Climate Change and Bangladesh: The Way Forward

Saleemul Huq reports on a roundtable discussion concerning the implications of the climate issue for Bangladesh, summarizing the key points made by delegates and listing recommendations for concrete actions in the medium- and long-term.

The author is Director of the Climate Change Programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, United Kingdom, and Chairman of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The roundtable discussion Climate Change and Bangladesh: The Way Forward was held on December 30th 2002 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The meeting was jointly organized by the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and the International Institute for Environment and Development.

The objective of the discussion was to consider present opportunities and future challenges of climate change in view of the three broad thematic areas of adaptation, mitigation and international negotiations.

The author introduced the objectives and the agenda of the meeting and asked for individuals to give their frank opinions on what needs to be done. He mentioned that over the past ten years environmental awareness in Bangladesh has increased among the different government departments and amongst non-governmental organizations. This increased awareness has, in the main, been through the undertaking of projects at the national level as well as increased attendance at various international meetings.

Preparation of the National Environment Management Action Plan is one of the best examples wherein a large number of people have been consulted to identify environmental problems in Bangladesh. It was pointed out that the next decade should prioritize work on climate change which was important for the country. This work will require participation from different groups including government departments, non-governmental organizations and private entrepreneurs. Capacity building should be emphasized as climate change has both a local and a global dimension while environmental issues are usually acted upon on the local and national scale.

© Sarah Granich/TIEMPO

At the international level, in negotiations such as under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the World Trade Organization, Bangladesh plays a significant role negotiating within the G-77/China group. In regard to the climate negotiations, Bangladesh has, and in the future can, play an important role as an individual country, particularly in view of its particular vulnerability to climate change. This role, as well as the national level experts in climate change activities, is recognized by the global community.

A further strengthening of negotiating skills and strategy would help Bangladesh in international negotiations. There is also the important opportunity of working collectively with the Least Developed Countries group as well as others.

Atiq Rahman, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, highlighted the challenges and opportunities for Bangladesh in the area of climate change. He emphasized that strengthening of capacity in international negotiations is vital for Bangladesh and that the nation should be very tactical regarding the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. There is positive progress, as evidenced by both the improvement on the discontinuity problem of national delegates in international negotiations as well as the incorporation of experts from the non-government sector. Both of these reflect the openness of the government.

The issue now is wider integration, incorporating different agencies and acting together in a coordinated fashion. This looks hopeful as the private sector is showing interest in participating in the new opportunities that have been created under the climate treaty and the Kyoto Protocol.

Atiq Rahman also pointed out that Bangladesh has the political commitment to dealing with climate change. This was clearly shown by the Prime Minister in her opening address at the Least Developed Countries meeting on National Adaptation Plans of Action held in Dhaka in September 2002 (see page 11 of this issue). He warned, though, that the nation needs to position itself and prepare a strategy for climate change adaptation, mitigation and international negotiation. The question is how?


Mizan Khan, a policy analyst with the Sustainable Environmental Management Programme, initiated discussion on adaptation to climate change. As a background, it was noted that Bangladesh is preparing a project document for the National Adaptation Plan of Action activity and that the implementation strategy of this needs to be finalized with a Global Environment Facility implementing agency by mid-April 2003. Through the Ministry of Environment and Forests, it was reported that the Plan of Action would be implemented through the United Nations Development Programme and that the preparation of this would take around 18 months.

It was emphasized that the assessment of vulnerability and adaptation should be based on country-level or regional- level climate change scenarios, rather than on the use of global scenarios. A new personal computer-based computer model from the Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom will soon be installed in Bangladesh which will facilitate developing country-level scenarios based on regional models. Participants agreed that it is important to link climate change impacts in the analysis and that the sharing of information in a customized format is vital.

Finally, on the matter of adaptation, it was suggested that the best way to integrate other departments and agencies in the preparation of National Adaptation Plans of Action might be to reactivate the government’s existing Inter-Ministerial Climate Change Committee.


Isaj Hossain, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, initiated discussion on mitigation potentials and the need for a necessary legal and institution mechanisms for enabling Clean Development Mechanism projects in Bangladesh. He noted that one of the objectives of the Clean Development Mechanism, sustainable development, has to be certified by the host government. Without government support it cannot be operationalized. Bangladesh has the expertise to prepare sustainable development indicators and the private sector is showing their willingness for investing in Clean Development Mechanism projects. It was agreed that the institutional and legal mechanisms needed should be put in place as early as possible to attract these projects.

Delegates also agreed that the government has a vital role to play in any Clean Development Mechanism project and needs to finalize the setting up of a designated national authority. The main role of this national authority would be to endorse Clean Development Mechanism projects by ensuring contribution to sustainable development of the country.

Capacity building, both in government and the private sector, is necessary for obtaining funds from various international initiatives such as the Prototype Carbon Fund, the Community Development Carbon Fund and the Bio Carbon Fund.

Three private sector groups (Rahimafrooz, Waste Concern and Grameen Shakti) have already presented their initial proposals for Clean Development Mechanism projects. All three of the groups have pointed out that integration of and cooperation from other government departments or agencies would be required for removing existing barriers, particularly policy, for implementing Clean Development Mechanism projects.

International negotiations

The author initiated the discussion and said that future international negotiations in the arena of climate change would concentrate on future commitments, that is, the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The main issues are as follows.

  • How to bring the United States back on board and how to persuade it to take on mitigation targets?
  • How to bring the big developing countries, for example, China, India and Brazil, to reduce their emissions?
  • How to ensure that the principles of equity, right, justice and entitlement are integral to any future agreements?

Strengthening negotiations skills and positioning ourselves with existing groups such as the Least Developed Countries and vulnerable countries are absolutely essential for Bangladesh if we wish to get any substantially favourable outcomes from the international negotiations. To do this it will be necessary to find common interests with other groups such as these and prepare a strategy for building consensus.

The preparation of negotiation strategies and important points through the involvement of civil society will strengthen the nation’s position as well as more accurately representing the common people’s needs.

General awareness has been increased, but there is a need for leadership. A concerted and coordinated effort in environmental diplomacy and negotiations could be undertaken by the government, with the Environment and Foreign Ministries taking the lead. Participants agreed that negotiating is an art and is not always easy to learn. Capacity building is needed. For this, selected persons within the Foreign Ministry and Environment Ministry/Department should be identified and trained.

The overall leadership of the negotiations should be placed in the hands of a skilled, senior diplomat who would be designated to lead the Bangladesh team at all climate change negotiations for at least five years to maintain continuity and focused intent. This person should also be fully supported by a technical team of experts from both government and non-government sectors.

Conclusions and action points

Sabihuddin Ahmad, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, requested that similar roundtable meetings be held on a regular basis. This would ensure that participants could share information and bring each other up-to-date on the latest developments in this fast changing field of climate change. He assured the cooperation of his ministry and department in this regard.

The following were some of the conclusions and concrete action points agreed during the course of the roundtable discussion.

  • Reactivating the existing Inter-Ministerial Climate Change Committee.
  • Preparation of National Adaptation Plans of Action involving all stakeholders.
  • Setting up the institutional and legal framework for facilitating Clean Development Mechanism projects in Bangladesh through a Climate Cell, which will be established with the financial support from the United Kingdom Department for International Development.
  • Setting up an institutional mechanism for international negotiations for keeping institutional memory.
  • Institutional capacity building and the improvement of negotiating skills.
  • Sharing of all information on climate change (both within as well as outside government).
  • Holding of regular such roundtable discussions on different aspects of the climate change issue bringing together all relevant stakeholders, including government ministries and agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, researchers, academics and media.

Further information
Saleemul Huq, International Institute for Environment and Development, 3 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H 0DD, UK. Fax: +44-20-73882826. Email: Web: