Global Partners Confront Impacts of Climate Extremes on Development

April 27, 2012

Joint action needed to link disaster risk management, climate adaptation

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2012—On the heels of a sobering UN report on dramatic climate extremes expected to occur around the world, officials from donor and developing countries, along with international organizations have reaffirmed their commitments to making disaster resilience a priority in development planning. The officials, meeting during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, also recognized that linking disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and integrating them into the development agenda, is critical to building resilience in communities and countries.
Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Managing Director, said, "We have too often witnessed how disasters can roll back years of development progress. On top of that, we now need to prepare for a changing world—rapid urbanization and a changing climate are reshaping and exacerbating disaster risks. But geography need not be destiny, and the future—however uncertain and unpredictable when we factor in the impact of climate change—need not be feared if correct preventive policies are taken today.”
Convened by the European Union, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank/GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery), the meeting was informed by last month’s report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—Special Report on Managing the Risk of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. The report documents that current extreme weather events are projected to become more common in the future, and a changing climate is the cause.
According to Christopher Field, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group ll, “The risk profiles are changing—several kinds of climate and weather extremes are increasing and are projected to increase in the future. In the second half of the century, we are looking at a ten-fold increase in the frequency of severe heat events. The most extreme heat waves that we currently experience only once a decade will become annual events.”
The report warns that extreme events will have greater impacts on sectors with closer links to climate, such as water, agriculture and food security, forestry, health, and tourism. Dr. Field pointed out that many places are already seeing increases in extremes in heavy precipitation and in the length and severity of droughts. The people most impacted are those most vulnerable in the developing world—in 2010, the Pakistan floods alone left six million people homeless.
Floods are the most frequent of natural disasters. Unprecedented―and often unregulated and unplanned―urbanization in the developing world, a large part of which is in fertile floodplains and/or coastal regions, is a key cause of increased exposure to flooding. Globally, it is projected that 600 million people will occupy coastal floodplain land below flood level by 2100.
The key message from the IPCC report is the need for climate change adaptation, disaster risk management, and sustainable development to be integrated in order to help build resilience. But the numbers tell us that we’re not there yet. The world is still spending more on humanitarian aid after a disaster than on prevention before it. According to Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development, European Union, global disaster losses amounted to US$264 billion in 2011. That was twice the level of official development aid that year. The participants in the Resilience Dialogue talked about how they would meet that challenge―through coordination, bridging humanitarian and development efforts, integrated approaches, and by working together to turn the reaction versus prevention paradigm on its head.

Naoko Ishii, Deputy Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs, Japan, also announced that the next high level meeting of the officials will be held during the October 2012 IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings. The meeting will be held in Sendai, a city in Tohoku prefecture that bore the brunt of the 2011 tsunami. The objective will be to develop a global consensus among the international community to advance the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as a development priority.

On Working Together and Next Steps

Armida Alisjahbana
Minister of National Development Planning, Indonesia

“Indonesia faces more than 100 disasters a year. In 2004, the Tsunami cost about 45 percent of Aceh’s regional economy. We have tried since to prepare for disasters in a more systematic way—early warning systems in disaster-prone areas, more coordinated efforts, money in our budget to anticipate disasters, a five-year blueprint to prepare for disasters. The key to make coordination work, the key thing is to have a single institution dealing with these issues. We don’t have institutions duplicating work.”

Valerie Amos
United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

"We have learned lessons from the Horn of Africa and we've heeded early warning signs―and have moved much more quickly to respond in the Sahel. We're bridging development and humanitarian efforts to build resilience and support governments in the region in their response to this."

Helen Clark
Administrator, United Nations Development Programme

“Without a basic level of resilience, you can't hang on to the gains you've made when adversity and shocks come along. Dialogue about resilience has come light years. With everyone reflecting on the cost of major disasters, the message is very clear: Don’t wait for the next one—we know that at some time there will be another earthquake, another tsunami, a cyclone, a drought, so what can we do as development partners? Resilience must be at the very heart of our development activities. Active, effective, honest, fair and responsive and representative governance promotes resilience, in every country. As the recent financial crisis showed, not all developed countries have retained systemic resilience to economic shocks. Unless developed countries are prepared to see years of human development and progress wiped away when adversity strikes, their systemic resilience to shocks is critical as well.”

Naoko Ishii
Deputy Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs, Japan

“The very timely IPCC Report makes clear that disaster risk management and climate change adaptation measures are essentially two sides of the same coin. These measures need to be incorporated across various sectors as a key component of development policy. In doing so, a multi-layered approach is necessary to avoid relying on just one measure. Maintaining infrastructure and cutting-edge technology is not sufficient in itself. In order to empower individuals to act when they face natural disasters, hard infrastructure needs to be complemented by disaster education, risk communication, evacuation training, and other measures. Japan has been a steadfast champion of the disaster risk management agenda. The Great East Japan Earthquake of last year has only made Japan reaffirm its increased commitment to help reduce disaster risk throughout the world.”

Rachel Kyte
Vice President, Sustainable Development, World Bank

“Over the last three years, two-thirds of our country assistance strategies have started to build in disaster risk management. The aim is to get to 100 percent. We have to change the way we think about infrastructure, agriculture, transportation, water, energy, how communities become resilient, what kind of information we share. We have to help people make infrastructure decisions that will prove resilient far into the future. But we know too that we are in an “adaptation” institution. Climate change adaptation has to be integrated in all we do.

Dario Luna
Head of Unit, Insurance, Pensions and Social Security, Ministry of Finance, Mexico

“We in Mexico give a lot of importance to disaster risk management because we are a country that is prone to disasters. As presidency of the G20, we wanted to put this topic on the agenda―emphasizing the reduction of both human and economic costs. One of the key aspects of our changing world is the increased exposure to natural disasters. We believe that this effort will help disaster risk management gain more prominence in G20 countries and with finance ministers.”

Andrew Mitchell
Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom and Co-chair of the Political Champions Group for Resilience

“I hope our Political Champions Group will be a good servant of the international efforts engaged in these issues. In addition, by 2015, DFID will imbed resilience in all of our work. We particularly want to harness the role of the private sector for insurance.”

Mahmoud Mohieldin
Managing Director, World Bank

“There is much we can do together to build resilience in communities and nations. We can—and should—build international consensus and country ownership to continue investing in measuring risk and informing decision making for increased resilience. We can—and should—complete work on a globally accepted metric to assess urban disaster risk that could be applied to cities around the world. Such a metric will let us analyze cities according to their level of risk, and define a baseline against which to measure progress towards building greater resilience; and we can—and should—continue the dialogue on how to better measure our progress towards building greater resilience.”

Andris Piebalgs
Commissioner for Development, European Union

“The EU is deeply involved in putting its resilience commitments into practice on a number of fronts. We are coordinating, planning and programming among humanitarian and development actors to deliver common analyses and joint definition of priorities (as in the Horn of Africa and Sahel); we are developing new, more flexible EU financial instruments; we are increasing our focus on resilience and capacity-building at the central and community level; and we are allocating more to prevention preparedness and resilience in humanitarian aid and development budgets, while also advocating the inclusion of disaster risk reduction on government agendas.”

Rajiv Shah
Administrator, United States Agency for International Development

“The question we should ask ourselves is what is happening in the most vulnerable areas on the ground? It is clear we are not doing enough. We have to reverse the way things work now—we are still spending more on humanitarian aid than prevention. That has to reverse. Since 2002, the U.S. spent $11.2 billion on humanitarian aid in the Horn of Africa―chasing the problem after the fact. We want to reverse that, put it into prevention. We need to reverse the equation from reaction to prevention and make sure that whatever we do drives results.”

About the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)

Established in 2006, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) is a partnership of 41 countries and eight international organizations committed to helping developing countries reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and adapt to climate change. The partnership’s mission is to mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in country development strategies by supporting a country-led and managed implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

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