When Cyclone YaasAmina Begum was left with few options when a flood swept through her home in southwest Bangladesh in May.
Efforts to recover from four previous cyclones since 2009 had depleted her resources, and her husband’s death five years ago left the burden of caring for their two children solely to her.
So Begum decided to go for the cheapest option. She sold her gold wedding earring, her last treasure, for 5,000 Bangladesh Taka ($58), and moved her children to Notun Bazar in Khulna.
“There was nothing else left to me,” she said, standing in the narrow alleyways of her new neighbourhood, where the pungent smell of rotting food fills the air and mosquitoes torment residents at night.
She earns approximately 400 taka ($4.70/day) as a city day labourer. Most of this money goes to pay rent for the tiny rooms she rented. She said that she doesn’t have any savings.
As climate change disasters and losses surge around the world, the world’s poorest, who can least afford it, are paying the bulk of the costs, making them effectively the world’s “silent financiers” of climate losses and adaptation efforts, researchers say.
This is a reality that is still largely unknown internationally, according to Paul Steele, chief economist at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development.
The poor in countries such as Bangladesh are facing an “impossible situation” trying to pay for losses they and others in poor countries – most of them low contributors to climate-changing emissions – did not cause, he said.
The annual repair costs of rural Bangladeshi families is estimated to total 158 billion taka (almost 2bn). climate damage or trying to prevent it, research by IIED, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Britain’s Kingston University found.
That is twice the amount contributed by the country’s government, which has its own national climate fund, and 12 times what Bangladesh gets from international donors, researchers found.
Mamunur Rashid, a climate change specialist with UNDP’s Bangladesh office, said the spending is diverting cash away from efforts by families to improve their lives, leaving the poor increasingly permanently stranded.
“Lots of climate-affected people in Bangladesh are fighting with all their means to adapt to climate change. This financial flow from their own development aspiration to combat climate change is not recognised as climate finance,” he said, calling the poor “the most silent financier”.
He said that such cash flows are not unique to Bangladesh. This suggests that global family spending on climate adaptation and loss is almost always higher than national and international spending.
That flood of private cash should be counted in global tallies of climate finance, he said, noting that a failure by big-emitting rich countries to financially help poorer ones deal with the consequences is set to have a big effect on everything from global security to the planet’s health.
In 2009, wealthy nations agreed that they would raise $100bn per year by 2020 to aid poorer countries in their efforts to develop and adapt. climate change impacts.
But after failing to meet that goal, the governments admitted prior to the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow that the pledge would only be met starting in 2023 – though they promised to make up the backlog.
Antonio Guterres, UN chief of climate, has called for half of climate spending to go towards adaptation efforts. This is an increase from the 27 percent of public finance for climate in 2019.
The United States, the European Union and other developed countries have, as well, so far resisted efforts to create a separate pot of funding to help poor countries deal with surging “loss and damage” from climate impacts.
The Glasgow Climate Pact was not able to establish a new dedicated fund for damages that the summit had called for.
This has meant that vulnerable poor people have to foot the bill for climate-related losses in their countries and communities, IIED researchers stated.
They found that nearly one third of the 1,320 flooded homes in Bangladesh had raised their floors. Others had invested in better protection or other measures.
According to them, the greatest impact on homes is being made by women. Female members spend more than men to protect their family and property.
According to the survey, women were also more likely to make efforts to adapt and deal with rising risks than men.
However, many people don’t feel the need to adapt to climate change’s increasingly severe flooding, storms, and other effects.
Momena Banu of Chilmari was a flood-prone region in northern Bangladesh. In May, her home was swept away by floodwaters in the early monsoon floods.
With her husband having earlier moved to Dhaka to find work – and then having left her for another woman there – she had little alternative but to sell her two cows to buy food and build a temporary home along a raised road in Chilmari.
She is there today, with no savings or assets to start a new life.
Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Dhaka. He said that the poor will continue paying the climate change costs unless they get assistance.
“National governments and the global community must support them better,” he urged.