FEATURE: Unpacking Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage in the National Context of Bangladesh
Munjurul Hannan Khan, CDKN’s policy advisor in Bangladesh and Tahmina Hadi from NACOM discuss the need to improve understanding of Loss & Damage in Bangladesh, and the increasing importance and focus on Loss & Damage in global climate negotiations.
Loss and damage has become a highly critical issue in climate vulnerable countries, as the impacts of climate change are being manifested in the form of intensification of natural disasters, sea-level rise and other climatic events. These climate-induced disasters are posing negative impacts in the form of sudden and slow onset disasters. The repercussions of such climatic aberrations are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods, economy and the environmental settings in developing countries.
This year can be flagged as the year of ‘Loss and Damage’ under the UNFCCC process. As decided in the Paris COP 21 and the Paris Agreement, the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) will be reviewed this year and further decision will be taken at COP 22 to address loss and damage. Bangladesh, as an active member of the least developed countries (LDCs), has been pushing this agenda from COP 16. Considering the importance of reviewing the WIM, CDKN co-organized a workshop on ‘Unpacking Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage in the National Context of Bangladesh’ from February 6-7, 2016 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The workshop was hosted by the Department of Disaster Management and Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, with support from ActionAid, C3ER and NACOM.
The primary objective of the workshop was to unpack the state of play at the global level to address loss and damage in Bangladesh. It also aimed at understanding the scope to develop a national mechanism to address loss and damage as part of the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Strategy.
Loss and Damage: need for better understanding
The concept of loss and damage is quite complex. Addressing it requires understanding of climatic events and processes; however, this entails uncertainty. The exposure and sensitivity to risk is higher when the adaptive capacity is inadequate. Both slow onset and sudden events confirm that adaptation is not enough to address residual impacts of climate change. Such residual impacts, known as loss and damage, require measures beyond adaptation.
In Bangladesh, there are adequate policies and strategies to address DRR and the sudden onset of disasters. However, these policies and strategies are not necessarily enough to address loss and damage and there is lack of coordination among the different Ministries and technical agencies implementing said policies. Furthermore, the implementation of the policies is also delayed due to lack of capacity at institutional level.
The workshop brought together experts, policymakers and practitioners related to loss and damage and DRR to discuss the background, structure, process and next course of action of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM). The participants also debated how the WIM will work in the future to address loss and damage due to adverse impacts of climate change. Legal aspects of WIM under the Paris Agreement were elaborated in the discussion to develop a strategic approach for contributing to climate negotiation under the UNFCCC. Though the aforementioned discussions deserve a feature of their own, highlights of the discussion in the national context are examined in this article. Pressing questions were discussed with the national audience to provide clarity on the understanding of national circumstances to take action on loss and damage. Non-economic loss and damage, migration and rehabilitation of climate displaced populations was an integral part of these discussions.
Sectoral assessment process to identify and understand loss and damage
It is understood that key sectors of the economy which include agriculture, infrastructure (power, road, telecommunication etc), water, forests and health are under serious threat of impacts of climate change. However, the existing method to assess loss and damage such as the D-form, presently used by the Department of Disaster Management in Bangladesh is unable to sufficiently capture the severity of impacts and their associated loss and damage. The D-form must be reviewed, modified and statistically strengthened by including data from the affected areas and information on damages to ecosystem services. Furthermore, conducting a salinity analysis, physical survey, application of GIS tools and other scientific tools will be necessary to collect data on loss and damage of affected areas and communities. The non-economic loss can be quantified and assessed through group discussion and community consultations.
National strategy and coordination for addressing loss and damage
Institutional arrangements for addressing the loss and damage issue within the existing institutional setting of the country need to be developed. Loss and damage is a new dimension in adverse impacts of climate change that emphasizes institutional capacity building of a climate vulnerable country such as Bangladesh. The significance of capacity building lies with sectoral monitoring and coordination to effectively manage loss and damage, while also looking at multisectoral assessment and actions. Discussions at the workshop highlighted the need for systematic Disaster Impact Assessment (DIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) methodological approaches to assessing loss and damage.
Institutional structure to address loss and damage at the national level
Given the lack of coordination among the ministries, a national coordination cell to implement the policies effectively is an urgent national need for Bangladesh. Lack of coordination contributes to delayed implementation of the policy and waste of time and resources; hence, the essence of the policy dismantles. Establishing a wing under the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief to address loss and damage associated with the effects of climate change is logical.
Support needed to address loss and damage
Climate vulnerable countries are looking for support from the UNFCCC process for adaptation and mitigation including loss and damage. The following are Bangladesh’s needs for addressing loss and damage:
- Financial, technical and intellectual support to conduct research on assessing and quantifying the loss and damages incurred due to climate change;
- Adequate budget to undertake projects on climate mitigation and adaptation;
- A legal framework to address loss and damage associated with climate change;
- A climatic model to understand magnitude of loss and damage due to slow onset and quick onset of climatic disasters. Narrowing down of the climate model at subnational level would be appropriate and comprehensive enough to understand the magnitude of loss and damage;
- National mechanism with a provision for supporting rehabilitation and well planned migration as a part of the coping strategy;
- National data set and knowledge hub/archive on loss and damage to operationalize the national mechanism;
- Strong coordination among the ministries and other relevant stakeholders to ensure effective support mechanism with good governance.
This year at COP 22, the UNFCCC process and negotiations will engender an acceptable and agreed mandate for WIM to handle loss and damage and to facilitate support to climate vulnerable countries. Developing comprehensive strategies on loss and damage in developing countries would be a timely approach for capturing critical elements of loss and damage within national circumstances and to facilitate establishing critical structure of national mechanisms for loss and damage.
Picture Courtesy: DfiD