Pauline Tamesis: Speech at the National Policy Workshop on Bringing Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Together Towards Resilience

10 Sep 2013

Chairperson, Dr. Saleemul Huq, Eminent Climate Scientist
Chief Guest of this session, Mr. Mesbahul Alam, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management & Relief
Key Speaker of this event, Dr. Q.K. Ahmad, Chair, PKSF
Dr. Ainun Nishat, Vice Chancellor, BRAC University
Mr. Abdul Qayyum, National Project Director, CDMP
Dr. Asaduzzaman, Climate Economist
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen


Good Morning! 

It is with great honour that I speak for UNDP at the inaugural session of the National Policy Workshop on “Towards Resilient Bangladesh: Bringing Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Together”.  To start off the discussions it may be helpful to ask the question, “Why is it important to tackle disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation together?”

In answering the why, some figures might help frame the content. The United Nations reports that 9 out of every 10 disasters are now climate-related.

Globally, nearly 1.2 million people have lost their lives in natural hazard-related disasters over the past two decades. These losses are approximately 70 billion USD per year, with poor countries suffering much of the losses.  Bangladesh too has suffered huge losses in the last two decades: 

  • The 1998 monsoon floods inundated over two-thirds of Bangladesh, and resulted in damages of over $2 billion, or 4.8 per cent of GDP.
  • Cyclone Sidr resulted in losses of $1.7 billion, or 2.6 per cent of GDP in 2007.
  • Projections show that damages and losses from a single severe storm in 2050 will be around US$9.2 billion, or 0.6 percent of GDP.  About half of these would come from the added risks from climate change. The incremental damages from the added risk of a changing climate are estimated at US$4.6 billion.
  • The rise in sea-level, even if it is only up to one meter, would mean that Bangladesh could lose up to 15% of its land area, displacing around 30 million people living in the coastal areas, because of the impact of climate change.
  • But we don’t need to look far into the future to see the effects of climate change.  The 2011 Population Census shows that the population size in the coastal district of Bhola has decreased due to recurrent disasters in the last few years.   The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) estimated that more than 20 million people will be displaced in the near future.  It also acknowledged that the resettlement of this many people will be more challenging because Bangladesh is already densely populated.

This brings me to the first point I wanted to highlight in my remarks today:

Climate change exacerbates disaster risks.  We see this with expected increases in frequency and intensity of extreme climate events.  We recognize this with the adverse effects on accessibility and availability of food, the degradation of ecosystem resulting in, among others, a decreasing availability of clean drinking water.  In fact, many people in the vulnerable southern coastal belts are already suffering this shortage. 

Which leads me to my point: how are we addressing climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction?  Have we done enough?  As I understand, disaster and climate change, are, in general, still addressed through two sectors, and sometimes, even through parallel efforts.  I would like to make a case, or maybe even remind all of us, of the compelling (and well known) arguments for bringing DRR and CCA together.

Addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation together makes sense because:

One, it will reduce losses [related to climate through widespread DRR measures] 

Two, it will increase efficiency of resources utilized [financial, human and natural; which is crucial in the context of aid effectiveness]; 

Three, if viewed comprehensively, it will enhance effectiveness and sustainability of CCA and DRR approaches, than if pursued separately, and 

Four, if our principal goal is to strengthen the resilience of at-risk communities on the ground, academic silos should not get in the way of aligned policies and aligned implementation.  I hope this workshop will be instrumental in setting the guidance for future actions that address convergence of policies, institutions and on the ground practical applications.  We expect the workshop which has brought you together; policymakers and practitioners to:

First, commit to the development of institutional mechanisms for converging DRR and CCA, both for policy and practice, and

Second, use the opportunity to promote community led risk reduction measures and climate change adaptation, which has proven in the past to improve resilience. 

Distinguished experts and participants

Over the years, UNDP in Bangladesh, in support of the government and together with development partners, has played an important role in policies and programmes that ensure safer lives and livelihoods, improving food security and people’s health, with better management of natural resources.

  • At the policy level, UNDP continues to work with the Bangladesh Planning Commission to mainstream poverty, environment, climate change and disaster concerns into national planning and budget process.  This will ensure adequate resources are allocated at the planning stage for the areas I spoke of.
  • Through the past decade, UNDP has advocated for a policy shift that now clearly links disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.  Currently, mainstreaming efforts cover 14 ministries and line departments, which are all at various stages of progress.  These efforts aim to build a solid foundation for advancing an integrated approach for sectoral development plans and processes.
  • Today, we see improvements in reduction of risk from disasters and adaptation programmes that are transforming lives and livelihoods of vulnerable populations. For example, the ‘win-win-win’ (or triple win) coastal afforestation project is a useful illustration of simple innovations that can have a far-reaching effects. It combines climate resilience by reclaiming lost land, on one hand, and ensures disaster risk reduction by addressing the protection of a mangrove green belt along the coast, that in turn protects inland communities from tidal surges and cyclones. It also promotes reduction of emissions by expanding carbon sinks. Additionally, it provides social protection for the poorest through cash-for-work employment. These are home grown solutions that demonstrate how aligned risk reduction and adaptation, policies, institutions and approaches can work in tandem to achieve more than the sum of their parts. 

Distinguished experts,

Let me close by going back to the question I posed earlier. Have we done enough? May be I should have asked “can we do more?” The promising news is we have a solid basis to move forward with a stronger DRR and CCA convergence.  But, this can only yield stronger results if we tackle disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation together. We can transform the economy to be climate and disaster smart and move towards environmentally sustainable development. Together, we can help vulnerable populations effectively utilize available resources for and improve their access to additional funds at the global level.  We can help target policies and programmes to work for the most vulnerable populations and the most urgent needs, while at the same time addressing long term challenges.

I wish you all constructive discussions to chart the course for transformational change strengthening resilience in Bangladesh.

On this note, thank you all very much!