Bangladesh is aspiring to graduate from the status of a Least Developed Country (LDC) to that of a middle-income country over the next five to 10 years. This will make access to grants and concessional loans for development projects, on which we have relied for many decades, difficult.
However, even if we are no longer an LDC, we shall remain one of the most climate vulnerable country, and hence, the country will remain eligible to access funds from global climate finance that will be available at an enhanced level of $100 billion per year starting from 2020 and is expected to increase thereafter.
However, we shall have to compete with other vulnerable developing countries for accessing these funds as there will be no quota for Bangladesh (or, for any other country). So merely claiming that we are one of the most vulnerable countries will not be enough to get a reasonable share of the global climate funds that will become available over the coming years.
What will be needed for Bangladesh government, the research community, civil society, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, and the media is to work together to demonstrate that Bangladesh has an accountable and transparent system of monitoring utilisation of climate funds.
We shall have to establish that we are evaluating results and ensuring that the most vulnerable communities, for whom the funds are intended, actually benefit in terms of enhancing their adaptive capacity and resilience.
Fortunately, Bangladesh has already set up necessary building blocks for developing such a national system involving government as well as other actors. This is sometimes called a Whole of Government (WOG) or even a Whole of Society (WOS) approach to good governance.
In this article we will try to describe the existing building blocks and suggest ways to transition to a WOS approach by 2020.
We shall start with the systems for tracking and sharing information on climate finance within government.
Within the government
The government has already designated the Economic Relations Division (ERD) to be the National Designated Authority (NDA) for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which is the global fund with a target to handle the $100bn per year of climate finance from 2020 onwards.
The Development Effectiveness Wing of ERD has already established a web-based open and transparent Aid Information Management System (AIMS) that tracks Development Assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors. An additional layer of information on AIMS, for climate finance (for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, and capacity building), need to be developed and added.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) has developed a Climate Fiscal Framework (CFF) which tracks government's own expenditure on climate change related activities.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has been managing a dedicated Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF) that has provided them with good experience to build on towards monitoring and evaluation of projects and programs.
The Planning Commission has incorporated appropriate questions on issues related to Climate Change, and response to these questions must be submitted with pertinent documents to show that due considerations have been given to concerns related to climate change, when a project proposal will be submitted for approval.
This will be a requirement for all ministries to follow from now on. The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Planning Ministry has developed methodologies to monitor climate financed projects.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has developed climate change specific indicators to track climate change impacts around the country over time period.
We also have experience of a donor-funded Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) which is managed by the World Bank on behalf of the donors who have contributed to it.
Both the BCCTF and BCCRF have funded many small scale activities/projects through NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CBOs) which were channeled through the Palli Karma Shahayak Foundation (PKSF).
All these experiences, some of which were successful and some not so successful, are useful sources of learning lessons that can be applied to the next stage of building a robust WOS system of climate finance.
In a recent development, the Ministry of Finance and ERD have entered into a long term collaboration with a coalition of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), and the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research (C3ER) based at BRAC University, to provide long-term support in terms of research, technical advice, and capacity building to develop robust systems of tracking and monitoring climate finance in the country.
The initial focus of this national public-private-partnership (PPP) is to develop a Climate Finance Transparency Mechanism (CFTM) which is being supported by a consortium led by British Council through a program called PROKAS that is funded by the UK through their Department for International Development (DFID).
This program will be collaborating to promote collective action and bring people together with other projects supported by UNDP and Germany through GIZ to ensure that the government as well as donors work in synergy with each other, with the government being firmly in the driver's seat.
Outside the government
There are important roles for stake-holders outside government such as media, NGOs, and CBOs, and the private sector for ensuring that climate finance achieves the stated objectives of building a climate resilient country.
In this regard, the implementation of the government's Right to Information (RTI) law along with the desire to become Digital Bangladesh offers a great opportunity for the government to share climate information in a transparent manner on their website and enable it to be accessed in a user-friendly manner by citizens of Bangladesh to enable them to track where the money is going.
By different watchdog agencies, NGOS, researchers, academics, community groups, journalists, and citizens to bring to light any lessons learned of climate funds.
Although such reporting may sometimes be critical, it is important to maintain channels of communications so that if mistakes are indeed made they are acknowledged and corrected, rather than denied and swept under the carpet.
Finally, there is a very important role for the Members of Parliament, especially of the Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment and Forests, to provide oversight to the government on behalf of the people of Bangladesh.
In addition to this, the Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances can also play an important role which has the mandate as per Rule 244 of the Rules of Procedure of Bangladesh Parliament is “to scrutinise the assurances, promises, undertakings, etc, given by a minister, from time to time, on the floor of the House and to report on (a) the extent to which such assurances, promises, undertakings, etc have been implemented, and (b) where implemented, whether such implementation has taken place within the minimum time necessary for the purpose.”
After all, one of the constitutionally mandated functions of the legislative branch of the government is to provide oversight on the executive.
Bangladesh has already developed considerable capacity within all the relevant units of the government as well as other relevant stake-holders to take it to the next level, over the next few years. We should be able to develop and demonstrate to the world that a robust system of sharing, tracking, and monitoring climate finance is in place and also demonstrate their administration is effective.
If we can do this successfully, then the amount of global climate finance we shall be able to attract may easily amount to several billion dollars a year after 2020.
Saleemul Huq, Ainun Nishat, and Atiq Rahman are Director, ICCCAD at IUB, Professor Emeritus, C3ER at BRAC University, and Executive Director, BCAS respectively.