating that precautionary and prompt actions are necessary to address its impending threats (IPCC, 2001). Climate change is also increasingly being foreseen as a crisis of global proportions, with the IPCC further noting that its impacts will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poorer sections of the society.
The unparalleled impacts of climate change extend to effects on ecosystems, health, food production, water resources, agriculture and livelihoods (IPCC 2001, UNFCCC, 2007). With developing countries on the frontline, climate change puts an extra burden on the existing social and economic challenges that they already face.
While mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the traditional deliberate international policy approach to address the threats of climate change, adaptation has become a key focus and is currently playing as a major theme of discussion in the multilateral climate change processes (IPCC, 2001, IIED, 2007, UNFCCC, 2007). Adaptation is one of the most available responses addressing the threats of climate change, as it is a process that involves moderating strategies to cope with uncertain climatic events. Effective adaptation therefore entails the coordination of actors at all levels- from the international community, national governments to communities and local networks (UNFCCC, 2007).
Adaptation to climate change is an important aspect of protecting the poor from its adverse impacts and the challenge therefore is on how to keep local communities and households involved in the climate change discussions, without losing the focus on their existing needs and vulnerabilities. Local communities play a vital role in the adaptation process as the characterization of climate change impacts at the local level could present solutions and measures that can possibly be adopted at meeting the challenges in the future (IIED, 2007).
Community based adaptation (CBA) seeks to build on the local coping capacities of communities and at the same time, create awareness and advocacy on climate change issues (IIED, 2007, UNDP, 2007). CBA builds a foundation in identifying initial steps to adaptation, taking into consideration the development objectives of poor communities affected by climate change.
This research therefore looks into CBA in the context of Bangladesh, and it aims to examine its capacity to increase the resiliency of poor, rural communities in the country. The research will also look into the existing socio-economic vulnerabilities of Bangladesh and relate this to climate change impacts, in order to further establish the linkage between climate change and development.
1.1 Research Objectives
The following objectives were formulated in order to realize the aims of this research as mentioned in the previous section:
- Identify the impacts of CBA to the livelihood security and development of poor, vulnerable areas in Bangladesh.
- Explore the policies and strategies adopted and/ or in the process of being adopted in relation to climate change in Bangladesh.
1.2 Research Questions
The research questions to be answered by the study are as follows:
- How are poor, rural communities affected by climate change?
- What is adaptation and how important is it in the climate change process?
- What are the existing local coping mechanisms of communities and how do they influence general adaptation strategies?
- What is the role of NGOs and government institutions in climate change adaptation?
1.3 Structure of the Dissertation
This research consists of seven chapters. Chapter one provides the introduction, aims and objectives if the research; chapter two gives the country context and background of the study; chapter three is the literature review, summarizing adaptation concepts; chapter four provides the research methodology; chapters five and six present the findings of the study based on the data collected during the field visit; and finally, chapter seven presents the conclusions and recommendations.
Chapter 2: Background to Study
This chapter sets out the scene of the study beginning with a brief description of physiographic and socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh, followed by its climate change vulnerability, the existing policy level scenario and finally the national adaptation options, addressing climate change.
Bangladesh is a member of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group located in South Asia, which is bordered by India on the west, north and east, Myanmar on the south-east and by the Bay of Bengal on the south (figure 1). With a low natural resource base and a high growth rate of population dependent on natural resources for livelihoods, the country ranks as one of the most highly populated and its people are among the poorest in the world (DFID, 2008, BCAS 2001).
Most of the country is comprised of low-lying land formed mainly by the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Meghna (GBM) river systems. This physiographical setting makes it subject to annual flooding, with floodplains occupying 80% of the country (Agrawala et. al, 2003). The low economic growth, geographical settings and existing threats of natural hazards and anthropogenic stresses all contribute in making the country weak in its economic development and quality of life (BCAS, 2001).
2.2 Climate Change Vulnerability: Bangladesh Context
Bangladesh, as cited in several studies, is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change (WB & BCAS, 1998, IPCC TAR, 2001, WB, 2000, Rahman, et. al, 2007, Stern, 2007) Major studies have been done over the last decade to assess Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change and it is notable from these climate studies that the country will be highly susceptible to climate change and sea level rise by sectors and geographic areas with regards to water, coastal zone, agriculture, infrastructure, forestry and health (BCAS, 2001, Agrawala et. al, 2003, Alam, 2004).
Bangladesh’s vulnerability is exacerbated by the current climatic conditions, low economic and social development and lack of institutional capacity (Agrawala et. al, 2003, NAPA, 2005). The overall impacts of climate change are expected to have far reaching implications for both the physical features and the socio-economic aspects of the country by challenging the livelihoods of those people depending on Bangladesh’s natural resource base and services of other sectors including infrastructure and industries (Alam, 2003, NAPA, 2005).
Climate change scenarios are developed using General Circulation Models (GCM) and in the context of Bangladesh, GCM analysis reveals an expected average temperature increase of 1.0°C by 2030 and 1.4°C by 2050, which will have significant impacts on the agricultural sector among others (Ahmed et. al, 1999, Selvaraju et. al, 2006, Alam, 2004). Such a loss of agricultural land and production is expected to adversely affect the poorest population of the country on a local scale and nationally, it will undermine the country’s effort to reduce poverty as stated under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan (PRSP) and the Millennium Development Goals (Alam, 2004, Rahman et. al, 2007).
2.3 National Responses
Although Bangladesh is significantly impacted by current climate variability and is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, there is no written national policy in place yet to comprehensively address such risks (Agrawala et. al, 2003, Alam, 2003). The need for a National Policy on Climate Change, however, has been continuously expressed by civil society since the early 1990s (Agrawala et. al, 2003).
Climate change issues in Bangladesh are dealt with as a broader environmental issue by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) and the Department of Environment (DOE). These government bodies work alongside representatives from other relevant government ministries and departments as well as key NGOs and research institutions (Alam, 2003, NAPA, 2005). Despite the seemingly active involvement of these actors, Rahman et. al (2007) make clear that the understandings of climate change in Bangladesh are limited to a small community of scientists, activists and policy makers. Weak institutional capacity and human resource quality, particularly among government bodies, are also often cited in terms of needing substantial improvement if the challenges of climate change are to be faced vigilantly (NAPA, 2005).
The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) mainly in the 1990s has put in place a number of sectoral policies and plans that bear upon its ability to cope with current and additional climate risks posed by climate change (Agrawala et. al, 2003). The most relevant policy associated with climate change is the National Water Policy (NWP), which has recognized the necessity to reduce the knowledge gap in addressing climate change in the water sector and at the same time, comprehensively looks at short, medium, and long-term perspectives for water resources in Bangladesh (Agrawala et. al, 2003, NAPA, 2005). The NWP also plays a major part in the adaptation strategy of Bangladesh, which will be discussed further in the subsequent chapters.
As a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Bangladesh is expected to implement activities on education, awareness raising and training addressing the challenge posed by climate change (Rahman, et. al, 2007, UNFCCC, 2008). The GoB submitted its first Initial National Communication (INC) to the UNFCCC in October 2002 and this includes national circumstances, GHG inventories, chapters on vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, mitigation and a climate change response strategy (Agrawala et. al, 2003, Rahman et. al, 2007).
Bangladesh also submitted its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) in November 2005 as a response to the decision of the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (CoP7) (UNFCCC, 2008). The UNFCCC introduced the NAPA as a new approach that is meant to serve as a simplified and direct channel of communication and information transmission relating to the urgent and immediate adaptation needs for climate change.
Bangladesh’s NAPA was prepared by the MOEF and is the first official initiative for mainstreaming adaptation into national policies and actions for addressing the adverse impacts of climate change and reducing the country’s vulnerability to climate stimuli (Alam, NAPA sets an overall framework for adapting to climate change and it also takes into account the existing coping strategies which exist at the grassroots level, as well as prioritising community-based adaptation (CBA) initiatives as an important source of information (UNFCCC, 2008). CBA activities and programmes in Bangladesh are increasingly influencing polices and development plans, and a discussion of this will be explored in chapter five.
Chapter 3: Literature Review
This chapter reviews the literature on climate change adaptation, which provides a synthesis of its broader global understanding and common responses. Section one begins by defining adaptation and adaptive capacity with a specific focus on developing countries; section two discusses adaptation options at the global, national and local levels; section three presents the linkage between climate change, adaptation and development; section four briefly looks into international and institutional responses to climate change adaptation; section five identifies the key factors that affect vulnerability and adaptation; and finally section six explores the concept of reducing vulnerability through sustainable livelihoods.
3.1 Adaptation to Climate Change
The IPCC Third Assessment Report refers to adaptation to climate change as the
‘adjustment in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts’ (2001: 881).
Adaptation is necessary because of the impending threats of climate change to unique ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as its aggregate impact on GDP or local economy
(Ravindranath & Sathyahe, 2003).
Adaptation takes place in different types and forms. It can be anticipatory or proactive, which takes place before the impacts of climate change are observed; autonomous or spontaneous, which is widely applied and occurs as a reactive response to climatic stimuli without the directed intervention of a public agency; and planned, which is a result of a deliberate policy decision, based on climate change studies and predictions (Smit & Pilifosova, 2003, UKCIP, 2008)
Societies worldwide have had a long record of adapting for centuries however, with human-induced climate change, necessary adaptation options are needed urgently especially for developing countries due to their existing vulnerabilities (UNFCCC, 2007). Developing countries, as emphasized in recent research publications and studies, are expected to suffer the worst impacts of climate change in relation to loss of lives, livelihoods and increasing damage to their living standards (IPCC, 2001, AfDB et. al, 2003, Stern, 2007, UNDP, 2007). The incremental limitations of developing countries in terms of adaptive capacity are associated with human, institutional and financial constraints to anticipate and respond to the direct and indirect effects of climate change (AfDB et. al, 2003, Dessler & Parson, 2006, UNFCCC, 2007).
Adaptive capacity is context-specific and varies from country to country, among social groups and individuals, and over time, but is ultimately connected to social and economic development (Smit & Wandel 2006, IPCC, 2007). The capacity to adapt is influenced by a society’s productive base, which includes natural and man-made capital assets, social networks and entitlements, human capital and institutions, governance, national income, health and technology, including multiple climate and non-climate stress as well as development policies (IPCC, 2007). The IPCC further notes that adaptive capacity is not evenly distributed across and within societies, as is the case for many developing countries.
 Bangladesh has an estimated population of 144 million as of 2006 (World Bank).
 36% of the population are living below $1 per day (DFID, 2008)
 Notable studies include (a) Vulnerability Assessment of Bangladesh to Climate Change and Sea Level Rise by the BCAS, (b) Climate Change Country Study under the US Climate Change Study Programme by the BCAS (c) Climate Change and Adaptation Study for Achieving Sustainable Development in Bangladesh by Resource Analysis, the Netherlands, BUP and BCAS, and (d) Initial National Communication to the UNFCCC, (Alam, 2004).
 GCMs are models for weather forecasting, understanding climate and projecting climate change. The most cited GCM study in Bangladesh was conducted by the US Climate Change Study team.
 These include but are not limited to: (a) Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), (b) Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), (c) Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), (d) Department of Forests (DOF), (e) Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWBD), (f) Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), (g) Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), (h) IUCN, (i) Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), (j) Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad.
 The UNFCCC requires all parties to submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of Parties (COP).
 The COP is an annual meeting of all parties to the UNFCCC with the purpose of assessing progress in dealing with climate change negotations.
 ). It also includes the immediate and urgent needs for Bangladesh to address adaptation to climate change and has identified priority activities, which include raising technical capacity and building implementations in different vulnerable areas (Rahman, et. al, 2007).
 Adaptive capacity refers to potential, capability or ability of a system to adapt to climate change stimuli or their effects and impacts (IPCC, 2007).