This blog talks about the importance of climate research and collaboration amongst the UK and Bangladesh. It highlights some of the important conversation and ideas put forth at the roundtable discussion hosted by ICCCAD and LSE titled “Tackling Climate Emergency through UK-Bangladesh Collaboration on Research”.

The blog reflects on the key discussions from the event that took place virtually on July 2nd, 2020. The event was also part of over 70+ online events at London Climate Action week 2020 (LCAW 2020) that took place from July 1st-3rd, 2020.

International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and London School of Economics (LSE) along with other partners have initiated a dialogue to enhance climate resilience through research collaboration between Bangladesh and the UK, with universities in both countries as a central partner for enhancing long-term capacity. As an extension to the long collaborative history between the two countries and this proposed partnership to address the challenge of climate crisis a virtual roundtable discussion titled “Tackling Climate Emergency by UK-Bangladesh Collaboration on Research” was hosted under the theme “Solutions for Adaptation and Resilience”, at London Climate Action Week, 2020.

The roundtable discussion included distinguished experts and researchers from the UK and Bangladesh working in the Climate policy and discourse; summary of their dialogues and key messages are reflected below;

Prof. Saleemul Huq, Director, ICCCAD at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) moderating the event provided a brief background on how this concept of shared learning between the two countries had emerged from an event organized by ICCCAD back in 2019 at the Royal Geographic Society. There researchers from both the UK and Bangladesh shared their previous research experiences that followed by a public event on how the UK could learn from Bangladesh’s experience of adapting to climate change impacts. While the previous research efforts produced excellent research findings, largely they haven’t resulted in actions on the ground. Prof. Huq added that the experts tried to come up with a proposal to generate a programmatic and strategic set of research activities to address the challenges of both climate change and poverty – building on collaboration and knowledge exchange between both countries.

Furthermore, Prof. Huq mentioned Bangladesh’s leading role in climate change adaptation and the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the UK’s presidency in COP26 as well as the history of the relationship between researchers and universities of the two countries – marks the perfect opportunity to take forward this discussion on collaboration.

Professor David Lewis, Professor of Social Policy and Development, London School of Economics (LSE); in his keynote presentation highlighted some principles and approaches for the proposed research collaboration. He mentioned the aims of this collaboration has threefold – firstly, to generate high-quality research that can also be implemented in policy actions and future work. The second aim is to rethink the idea of collaboration and demonstrate the relevancy of universities through capacity building. Lastly, the principle of equality has to ensure that priority is given for both countries to learn from each other. Prof. Lewis mentioned that an innovative asset is being tapped in this collaboration as this is an equal partnership. The knowledge generated will result in a mutual benefit. He also emphasized that the importance of universities is recognized in the global policy discourse, and the rationale is to try to operationalize more of that. Also, the crosscutting relationship can strengthen the gaps and limitations of the universities of both countries. Furthermore, the programme also aims to generate wider public benefits from raising awareness to problem-solving.

Prof. Lewis presented some innovative aspects of the proposed collaboration – the first one being “equal partnership” where the term aid means mutual benefit. Bangladesh’s needs are to be put at the centre but also it is to be recognized that the country has been generating usable knowledge and learning about climate change – functioning as a “lab”. The programme will emphasize on “research into practice” as well as focus on generating new skills and new knowledge for the researchers and practitioners.

Some of the proposed approaches for the programme include – five-year strategic investment in research, specific theme based annual call and a joint panel with members from UK and Bangladesh as well as Steering Committee to include DFID that would enable the proposals to go through scrutiny by both researchers and policymakers.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, DEFRA, UK stressed that given the challenges ahead of the world, practical and collaborative efforts offer true potential. She applauded the practical elements of the proposal and further mentioned that “The more collaborative research can form, early action and building, piloting; can help build better”. She also reiterated that both countries have aspects that they can share and equally learn.

Drawing from the work conducted at DEFRA and her work at the Environment Agency of UK and Development, she emphasized that finance for such research collaboration is critical and it is also important for future-proofing the investments that are being made at a local, national or global scale and making sure they are resilient to climate impacts.

Judith Herbertson, Head DFID, Bangladesh highlighted that the ongoing climate emergency cannot be denied and it is important to work with data, science, and policy-making and take research into action to make practical implementation. Ms. Herbertson also added that for the next few months, DFID Bangladesh will engage in virtual workshops with local and national stakeholder groups mainly on the five main themes of COP26 – Adaptation; Resilience; Clean energy; Clean Vehicle; Finance and Nature.

The world is going to face financial hardship in the post-COVID future, and that it is important to think about where the finance is going to come from? Ms. Herbertson mentioned that the private sector can play a big role and evidence-based research is needed to persuade them to invest in building back cleaner and greener. NGOs, development partners, and youth groups in addition to experts, researchers and political leaders need to be engaged in this process. Furthermore, she mentioned for the next five years all of DFID’s programs working towards policy coherence will have a climate change component to it.

H.E. Saida Muna Tasneem, Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK expressed Bangladesh government’s full commitment in addressing climate change impact, mentioning some national strategic institutional mechanisms that the government has created – the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP), the National Adaptation Plan of Actions, Country Investment Plans for Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100.

Focusing on the engagement of different groups of stakeholders, she recommended the inclusion of relevant ministries of the Bangladesh government to ensure that the research works are put into policy while giving the importance on the skill development and capacity building of policymakers. Academic curriculums should emphasize on climate change studies and incorporate it from primary to university levels. Furthermore, engaging youth as climate ambassadors from university can be an extremely effective medium to capacitate and raise climate leaders.

While addressing the concern around funds for climate change projects and research, H. E. Saida Muna Tasneem suggested the consideration of more Bangabandhu scholarships on climate change and resilience for the students going for research in the UK universities. Scholarships on climate studies from the side of both countries can enhance the platform for research opportunities to formulate in the universities.

Terry Cannon, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex supporting the proposed research collaboration between the UK and Bangladesh added it is important to rethink the relationships between rich and poor countries as well as consider fairness and equity in climate research.

He reflected on some of the proposals he is working on to address the social problems in Britain – poverty, racism, vulnerability and inequality. The scope for collaboration here is to engage the Bangladeshi students studying in London as well as researchers and people in both countries over the issue of flood risks.

Prof. Julian Williams, Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience (IHRR), Durham University, reflected on the shared interaction of IHRR with Bangladesh. He mentioned that research collaboration with Bangladesh lets IHRR learn a lot from the existing knowledge. He further added how ICCCAD and Durham University are working together to enhance capacity and build future leaders.

Prof. A.K. M Saiful Islam, Institute of Water Modelling (IWM), BUET, drawing from his research experience between IWM and universities in the UK, shared some of the research findings of his past research projects done in collaboration with UK universities and how it has benefitted Bangladesh. Currently, his team is working with research institutions in the UK, where they are collaborating to prepare model-based data. He also mentioned some of the challenges faced in such research collaboration.

Some interesting points also came from the distinguished participants’ sides. Yves Plancherel, Lecturer at Imperial College London, spoke about having a data management mechanism where it is possible to access the data used in the project by other researchers for baseline information. Prof. Joe Devine from the University of Bath expressed the need for ‘good enough data’ to enable forms of action in addition to pure scientific research.

Prof. David Lewis as his concluding remarks expressed the needs to address different types and scales of projects in this programme, drawing focus on keeping the universities at the centre of the programme, as it will strengthen their relevance through university-community linkages.

This engaging dialogue in the ambition for climate change research collaboration between the two countries is centred on equality and fairness with university ensuring this partnership. Experts from both countries wherein consensus to recognize each other’s potential and thus going forward there are high expectations from this collaboration to result in feasible evidence-based research outputs that can simultaneously lead to climate-resilient actions.

Please note the ideas presented in this blog aim to inspire and inform the importance of evidence-based research and collaboration between UK and Bangladesh for taking action– account of the event are views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Speakers/Panelist present at the ICCCAD and LSE joint event on “Tackling Climate Emergency through UK-Bangladesh Collaboration on Research”.

About the Author

Samina Islam is a Research Intern at ICCCAD.

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