There have been more than 11 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including more than half a million deaths globally. The community transmission of the virus in Bangladesh has created a psychosocial and socioeconomic crisis, causing infections and deaths.
While we were battling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate change-induced super cyclone Amphan devastated the coastal area of Bangladesh affecting more than a million people in the middle of May. Currently, the northern region of the country is facing early monsoon flood.
People living in the vulnerable settings are more exposed to climate change impacts like heat waves, erratic rainfall, salinity intrusion, increased intensified floods, droughts, cyclones, and riverbank erosion. It is evident that due to Covid-19, climate change did not take off; rather together they caused dual emergencies for the country.
The country is now facing huge challenges as both the pandemic and climate change are affecting human health, livelihoods, food security, nutrition, water availability, and pushing people below the poverty line, leading to unprecedented displacement and social crisis at the same time. This deadly combination of climate change and Covid-19 is affecting the poorest the hardest.
But the dual emergency has created a new window of climate financing for recovering from the loss of Covid-19 and building resilience to climate change through proper planning, policy reformation and implementation of sustainable and inclusive interventions considering the Paris Agreement for climate change adaptation and mitigation, Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction and WHO guidelines for combating the pandemic and achieving the SDGs.
In terms of climate finance, Green Climate Fund (GCF) is one of the largest among many international funds which prioritise the most climate-vulnerable countries so that they can enhance their adaptive capacity and make themselves resilient to climate change.
The fund has an instrumental role in serving the Paris Agreement, 2015 by supporting countries financially to achieve the goal of keeping average global temperature rise well below 2°C through mitigation and adaptation measures under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The GCF is expected to play a key role in channeling new, additional, adequate, and predictable financial resources to climate-vulnerable countries. It promotes climate investments through a set of financing instruments, including loans, equity, guarantees, and grants for high impact mitigation and adaptation projects for paradigm-shifting.
According to the World Resource Institute (WRI), the GCF has historically underfunded activities in the health sector impacted by climate change. So, investments that help countries to deal with both climate change and pandemic related health impacts can be a synergic point for GCF.
Also, the Covid-19 has exposed the gaps and left the overall system fragile, and hindered the development achievements in climate-vulnerable countries like Bangladesh.
Recovering from these economic shocks the countries will mostly focus on the development activities which might cause more emission of GHGs (Green House Gas) in the atmosphere. Therefore, extra effort will be needed to create more focus on promoting green economic growth and enhancing the resilience of the most vulnerable communities by financing through a climate lens under the new normal situation.
Here, GCF can take the lead by becoming a new avenue of fast-track funding on climate change adaptation and mitigation amid the Covid-19. This fund can be accessed by submitting high-quality project proposals through Multilateral Entities (MEs) and Direct Access Entities (DAEs) with approval from the National Designated Authority (NDA).
In Bangladesh, the NDA of GCF is the Economic Relations Division (ERD) under the Ministry of Finance and the two DAEs are Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) and Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF). At present, 128 GCF projects are running worldwide and among them, only four projects are being implemented in Bangladesh. Three of them are channeled through multilateral entities (KfW, World Bank, and UNDP).
The implementation of the approved projects on time is necessary. The GCF should provide a standard operating procedure (SOP) for implementing the approved projects under the pandemic situation. Also, the NDA and DAEs of Bangladesh should prepare their own SOP for implementing the approved projects considering health and occupational safety in the time of Covid-19.
In terms of the loan projects, the DAE should discuss with GCF and make sure the repayment is rescheduled considering the vulnerable situation of the country and does not affect the implementation of the project. Rather, Implementing Entity (IE) can discuss with the secretariat if there is any scope for Covid-19 response in the vulnerable settings where the project is being implemented.
Moreover, a new capacity-building approach is needed to generate knowledge for implementing the activities under this pandemic situation to deal with the climate emergency in the time of Covid-19.
It is evident that Covid-19 has pushed Bangladesh to a new situation where global support will be needed for building back better. Getting funds from global platforms has become a challenge for Bangladesh as the developed countries are adopting new policies and strategies to their international development initiatives after being hit by the pandemic.
Being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, Bangladesh can consider GCF as a good source for getting funds for climate-resilient green development. But the GCF will not fund development projects in which climate change attribution in the project proposals is not one of the major criteria.
Not meeting the GCF criteria and compliance issues can cause the failure of project approval. High standard in the fiduciary management system and a long track record of delivering climate change projects, robust procurement committees with high standard in gender, environmental and organisational guidelines are necessary for getting accredited as DAE and get funding from GCF.
Data shows that the vulnerable countries are receiving lesser amounts of money from the fund as the projects failed to meet with the criteria. Also, successful accreditation, developing high-quality proposals, and getting funds from GCF is very time consuming and needs extra effort. It took about two years for PKSF and IDCOL to get the accreditation of DAE from GCF and only one project of PKSF has been approved for funding.
Considering these factors, many organisations both government and non-government, do not feel interested in approaching GCF. The private sector is particularly not sensitised in Bangladesh in climate action, where GCF is a unique window for the private sector to engage in supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries.
Considering this unique window of engaging the private sector, the NDA has approved the Brac application for becoming a DAE of GCF considering its networks of community workers, rich history of public-private partnerships in emergencies, and experience of building resilience in vulnerable settings. Following the approval from NDA, Brac is now trying to get the accreditation from GCF.
However, adopting the best practices of this pandemic situation in future projects can certainly create a new avenue of work. Best practices like work from home policy in applicable cases can be adapted to facilitate the low traffic-low emission concept.
Online meetings, video conferences, online business platforms, online education, and courses can be promoted to facilitate the low carbon footprint modalities. Mainstreaming public health issues in all climate change-related projects can be prioritised in designing future projects for GCF.
There should be "one message" - that climate finance is our right and policymakers and climate activists should strongly raise this issue in the global platform. It is important to learn lessons from tackling this pandemic so that this can be applied in the post-Covid-19 period towards addressing the even bigger challenges yet to be faced.
Moreover, approaching the GCF for fast-track support with NDA and existing DAEs can facilitate the process of getting the resources for Bangladesh for climate-resilient development amid Covid-19.
Md Bodrud-Doza works at the Climate Change Programme (CCP), BRAC. Email: [email protected].
Adiba Bintey Kamal works at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). Email: [email protected].
Marjan Nur works at the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research (C3ER), BRAC University. Email: [email protected].