Published online 11 September 2008 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2008.1103


Bangladesh launches climate change action plan

Billions still needed to finance initiatives.

floodFloodwaters threaten homes and livelihoods in Dhaka, Bangladesh.PUNCHSTOCK

Bangladesh, one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, has launched a strategy to help the nation adapt to threats such as rising sea level, water-logged land and increased salinity.

The strategy is aimed at adapting to the local effects of climate change over the coming decade. It was launched at a conference in London on Wednesday with a £75 million (US$132 million) grant from the UK government. Bangladesh called for further financial support to implement the plan.

Last year Bangladesh lost 3,000 people to cyclone Sidr and 140,000 people to a cyclone in 1991. Scientists estimate that 40% of the country could be affected by flooding by 2050 as a result of climate change.

“Bangladesh is ground zero for climate change.”

Atiq Rahman
Bangladesh centre for advanced studies

At the conference, the UK and Bangladeshi governments also signed a joint communiqué outlining the need for a strengthened international deal on stabilizing greenhouse gases due to be discussed in Copenhagen next year.

Mirza Azizul Islam, Bangladesh's secretary of state and finance adviser, said that "least-developed countries, including Bangladesh, need immediate international support to build their resilience to global warming and climate change. The resources currently available for adaptation are grossly inadequate."

"We want a new sense of urgency to support Bangladesh in our search for a better tomorrow. This is why we are presenting our climate change action plan and calling on the international community to assist Bangladesh by providing predicable, long-term financing for the plan."

Planning ahead

The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan sets out six key areas of action including on food security, disaster management, research and knowledge management and mitigation and low-carbon technology development.

To ensure food security and health, the plan calls for research to develop crop varieties that are tolerant to flooding and salinity, and to implement surveillance systems for existing and emerging diseases.

It recommends that Bangladesh establish a centre for research and knowledge management on climate change, enabling the country to have access to the latest science and technological developments. Bangladesh should also strengthen its cyclone, storm surge and early-warning systems to enable more accurate short-, medium- and long-term forecasts.

Addressing the conference, Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and chairman of the climate action network for south Asia, said, "Bangladesh is ground zero for climate change."

"We hope this initiative will be picked up and applied in other developing countries," he added.

Pro-poor strategy

Rahman, who advised the government on developing the plan, explained that it is a "pro-poor" strategy. He said that any action against the effects of climate change taken under the plan must not undermine efforts to reduce poverty reduction efforts, otherwise it will not be accepted by Bangladeshi society.

To finance the action plan, Bangladesh has established a National Climate Change Fund with $45 million of its own cash, which will focus on adaptation initiatives. Britain's £75 million contribution includes £60 million for helping people adapt to climate change, £12 million for disaster management and £3 million for research.

Launching the strategy, Raja Devasish Roy, special assistant to the chief adviser at Bangladesh's forest and environment ministry, said that additional funding for the strategy needs to be "firmed up". He said the government estimates that $500 million will be needed to implement the plan in the first two years, with a total of $5 billion needed over the first five years. He added that these figures do not include the funds needed for disaster relief and rehabilitation. 

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