Tackling climate change effectively
AS the global community begins to invest billions of US Dollars to tackle climate change and Bangladesh is also spending hundreds of millions, an important priority is emerging, namely measuring the effectiveness of these investments. This issue is equally pressing at both global as well as national levels. I will give below some elements of what needs to happen.
To take mitigation (reducing emissions of greenhouse gases) first as it is relatively easy to measure the reduction of emissions of the different greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, Methane, etc) and calculate their global warming potential (GWP) as a common metric. Thus measuring the effectiveness of investments in mitigation actions is relatively easy both locally as well as aggregating the measurements globally. However, it does require expertise in measuring emission of the different greenhouse gases.
However, when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of adaptation actions (and hence the effectiveness of financial investments in adaptation) there is no such common metric either at local or global scale. It will, therefore be necessary to use proxy measures and indicators (at least for the time being).
Some possible proxy measures are highlighted below.
As adaptation to climate change is a new phenomenon and there are, as yet, no clear guidelines on what works and what doesn't, there will necessarily be a period of several years (at least) of many flowers blooming with some working and others not. It is therefore necessary to be transparent in sharing experiences, including what does not work. This can sometimes be counter intuitive as people like to promote successes and hide failures, but in this case failures may be more instructive than successes.
It is therefore, necessary, at least for the initial years, to allow for some failures in order to learn from them. Having a good investigative media is also a very important element in ensuring transparency.
Evidence gathering and sharing:
In order to judge success and failure it will be necessary to collect solid, credible evidence from the ground up. This will require developing and putting in place robust monitoring and evaluating (m&e) systems from the very beginning (not at the end). The best m&e systems are ones that are designed from the early planning stage and are implemented by agencies who are independent of the implementers of the actions having specialist knowledge of gathering evidence for monitoring and evaluation purposes.
Emphasis on learning while doing:
The corollary of taking a learning-by-doing approach (which is what is needed for now) is the need to invest equally in the “learning” as well as the “doing”. It also makes sense to bring in specialist in learning such as researchers and academics along with the project implementers. The lesson learning from experience is an essential part of adaptation project design and needs to involve specialists in carrying out such lesson learning.
Indicators for financing adaptation:
As funding for adaptation flows from global to national and from national to local level, there a number of parameters which can be included in evaluating the effectiveness of the investments being made. One such metric is to monitor and report on how many vulnerable people and households are benefiting from the investments? After all the underlying purpose for much of the adaptation investments are to assist the poorest and most vulnerable people, households and communities to be able to adapt to climate change impacts.
Incremental to transformative adaptation:
As we collectively move up the learning curve on how to be more effective in adapting to climate change we have been moving from tackling maladaptation first, then tackling climate variability and making incremental adaptations. The next phase of longer term systemic adaptation is looking towards potential “transformative adaptation” which aims not just to manage risk but to transcend it. This is still very much at a nascent or even theoretical phase but we will learn quickly how to do it.
Bangladesh has pioneered a number of aspects of tackling climate change, including community based adaptation, adaptation funding as well as loss and damage. It has the potential to also play a pioneering role in the development of tools and methods of monitoring and evaluating effective adaptation and hence to ensure the maximum benefits flow from the considerable investments that are being made in tackling climate change in the country. It will need a concerted effort by government as a well as civil society, academics and researchers and media to put in place a robust system for enhancing effective adaptation.
The writer is Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.
E-mail: [email protected]