Strong governance, reduced risks: Reducing climate change effects and risks in Bosnia and Herzegovina by identifying opportunities and turning knowledge into action

United Nations Development Programme

By Ajla Mostarac, Sladjana Bundalo, and Andrea Egan

In March 2019 eight members of the Civil Protection Rescue Unit in the city of Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina, were certified for water rescue - through the International Rafting Federation, Swiftwater and Whitewater Rescue Technician training.

Equipped with high quality boats, suits, safety and other equipment, these are the people that you want responding next time a flood hits.

Strong governance = Resilience

We are witnessing the devastating effects of disasters. The aftermath proves that each country must act to make development efforts risk-informed and climate-smart. 

This year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is all about governance. You can measure good disaster risk governance in lives saved, reduced numbers of disaster-affected people, and reduced economic losses.

COVID-19 and the climate emergency are telling us that we need clear vision, comprehensive plans, and competent, empowered institutions acting on scientific evidence for the public good.

In the face of climate change and other concurrent crises, strong disaster risk reduction is more important than ever.

Climate change is intensifying a range of existing hazards and affecting activities associated with livelihoods, infrastructure, and economic activity.

These economic implications, coupled with the risk of significant climate change, require an effective strategy to reduce and manage risks.

Flooding portends a future of climate risks

‘The 2014 floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina have shown how grave the consequences of climate change can be and how Bosnia and Herzegovina is no exception to that’ - Ranka Radic, Head of Department for Ecology at Republika Srpska Hydrometeorological Institute 

The importance of adapting to climate change is increasingly recognised not only by high-level stakeholders like governmental bodies and the scientific community, but also by the broader citizenry. Citizens recognise that climate change is an issue of key strategic importance and one of the most significant development challenges facing the country. 

Within different initiatives, UNDP BiH is supporting the country to ensure sustainable development that takes into account climate change challenges from multiple aspects underlines Slađana Bundalo, Climate Change Adaptation Project manager. 

"The focus is on incorporating mitigation and adaptation measures in more strategic way, aligning the paths to get the most sustainable outcomes."

To this end, key documents are being either revised like the Climate Change Adaptation and Low Emission Development Strategy, or developed such as National Adaptation Plan, Fourth National Communication, Third Biennial Report and National Determined Contribution.

Resilience to Climate Change

The importance of adaptation is clearly reflected in BiH’s Climate Change Adaptation and Low Emission Development Strategy, adopted in 2013. And the 2014 floods made it clear that adaptation was an urgent imperative.

In 2015, BiH submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, as part of the negotiations leading to the historic Paris Agreement, which it signed in April 2016.

NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of long-term climate action. NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Through the Climate Promise, UNDP is supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina to use the ambitious scenario for National Determined Contributions (NDC) and raise mitigation goals to a 12.8% GHG emission reduction by 2030 (compared to 2014), which is in turn almost a 40% reduction from 1990 levels. For the first time the NDC for the country will develop a verification framework for climate finance including monitoring and reporting.

Turning Recommendations into Reality

The 2014 flooding served as the impetus for multiple projects, with goals centred on the development of hydrometeorological models to serve as the basis for flood forecasting, primarily in the Sava river basin. The Sava river basin flood warning platform is joined by forecast models for nearby river basins, such as Vrbas, Una and Sana, and is supported by data from the European Union’s flood warning system.

These technical tools are bolstered by river management plans and improved governance frameworks.

‘A big achievement is defining goals, visions, and concrete activities aiming for adaptation to climate change as well as its mitigation. This allowed for the definition of needs for international assistance which is available in Bosnia and Herzegovina for these purposes. The result of that is the increasing the energy efficiency, reforms of the system of incentives to renewable energy sources as well as programmes of adaptation to climate change’ - Azrudin Husika, Professor at the Faculty for Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sarajevo

Turning knowledge into action

For BiH and its UNDP-implemented, Green Climate Fund-financed project Advancing the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process for medium-term investment planning in climate sensitive sectors in BiH, there is a particular emphasis on climate change as one of the most significant development challenges facing the country.

Supporting the government to advance the NAP process and reaching the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Green Climate Fund (GCF) resources are being used to enable the government to integrate climate change-related risks, coping strategies - and opportunities - into ongoing development planning and budgeting processes.

The project is advancing adaptation planning with a focus on the most vulnerable sectors - including agriculture, water resources, forestry, tourism, biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems, and public health. 

COVID-19 Context

The global crisis caused by COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of life. Countries are faced with making immediate and immense policy choices and taking unprecedented action to protect lives, and to avoid catastrophic social, economic, and political consequences.

As part of UNDP’s organisational approach to COVID-19, the Climate Promise works to strengthen countries’ abilities to prepare, respond and recover.

For BiH, good national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction must be multi-sectoral, linking policies in areas such as land use, building codes, public health, education, agriculture, environmental protection, energy, water resources, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation.

By clearly establishing the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders at the entity, municipal, and cantonal levels, the project is improving climate change adaptation planning.

Build Back Greener

When it comes to lowering the risks from catastrophes, ‘The opportunities lie in building infrastructure which is missing in many local communities as well as in increasing their resilience… Infrastructure such as watering systems, prevention of fires and floods, public transport, strengthening the healthcare system, and improving resource efficiency: all of these will together eventually result in sustainable jobs and a higher standard of living’ - Azrudin Husika, Professor at the Faculty for Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sarajevo and consultant on UNDP projects

By turning knowledge into action, upgrading the knowledge base for adaptation, prioritising adaptation interventions for the medium term, building institutional capacities for integrating climate change adaptation, and demonstrating innovative ways of financing adaptation at the sub-national and local government levels, the project is lowering the potential for catastrophic risk.

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