A Range of Approaches to Address Loss and Damage from Climate Change Impacts in Bangladesh
It is widely recognised that developing countries – those least responsible for climate change – will bear the brunt of its impacts (Huq et al., 2003). In economic terms, disaster losses from weather, climate, and geophysical events are greater in developed countries (IPCC, 2012). However, fatalities and losses as a proportion of GDP are more significant in developing countries (Ibid). Moreover, these estimates do not take into account losses that are difficult to quantify – or non‐economic losses – such as loss of life, culture, and ecosystem services (Ibid).
Frequent exposure to natural hazards combined with widespread poverty results in the loss of life, damage to infrastructure and economic assets, and adversely impacts lives and livelihoods, especially those of the extreme poor. Bangladesh, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change (Maplecroft, 2010; Harmeling and Eckstein, 2012), experienced a total of 247 extreme events between 1991 and 2011. The average annual death toll was 824, equivalent to 0.6 people per 100,000 inhabitants (Harmeling and Eckstein, 2012). In addition to the loss of life, the annual average financial loss from extreme events is estimated at nearly USD 1.7 billion, equivalent to 1.18 percent of annual GDP in Bangladesh (Ibid).
While clearly vulnerable, Bangladesh has developed significant national capacity to address climate change impacts. Climate change adaptation (CCA), disaster risk reduction (DRR), and to some extent mitigation measures are a priority on the political agenda. However, despite successful adaptation efforts, it is now becoming clear that adaptation will not be sufficient to avoid all loss and damage caused by the adverse effects of climate change, especially given the fact that we are on track for an increasingly warmer world (Ibid).
The paper will address the following research questions: 1. What are the needs for approaches to address loss and damage in view of historical and future exposures? 2. What are the existing approaches to address loss and damage in Bangladesh? 3. What are their respective gaps and challenges and what entry points and responsibilities exist at the sub‐national, national, and international levels?
The research undertaken for the purpose of this paper was primarily secondary in nature. However, the authors have significant experience undertaking research on a range of issues related to climate change in Bangladesh and have worked with vulnerable communities throughout the country. The goal of the report is to provide policymakers and other decision makers in Bangladesh with information that will help them make decisions and implement approaches to address – and ultimately reduce – loss and damage in Bangladesh.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This study found that there are a number of risk reduction approaches under way in Bangladesh – including early warning systems and cyclone shelters – which have successfully reduced deaths from extreme events over the past few decades. However, structural measures like cyclone shelters need to be properly maintained and local knowledge incorporated into their design in order to ensure they are available for use and utilised by those who need them.
– The most work needs to be done in improving and scaling up risk retention programmes and ensuring that the most vulnerable are targeted. – Risk transfer approaches like microinsurance have not been widely employed in Bangladesh and those that have been employed have not been successful. Many are wary whether these approaches can work to address loss and damage. Therefore public awareness is needed along with carefully designed microinsurance programmes that are backed up by reinsurance or other means of financial support. – One approach to address slow onset processes covered in this paper is migration. Migration strategies span a spectrum from forced displacement to voluntary migration to seek better livelihood opportunities. – On governance DRR and CCA policies should be mainstreamed into development plans and policies and there should be efforts to integrate or harmonise the DRR and CCA agendas.
No one approach can effectively address loss and damage on its own. In order to develop and implement the right package of approaches to address loss and damage in Bangladesh, a number of steps will need to be taken. First, the climate risks of loss and damage and who is most vulnerable to those risks must be better understood. Their needs must be established and institutions must be in place to meet those needs. A comprehensive risk management portfolio for Bangladesh must be designed and developed. Good governance in local, national, regional, and international forums is required. Finally, funding, technology, and capacity at the national level must be available in order to implement approaches that successfully address – and ideally reduce – loss and damage and create a more resilient Bangladesh.