Climate solutions from Bangladesh: The Climate Bridge Fund

April 21, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This #EarthDay, we explore the Climate Bridge Fund, a unique climate financing mechanism in Bangladesh that supports non-governmental organisations directly responding to people displaced by climate change.

The people closest to a challenge are often closest to its solution, but farthest from resources.

The Climate Bridge Fund is an effort to change that – a direct climate financing mechanism to support organisations working with people who have been or are at risk of being displaced by the impacts of climate change. 

Monsoon flooding

Climate stressors have been increasing in Bangladesh – flooding is intensifying, rainfall patterns are changing, and riverbank erosion is increasing.

Higher-magnitude flooding has meant that more than 22% of Bangladesh’s total land has been submerged every year for the last six years. This is a new trend – floods of such magnitude only occurred six times between 1972-2014. Since 2015, they have occurred every year. Last year was particularly concerning – Bangladesh saw the longest spell of floods in three decades, leaving millions of people homeless.

Six major cyclones hit Bangladesh between 1965-1990. From 1990 to 2020, Bangladesh faced 10 major cyclones. Two occurred in 2019 alone.

Each year, approximately 10,000 hectares of land is lost to riverbank erosion. More than 700 rivers crisscross Bangladesh, with the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna making up one of the world’s largest river systems. Rapid erosion is happening in coastal areas as well. In the last 20 years, Sandwip Island, in the coastal belt of Bangladesh, lost 90% of its original 23 square miles.

Bangladeshis living in low-lying regions have already started to move; 1.5 million of the five million people who live in slums in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, came from villages near the coastal belt. 

Read more: Climate resiliency through the lens of ultra-poverty: Six interventions from Ultra-Poor Graduation programme

The Climate Bridge Fund is based in Bangladesh, and supports non-governmental organisations located in Bangladesh to implement projects which increase the resilience of people displaced by climate change – people who have fled their villages due to severe climatic shocks to livelihoods. Established by BRAC with support from the Government of Germany through KfW, the idea of the fund is to put funding into the hands of those closest to the challenge.

Informal settlements across Bangladesh’s urban areas house millions of people who were displaced by climate change. These are places which are already crowded and lack basic services.

The Fund supports projects which directly address these issues faced by people displaced by climate change living in urban slums in Khulna, Rajshahi, Barisal, Sirajganj and Satkhira. Four projects are currently operating under the Fund’s assistance, in the cities of Khulna and Rajshahi.

“Climate Bridge Fund is an innovative and equitable climate financing mechanism. It is the first of its kind in the non-government sector. The focus is to leave no one behind – through improving the resilience and adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable people displaced or at-risk of being displaced in the urban areas of the country”.

Dr Golam Rabbani, Head of the Climate Bridge Fund Secretariat

The projects work to strengthen the provision of basic services including water, sanitation and hygiene, housing facilities and waste management, livelihood development and access to financial services. Examples of project interventions include solar lighting and eco-friendly kitchens, increasing access to items such as mosquito nets to reduce preventable, climate-sensitive diseases like dengue, and strengthening pro-poor services within city corporations to ensure responsiveness to the needs of people displaced by climate change.

An urban slum in Bangladesh

The Fund has been set up to bridge the financial gap between short-term project funding and the sustainable provision of services and infrastructure for people displaced by climate change. Projects are developed in consultation with the community itself and local authorities (city corporations and municipalities). A major criteria in the selection of projects is how inclusive they are; the Fund prioritises projects that address gender and the most vulnerable groups.

Read more: BRAC at the Dhaka meeting of Global Commission on Adaptation

Many urban areas across the world are already experiencing rapidly growing populations due to climate-induced migration. As extreme climatic events continue, more people will be forced to move, and the lives and livelihoods of people living in urban areas will become more vulnerable to hazards such as floods, waterlogging, heat and cold waves, cyclones and storm surges, salinity intrusion in ground/surface water, drainage congestion, and outbreaks of climate-sensitive diseases.

Last year was the warmest year on record, globally. As the world starts to return back to normal, we cannot go back to business as usual. We must act now to protect the most vulnerable. COVID-19 has taught us many things, but one that we must act on is that no one is safe until we are all safe. Initiatives such as the Climate Bridge Fund offer a way to make that possible.

 

Luba Khalili is Communications Portfolio Lead for the emergency, humanitarian and climate change cluster at BRAC.

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