The youth of Rajshahi, Bangladesh arranged an awareness programme to encourage tree plantations in their community.  ©

Shahadat Islam, Active Citizens, British Council

Learn more about the key environmental challenges facing Bangladesh, and how the British Council is working with local and global partners to support the country on its journey of climate adaptation and mitigation.

Bangladesh’s low elevation, high population density and exposure to extreme weather conditions, such as tropical storms, put it at high risk in terms of climate vulnerability. Indeed, the country ranks seven out of 181 countries for climate vulnerability on the Climate Risk Index, making it one of the countries most affected by extreme weather events.

Rising sea levels, flooding and the effects of salinsation on drinking water supplies and crop yields are directly impacting people’s lives. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), between 1,000-2,000 people move to Dhaka each day, largely due to the changing climate, with many ending up in poor living conditions. They estimate that, by 2050, one in seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change.

It’s clear that climate change is having wide-reaching environmental, social and economic effects across Bangladesh, and both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and EJF agree that women and girls are most affected.

Adaptation and mitigation

Years of exposure to the negative effects of climate change has required Bangladesh’s population to be both adaptive and resilient. Climate adaptation and mitigation is a big priority for both the Government of Bangladesh and civil society, and there are many successful examples of government-driven and community-based adaptation initiatives, often supported by international partners.

‘Bangladesh has a long history of preparing for, adapting to and recovering from natural disasters.’ (World Wildlife Fund)

The British Council is one such organisation, working with citizens, civil society and government counterparts to help tackle the climate crisis, with a focus on fostering coalition-building, inclusivity and skills development.

Part of this work currently takes place through our global Climate Connection programme, which supports collaborative global solutions to climate change and aims to make climate action as inclusive as possible, by amplifying voices from the Global South – those who are most affected by the climate crisis.

Our recent youth perception research in Bangladesh and other countries in South Asia provides a deeper understanding of the perceptions, attitudes, challenges and readiness of people aged 18-35 in relation to climate vulnerability, and their proposed actions. It found that, even though most young people believe they require the appropriate knowledge to act as awareness agents for climate action, there is an overwhelming appetite to learn and act. The research also proposes recommendations for effective youth engagement on climate action by identifying the required skills, networks and pathways.

Supporting inclusive adaptation

A key Climate Connection project that directly supports youth-driven, community-led responses to climate change is the Challenge Fund for Young People. This initiative, in partnership with the Hunger Project, is championing young climate activists across Bangladesh to mobilise communities through climate-focused, grassroots social action projects, by providing social leadership training and financial support.

The British Council is also implementing a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office programme that directly responds to climate induced migration and climate finance transparency. Promoting Knowledge for Accountable Systems (PROKAS) brings together civil society, government, academia and the business community to find shared solutions to complex accountability problems through coalition building and collective action approaches.

Through PROKAS, partners are working to support climate induced migrants to live in dignity, by identifying alternate host cities to Dhaka and promoting green financing to provide employment for those displaced to rebuild their lives. Another key aspect of the programme is strengthening climate transparency and the right to information, as a way of increasing financing opportunities in the climate space.

Creative responses to the climate crisis

A key theme of the Climate Connection is to support creative responses to the climate crisis. One such project is Creative Commissions, which supports global collaborative projects in the creative space. Bangladesh partners are involved in several Creative Commissions projects, working with creative organisations internationally to encourage people to explore climate change from different perspectives.

Through Everything Change, Dhaka Literature Festival and Taliesin Arts Centre, in Swansea, Wales, are presenting a series of discussions and events that explore the roles creativity, adaptive thinking and storytelling can play in overcoming climate challenges. The series brings together contributors from across the arts and creative industries, as well as the sciences, law, business, public policy, activism and education sectors, in a unique forum for generating debate and new ideas. We invite you to view these recordings later this month by visiting the Everything Change website. Showcases of the project will contribute towards the October sessions of Everything Change in Swansea and Dhaka at the Literature Festival in January 2022.

Other arts-based initiatives include a collaboration between the British Council, British High Commission and Italian Embassy in Bangladesh in the run up to COP26. Together they are engaging young people aged 18-35 in a nationwide photography competition and multi-country exhibition.

Through the medium of photography, young people can better understand local biodiversity, identify local climate change problems and solutions, and have the chance to share their perspectives internationally, through platforms such as the upcoming COP26 events taking place this autumn.

Working for the future

The British Council will continue to support Bangladesh along its journey of climate adaptation and mitigation, by working across three interconnected strands of youth, policy and public engagement.

Tom Miscioscia, Director of the British Council in Bangladesh, says: ‘climate change is arguably the greatest challenge of our time. At the British Council, our vision in Bangladesh is to bring all the tools at our disposal across Education, English, the Arts and Culture, to foster collaboration between the UK and Bangladesh in this critical space and help equip a younger generation with the skills and opportunities they need to lead the way in identifying solutions to climate change problems that will ultimately benefit us all.’   

See also