Report / Paper
Assessing the Risk of Loss and Damage Associated with the Adverse Effects of Climate Change in Bangladesh
ORGANISER: Germanwatch, Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), United Nations University – Institute for Human and Environment Security (UNU-EHS), International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN)
Cover: Assessing the Risk of Loss and Damage Associated with the Adverse Effects of Climate Change in Bangladesh
The issue of climate change-related loss and damage has received substantial international attention in recent years. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change established a work programme to enhance understanding of loss and damage at COP 16 in 2010. More recently loss and damage emerged as one of the most important issues in the global climate change negotiations at COP 18 in Doha. At the national-level, however, there has been little consideration of how to respond to those climate change impacts that communities and households may not be able to adapt to. As a first step to developing a response, decision-makers in vulnerable developing countries will need to enhance their understanding of how loss and damage will impact people, resources and infrastructure.
This paper examines the issue of loss and damage assessment in the national context of Bangladesh to understand how relevant tools and methodologies as well as these assessments in general can be enhanced. In addition, the paper will provide lessons and recommendations that will benefit other developing countries that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. To this end, this analysis explores how different assessment models and methodologies have or could be applied in Bangladesh and what challenges and opportunities emerge from this process.
First, this paper compares and contrasts select examples from the spectrum of assessment models that spans the independent but inter-related disciplines of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. While each model has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, two common problems emerged: first, most models fail to adequately account for intangible impacts that required a more qualitative approach, and second, most methodologies do not take into account broader socio-economic changes that could affect exposure and vulnerability.
Second, this study looks at what types of data inputs are required for the different models examined, what types of data are available in Bangladesh and what gaps or deficiencies exist in this information. This analysis found that while Bangladesh has a relative abundance of post-disaster data and significant household survey data that can assist in assessing exposure and vulnerability, there is a shortage of localised information on climatic hazards and stressors (e.g. soil salinity). In addition, current data collection and management practices impede information sharing between different government departments and limit the development of more comprehensive and robust data sets.
Third, this review explores what capacity, infrastructure and resources would be required to effectively implement and manage a loss and damage assessment mechanism in Bangladesh. The evaluation found that the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has invested disproportionately in infrastructure relative to other human and scientific resource requirements. Furthermore, the absence of a national-level knowledge-sharing network – particularly with respect to cooperation and collaboration between government agencies – serves as a barrier to making information more accessible and improving overall assessment capacity.
Finally, this paper examines how the communication to decision-makers might be improved in order to prompt appropriate action at the policy level. It was observed that decision-makers are more likely to act when climatic risks are categorised according to probability and severity and framed in a manner that presents clear options for mitigating these risks. Furthermore, the role of assessments in policymaking can vary significantly depending on the decision-making structures that are in place and the GoB’s general approach to addressing climate change impacts. These approaches fall into two basic policymaking paradigms: the first is top-down and driven by scientific estimates and projected scenarios while the second is bottom-up and driven by vulnerability analysis and development needs. Based on Bangladesh’s current assessment capacity and the availability of requisite data, this paper recommends a bottom-up, vulnerability-centred approach to climate change management, which is most likely to enhance resilience to climate change while addressing existing development needs – leading to “no” or “low regrets” outcomes.
Evaluating loss and damage is a complex and multifaceted task. Determining how existing methodologies for assessing climate change- and disaster-related risk can be used to develop a comprehensive estimate of tangible and intangible loss and damage is a process that has only just begun. Determining how assessment mechanisms can be adapted to the unique characteristics and circumstances of vulnerable developing countries is another challenge that will need to be addressed as this process moves forward. In the national context of Bangladesh, there are human, material and informational resources that can be leveraged to develop a better understanding of those climate change impacts that are “beyond adaptation”. Increasing investment in capacity building and scientific infrastructure as well as developing more collaborative practices and institutions will likely improve this understanding substantially. Over time, and with better knowledge of the challenges that will emerge as the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe, Bangladesh and other vulnerable countries can work together to develop solutions based on their shared experience.