Creating a political and social climate for climate change adaptation (CPSCCCA)

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Relevance and Background of the Study

Climate change will in coming decades lead to increased frequency and severity of floods, drought and extreme weather events. As the more exposed areas of the world become increasingly inhospitable, this will lead to substantial climate induced displacement of people in developing countries. The particularly detrimental impacts of climate change in poor and fragile states, in terms of livelihoods, forced migration and conflict, are highlighted in the Norglobal call. It is likely that displacement will predominantly be internal to countries, or regional to neighbouring ones, but international migratory pressures will also increase. For affected countries and communities, this creates challenges in accommodating the displaced, and in avoiding social tension and conflicts that may arise.

As climate change increases the frequency and severity of floods, drought and extreme weather events in

coming decades, there can be little doubt that those hardest hit will be populations of developing countries.

Bangladesh and Ethiopia are cases in point: Bangladesh is a densely populated, low-lying country with

substantial exposure to cyclones, floods and drought. Ethiopia is a poor, ethnically fractionalized, fragile state

susceptible to droughts. Both countries are predicted to be affected by increasingly severe climatic conditions

in the decades to come (Stocker et al., 2013). Although the implications of floods, drought and extreme weather

events for displacement are debated, the IPCC report of Field et al. (2012:16) argues that if such events become

more frequent and/or intense “displacement could become permanent and could introduce new pressures in

areas of relocation”.

Judging from recent conflict-related displacement, climate induced displacement will predominantly

be local, within-country or within-region, though it will also increase international migration pressures. This

project will focus on the capacity of countries, regions and communities to absorb and accommodate those

displaced. This is very much in line with the UN global development agenda as expressed in the first two

targets of Sustainable Development Goal 13, to “strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related

hazards … in all countries” and to “integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and

planning”. The resettlement capacity of countries can be expected to vary a great deal, depending on factors

such as the availability of physical space and resources, economic and institutional conditions, and more.

Importantly, it also depends on political and social divisions and attitudes towards the displaced among the

longer-term residents of migrant receiving areas. As noted in a number of studies, migration creates a potential

for social tension and conflict. It is therefore crucial to understand how attitudes towards migrants form and

evolve, and how they can be influenced to ease resettlement processes and avert tension (Burke et al., 2015;

Hsiang et al., 2013). Our project integrates social divisions and disparities in creating a detailed mapping of

the capacities of countries to cope with climate induced displacement, and uses experimental methods to

understand opportunities and challenges in generating a political and social climate conducive to the

resettlement of the displaced. In this analysis, a comparison of Bangladesh and Ethiopia is interesting for a

number of reasons; our aim is to study the implications of ethnic divisions for resettlement by comparing the

ethnically fractionalized Ethiopia with the relatively homogeneous Bangladesh.

Objectives and scope of works of the study

This study will assess and analyze how well countries and communities are able to cope with displacement. In this study, we will create a Global Resettlement Index (GloRI) assessing the adaptive capacity of individual

Countries to climate induced displacement, using detailed georeferenced data. Throughout the study we will conduct indepth analyses in Bangladesh the fragile state commonly held to be among the world’s most vulnerable to climate change. A disaggregated Bangladesh Resettlement Index (BaRI) will be created to guide local authority responses to displacement. Crucially, our analysis includes political and social impediments to resettlement, including social divisions and attitudes which can make integration of displaced people into new host communities difficult. Through a series of experiments, we will analyze how political and social narratives and discourse shape attitudes towards the displaced among long term residents of communities experiencing in-migration from climate affected areas. The study improves the basis for effective policy making in addressing displacement at the local, national and international levels. It responds to three of the priority areas of the Norglobal call; 1) The environment, climate and renewable energy, 2) Humanitarian efforts, and 3) Conflict, security and fragile states. The resettlement indices constitute a climate service which can assist decision making on climate induced migration and related humanitarian efforts at local, national and international levels. Through the indices and experiments, the project responds to the need for knowledge on “opposing interest and power structures” critical to addressing adaptation challenges, including impacts on conflict in poor and fragile states, which can help guide local authority adaptation policy. Moreover, the study addresses key issues of adaptation highlighted in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and demonstrates boldness in scientific approach by including experimental methods in the study of climate change adaptation.

The study consists of two Work Packages of research, and a third Work Package dedicated to management and dissemination.

In WorkPackage 1 (WP 1), we will develop a global resettlement potential index (GloRI) through systematic aggregation of detailed geo-referenced data on physical, economic, institutional, and political and social characteristics relevant to resettlement capacity. The index will be at Bangladesh level, covering the country for which the required data is available. While some existing indices of climate change vulnerability include aspects of adaptive capacity, including the index developed by the Center for Global Development (CDG),1 the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN),2 and the index developed for commercial use by risk analysis company Verisk Maplecroft,3 they tend to be generic in their view of capacity, aggregating macro level indicators of economic resources, infrastructure, and institutions, and it is unclear what exactly the measured capacity in question is for. By contrast, our index focuses specifically on the capacity of countries to receive and resettle people displaced from areas experiencing climate related hazards and environmental degradation, using detailed geo-referenced data. Moreover, our GloRI index will include important social and political dimensions of adaptive capacity, including social divisions such as ethnic and linguistic differences, economic inequalities and disparities of power, or past conflicts that can make resettlement (or adaptation in general) difficult, dimensions which existing indices tend not to include.

In Work Package 2 (WP 2) more closely analyzes political and social challenges in resettling displaced people, in order to understand important factors that can mitigate or accentuate these challenges. A key element here is how the displaced are viewed by long term residents in communities receiving significant inflows of migrants.

In Work Package 3 (WP 3) is dedicated to management and dissemination of the study. The project will be delivered in collaboration with international, multi-disciplinary team with substantial expertise in climate and development research.


Study Director/ Team Leader: Dr. Kazi Ali Toufique, Research Director, BIDS.

Study Member: Dr. Minhaj Mahmud, Senior Research Fellow, BIDS.

Sponsor: Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI)

About BIDS

The Bangladesh Unnayan Gobeshona Protishthan or The Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) is an autonomous public multi-disciplinary organization which conducts policy oriented research on development issues facing Bangladesh and other developing countries. 

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