AT this time all the countries on the planet have come to accept that human induced climate change is real and, if not tackled, may become the greatest weapon of mass destruction the world has seen. Even the United States of America has now finally come to accept this reality and is beginning to take actions. So the first stage is to recognise that the problem is real and needs to be tackled. The next stage is to tackle it through both mitigation actions (reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change) and adaptation (preparing to deal with the adverse impacts of climate change). The latter action, adaptation, is a learning-by-doing process and itself has gone through various generations of understanding. I will enumerate some of them below and look forward to what the next generation might entail.
First generation of adaptation:
The first generation of adaptation consisted mainly of adaptation planning and started in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the last decade or so with the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) undertaken by all forty-nine LDCs. These proved to be valuable for raising awareness about the problem and identifying possible options to tackle them through adaptation projects, many of which are now being implemented with financial support from the LDC Fund created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Since then, many other developing countries and even some developed countries have started the first generation activities of adaptation planning.
Second generation of adaptation:
The second generation consists of implementing adaptation projects, which has also started in the LDCs and is now spreading to other developing countries, and even some developed countries. These typically consist of building dykes and embankments to protect areas and infrastructure from flooding; developing flood, drought and saline tolerant varieties of crops; as well as capacity building and training. Many such projects have now been funded by countries themselves as well as from the LDC Fund, Adaptation Fund and other sources of funding. Many of the earlier projects are nearing completion and are ready for some lesson learning from them. Such learning from the first round of implemented projects should inform the next generation so that they can be better designed.
The next generation:
We are now on the cusp of beginning the next generation of adaptation which needs to be informed from the experiences of the first and second generation activities, so it needs to be learning from experience of adaptation exercise. This will require the practitioners who implemented the first and second generation of adaptation activities to be actively engaged in learning those lessons from experience and informing the next generation of adaptation activities. One indicator of whether or not such lessons have being learnt will be whether the next generation of activities are significantly different from the first and second generations (which would indicate that a learning process has taken place), or they simply repeat the activities of earlier generations (in which case it can be assumed that no lesson learning took place).
This is particularly important as all developing countries now move into the next round of developing National Adaptation Plans (NAP), which differ from the earlier NAPAs in that they should include lessons from the experiences of the earlier generations of adaptation planning and activities.
Bangladesh's position in the adaptation learning ladder:
All countries need to go up the adaptation learning ladder one step at a time. However, countries that are lower down the ladder can learn from those who have gained more experience and thus shorten the time needed to move from one generation to the next. Bangladesh has been one of the first movers on adaptation over the last decade and has gained a great deal of experience across government, NGOs, researchers, and even private sector on how to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. At this moment it needs to stop and reflect a little and assess what has been learnt, before it embarks on the next round of actions. A thorough evaluation of the lessons learnt so far through a critical lesson-learning review is much needed. One opportunity for the government to carry out and then present their lessons learnt would be the five-day International Gobeshona Conference on Climate Change Research in Bangladesh (www.gobeshona.net ) to be held in Dhaka from January 7 to 11, 2015.
The writer is Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (www.icccad.net) at the Independent University, Bangladesh.