What areas or outcomes at COP27 are most relevant to your work and what will you be watching out for?
My programme at SAJIDA Foundation is the Climate Change and Disaster Management programme, which just completed the pilot phase last year. Our work focused on adaptation and building resilience, that's the main overarching goal, but within that, we have different thematic areas designed according to the needs of the communities that we are working on. And within the programme, we put emphasis on locally-led adaptation, so all thematic areas follow that framework.
One of the key areas that we will follow during discussions and dialogue at COP27 [27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC] is to see how the eight principles of LLA [locally led adaptation] are being implemented in different parts of the world. Where it's been successful, what learnings we can have that we can apply to our work.
Some of the other key areas that we'll be looking out for are Loss and Damage mechanism and climate finance alongside the adaptation that I mentioned.
Climate finance is a vast topic, but in our programme, the items which align with the LLA principle are flexible funding and devolving decision-making, including financing at the local level. That's one of the things that we're trying to promote from bottom-up decision-making and for that, it requires a flexible funding scheme, so we'll be looking to see how broader global dialogue is on climate finance.
Particularly around green finance mechanisms and also how we can mobilise funds that can be made available to local communities to get involved in finance mechanisms and decision-making.
To add to that, one of the components in our work is around green skills development, so we'll be closely watching this space on green finance. To see how it might align with some of the capacity building we're doing on green skills development and accessing green finance at the local level.
What, in your view, would a successful LLA look like in Bangladesh?
It's one thing to introduce different livelihood options or look at different risks and provide prescriptive livelihood training. But once a project is over or the donor leaves, what mechanisms or pathways can be left behind so that the work continues? From that perspective, how do you make any kind of livelihood programme or adaptation programme sustainable?
An example could be looking at climate resilient agriculture - giving communities or women training on climate-smart agriculture is great, but unless you link it up with the market, enable decision-making, and create that pathway so they can take up those livelihoods and earn income from it, it won't be sustainable. Changing their income without addressing decision-making, and control over their resources and finances is not the way it should be done.
Can nature-based solutions (NbS) be an important part of adaptation?
We'll be discussing this as well in COP27. One of the key things that are important for this, or any kind of intervention really, is that it has to be beneficial for both people and the environment.
In the past, we have seen different adaptation practices that have become maladaptive. There are a few examples: intensive shrimp farming, which might have been seen as adaptive to saline environments in the long run, is more disruptive for the land and the people; not many people benefit from that.
So applying the lens of NbS, you are taking that holistic approach of ensuring the human-nature and social-ecological relationships are intact. I think it's essential as we continue to design programmes and solutions to address climate impact or not just climate but anthropogenic activities as well.
We need to think of solutions that consider both the environmental and human benefits. For example, a nature-based solution is not necessarily just for areas with high conservation value or high biodiversity. There is urban nature resolution which is just as important right now with intensive flooding, rapid migration and rapid development going on.
And it's even more urgent or just as urgent to think of a nature-based solution in terms of landscape ecology and architecture, in building design, and how we harvest energy and water not just in rural areas but in urban spaces.
As you continue to promote more sustainable development, you have to bring in those elements in the infrastructure needed for development. And just to add to that, obviously, nature-based solutions are needed for disaster risk reduction as we brace for more frequent disasters, cyclones, more intense flash floods and erratic weather patterns.
We also need to include indigenous or local knowledge that people might have had on how we can be more in tune with nature. And develop in a way that's not harmful to the environment.
Can you tell us a little bit about governance and climate change adaptation; how is that dynamic working in Bangladesh?
Governance is a key feature especially as we talk about increasing capacity around decision-making. What is governance? First of all, it's not the government. When we are talking about climate adaptation or natural resource management, governance is trying to figure out who are the actors involved in decision-making. What decisions do they make, what is their connection to one another and what adaptation? For example, we're trying to think about how people adapt to lack of fresh water or need to take decisions on disaster risk reduction.
We need to understand who the stakeholders are, not just the government. You need to have local stakeholders. You also have researchers, you have the community and, of course, you have government and the different sectors within the government. We must understand these structures and dynamics within a governance system. So as we try and innovate or as we try and think outside the box and think how can our local communities adapt to these environmental changes, we need to understand how a resource or how a system is governed in the first place.
For example, if you want to introduce more ecosystem-based agriculture, if we want to involve local people who have lost their land due to river erosion or the fishing communities, it's not just people with lands that we want to introduce this ecosystem-based aquaculture to. We need to know how the system functions. So it's really important to have that governance understanding of an ecosystem so that any kind of adaptation we want to introduce to that ecosystem is in line with how decisions are made and who makes the decisions and who has the knowledge and power to make those decisions so that we can channel it the right way through the system that exists.
How to ensure there is less disconnect between vulnerable communities and policymakers?
It's a million-dollar question.
Right now, COP27 is the pinnacle of where policy decisions are made on what will happen. People involved in COP27 will decide on things like keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees or signing up for zero net carbon. So how do we link those decisions at the lowest pair of decision-making? I think one of the ways is we have to build capacity at the local level.
Yes, people already know climate change is happening and they have this indigenous knowledge to adapt and that's great. Still, they also need to be able to have agency and voice in decision-making.
Linking up through different forums, maybe, that links up local and regional and links regional to global. We have to create a space through these dialogues that bring in local community-level leaders to the space where discussions are being had on what decisions need to be made at the policy level. So there's no point taking somebody from the local level straight to the COP just to showcase that there's someone from the ground up. If that person is just to showpiece and not able to speak up or know what it is that space and how to navigate that system of talking about what policies are there and where they need to intervene and then there's no point just physically linking them up and taking them to COP.
That process needs to be throughout the year, way before COP. It's not just a COP thing, they need to be empowered and their capacity built on understanding legislation, understanding how they can make their voices be heard and then obviously not that they need to be at that top space but that their voices are carried through. The mapping is done, and those decisions are taken into consideration when different budgets are made, policies are made, and dialogue happens at the national level.
We need to strengthen the local stakeholder groups that can get the voice of the local committees and make it a more transparent system. Well, we do have local leaders like local chairmen who speak on behalf of the people, but we need to have that process be more transparent and see if they represent people's needs? How that local consultation happened, who was there, what they said, was it a fair, unbiased process and then how those outcomes of discussions are taken up to the next level.
So there needs to be a more equitable, transparent process to ensure that these local-level meetings and outcomes are taken up to the regional and national policy level.