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PRESS RELEASE

World Bank Urges Collective Action to Reduce Climate Change and Natural Disasters Impacts on Asian Economies

October 25, 2010



Seoul, Korea, October 26, 2010 — The World Bank today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding  later this year with the Government of Korea, to strengthen cooperation and sharing of expertise in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation among Asian nations. This is “both timely and relevant, given the increasing convergence of the disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation agendas,” said World Bank Sector Director for Sustainable Development in the East Asia and Pacific region (EAP), John Roome, pledging Bank’s support for the implementation of the Incheon road map at a high level plenary of the 4th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction here today.

In 2009, World Bank data shows 6 of the 10 countries with the highest losses of GDP from natural disasters were from Asia Pacific, as were 82 per cent of all disaster-related deaths since 1997 (according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC). And it’s the region’s poorer countries and people who suffer most in terms of number of lives lost, livelihoods and assets destroyed. For instance: low income countries carry about one-eighth the risk of global tropical cyclones but sustain four-fifths of the mortality risk.

With 85 percent of all disaster victims concentrated in the region, mitigating its particular set of vulnerabilities is crucial. These include an unprecedented rate of urbanization, weak institutional arrangements, lack of proper risk monitoring and disaster preparedness, combined with increasing seismic and climatic events.

“Responding to this challenge will require new models of cooperation and coordinated policy responses across multiple sectors, agencies and ministries; and a new set of policy instruments for decision-making under deep uncertainty,” said Roome. “The development choices we make today will impact the outcomes of disasters tomorrow, whether it is safer schools and roads, better land use planning or financial planning and improved policy frameworks. We can take action today that will reduce loss of life and economic assets tomorrow,” he said.

New research by the Bank shows the cost of adapting to an approximately 2°Centigrade warmer world by 2050 is in the range of US $75 billion to US$100 billion a year—of which Asia-Pacific’s share is highest. The findings are part of a forthcoming World Bank report on the Economics of Climate Change which notes the bulk of this investment will be needed to improve and adapt infrastructure including drainage and public buildings, coastal zones, water supply and flood protection. This will account for about 54 percent of adaptation costs, while roads will account for 23 percent.    

This highlights the importance of achieving concrete results at the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference in December in Cancun. While the World Bank Group is not a party to the negotiations, it is deeply concerned that without progress on climate change, progress on global poverty reduction will be undermined. The Bank is actively working with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and client countries, including in EAP, towards supporting an eventual global deal and enabling action on the ground.

The World Bank has an approximately US$1.5 billion Disaster Risk Management (DRM) portfolio in East Asia and the Pacific. While the bulk of it is targeted at sustainable reconstruction following earthquakes in China and Indonesia, new initiatives include Climate Change Development Policy Loans in Vietnam and Indonesia, risk modeling for the Mekong delta and a proposed Catastrophe Risk Financing framework for the Pacific islands. Over US$300 million is currently invested in pilots and scaling up of programs that have successfully helped poor communities cope better with disasters, DRM capacity building and early warning systems. The increasingly transnational impact of disasters underlines the importance of strengthening partnerships in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. The World Bank, through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and its donor members, is emerging as an integral part of the evolving global climate adaptation financing architecture.

“The increased demand from countries for preventive investments in disaster risk reduction in areas like early warning systems, community-based disaster risk management and resilient infrastructure indicates a growing awareness of the risks posed to decades of hard-won growth and poverty reduction from climate change and disasters,” said Abhas Jha, World Bank Program Leader for Disaster Risk Management in East Asia and Pacific. “The World Bank and its partners are responding to this demand in a number of innovative ways with new financial instruments, risk analysis of investments and capacity building.”

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