Category: Development

EO4SD Climate Resilience stakeholder & capacity building workshop

EO4SD Climate Resilience stakeholder & capacity building workshop

Colleagues from international finance institutions (IFIs) and their client states are invited to join the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster on 13 March 2019, one day before the One Planet Summit in Nairobi: Africa’s Pledge, for a stakeholder and capacity building workshop at the ICPAC offices in Nairobi, Kenya.

The workshop aims to demonstrate the value of Earth observation data to climate-resilient development through a series of presentations, discussions, and hands-on training.

During the workshop the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster will:

  • Provide valuable insights into how IFIs and their client states can use Earth observation data to support climate-resilient development;
  • Discuss stakeholder needs and requirements, especially with regards to projects on the African continent;
  • Provide applicable and useful information about Copernicus Sentinel data and services, which offers full, free and open access;
  • Showcase the proposed services of the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster and how they can be used (e.g. drought monitoring, wetland monitoring, ecosystem evaluation, flooding, soil erosion, etc.);
  • Offer a training session about the EO4SD Climate Resilience platform, including downloading data, visualizing it, and creating of customized products (e.g. water quality indexes, vegetation indexes, etc.).

More information coming soon!

For additional information, please contact EO4SD Climate Resilience coordinator Dr. Carlos Doménech.

Please register by using the following link.

Strategies to influence climate resilience: Securing sustainable adaptation in South Asia

Strategies to influence climate resilience: Securing sustainable adaptation in South Asia

A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, titled, “Influencing adaptation policy: The role of policy entrepreneurs in securing ownership and climate actions in South Asia” shows how tacit and more informal approaches applied by policy entrepreneurs can help influence climate adaptation policy.

There is now a large body of evidence on technical approaches to mainstream climate change adaptation in policymaking.  Tried-and-tested interventions include, undertaking risk assessments to develop the evidence base, building capacity by training key decision makers, providing decision aids such as risk screening and climate budgeting tools. However, informal approaches to influencing policy and action on adaptation play an equally important role and need to be explicitly considered within technical assistance programmes. Informal influencing approaches consider social norms, customs or traditions that shape thought and behaviour, and an understanding of the mechanisms of local political networks.

This new Action on Climate Today (ACT) learning paperfocuses on the more tacit and informal approaches used to influence adaptation policy. The paper highlights the particular role of policy entrepreneurs who work to promote policy change. They navigate the political complexity of both formal and informal systems of governance to promote successful adaptation mainstreaming processes through brokering, advocacy, and networking to influence policy.

Building on previous policy influencing perspectives from the political science literature, the paper uses empirical examples from the ACT programme in South Asia to create a typology of influencing strategies that includes: 

  • Stories and narratives: Using simplified stories that help decision-makers make sense of complex realities, including by linking climate action to development objectives
  • Rapport and trust: Building trust in the programme and its staff and the advice being offered
  • Cheerleaders and champions: Nurturing and rewarding leaders and leadership 
  • Advocacy and networking: Harnessing and developing networks on adaptation inside and outside government
  • Downstream implementers: Influencing action on the ground by working with those who actually implement, rather than set, policy.

Applying these strategies can help others designing and providing technical assistance to support national and subnational governments to mainstream adaptation into their policies. Support programmes can factor in design elements to maximise this potential, including through the use of political economy analysis, adaptive management approaches, and explicitly designing areas of programming that allow for informal influencing processes and rapidly responding to opportunities.

ACT is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) in collaboration with many consortium partners. It has been working since 2014 in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist the integration of climate adaptation into development policies and actions while transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance.

The full ACT learning paper “Influencing adaptation policy: The role of policy entrepreneurs in securing ownership and climate actions in South Asia” and a learning brief can be accessed by clicking here.

Listen to the 60-second audio abstract:

ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Key Contacts

Photo by Jacek Reszko on Unsplash
UNDP: ‘Climate change is pushing Africa to a tipping point, threatening economic and development gains’

UNDP: ‘Climate change is pushing Africa to a tipping point, threatening economic and development gains’

UNDP launches report at Poland climate talks calling on nations and world leaders to accelerate and mainstream climate actions across Africa to meet Paris Agreement targets.

Climate change threatens a decade of strong economic growth and social gains across Africa, according to a new report launched today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The report was launched in coordination with the Africa Adaptation Initiative at this year’s climate talks in Poland, which have brought leaders from across the globe to build momentum to reach the goals outlined in the historic Paris Agreement.

“Africa is at a tipping point. Nations across the continent have achieved impressive economic, political and social growth in recent decades. Yet, there are still high disparities between the rich and poor. Poverty, while reduced, remains a serious issue in many countries. And climate change, droughts, floods, changing rainfall patterns and conflict have the potential to unravel efforts to reduce hunger and achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa.

The report looks at case studies from national climate change adaptation efforts supported by UNDP across Africa for the last 15 years with the financial backing of donor bodies such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

“Least developed countries in Africa are among the most vulnerable to climate change, yet the least able to adapt. In many cases, they lack the technical, financial and institutional capacity to identify the best ways to build resilience,” said Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programs, Global Environment Facility.  “With around US$1.3 billion of voluntary contributions from donors, the Global Environment Facility Least Developed Countries Fund (GEF-LDCF) holds the largest portfolio of adaptation projects in the Least Developed Countries.  The majority of that funding goes to Africa, where most LDCs are located.”

While initial climate change adaptation initiatives show good potential for economic viability, livelihood enhancement and vulnerability reduction in Africa, the report finds long-term sustainability will depend on the prevailing levels of poverty, the wider context of policies and regulations, access to markets and financial services, as well as government capacity to provide continuous technical support to communities.

“Make no doubt about it, climate change is one of the largest risk multipliers for the people, environment and stability of the continent,” Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. “In our global economy, these risks need to be addressed urgently with transformative climate investments that will mainstream and accelerate pilot climate actions to create real, lasting impact for the millions of people across the continent whose lives and livelihoods are at risk.”

Tipping points

If the world is not able to reach global targets to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees, the nations of Africa could reach a “tipping point,” according to the report authors, where exponentially increased challenges and threats would arise from higher temperatures.

These tipping points have the potential to create new famines and undermine global efforts to end poverty and hunger by 2030. In turn, high levels of poverty and low levels of human development limit the capacity of poor people to manage climate risks, according to the report, placing further stress on already overstretched coping mechanisms that will perpetuate poverty traps.

Taken together, this raises the potential for an increase in eco-migrants, more catastrophic disease outbreaks (such as the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which took over 10,000 lives), and increased instability.

For the first time in over a decade, world hunger is on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the global population, according to recent estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In 2017, crop destruction from the Fall Armyworm, strong droughts induced by an abnormally strong El Niño cycle, and a rise in conflict in places such as Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, were the chief culprits in a serious rise in food insecurity. At the peak of the El Niño crisis from 2014 to 2016, some 40 million people in Africa required emergency assistance. This number dropped to around 26 million in 2017, according to the report.

“Taking reactive approaches to food security and disaster recovery costs the people of Africa billions of dollars in lost GDP, and syphons off government resources that should be dedicated to education, social programmes, healthcare, business development and employment,” said Eziakonwa.

The true costs of adaptation

According to the report, recent studies indicate it is likely the true costs of adaptation will be substantially higher than originally projected, and will require creative financial mechanisms and substantial engagement with the private sector to meet.

“Taken from a global level, this means that leaders need to make good on the US$100 billion promise for climate finance, but will also need to engage the private sector, and think about creative financial modalities like blended finance and green bonds to fill this gap,” said Eziakonwa.

“Building resilience for vulnerable communities cannot be an afterthought. For Africa to succeed in reaching the bold commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement and other international accords, its leaders will need to step up efforts to protect its forests, scale up the renewable energy revolution, transform agricultural production, and build climate-smart cities and infrastructure,” said Eziakonwa.

Smart investments

According to the report’s case studies, there have been a number of noteworthy successes in climate change adaptation in Africa over the past decade, and recent adaptation programming has increasingly focused on larger and more programmatic initiatives that address multiple sectoral entry points and makes better use of partnerships.

The case studies indicate progress across a number of signature deliverables outlined in UNDP’s new four-year Strategic Plan.

  • UNDP-supported projects improved food security in places like Benin, Mali, Niger and Sudan.
  • Farmers across the continent acquired climate resilient seeds and farming techniques to improve productivity and protect against changing climate conditions.
  • National governments improved climate information and early warning systems to save lives from fast-acting storms and improve evidence-based decision making
  • Communities built new protections from natural disasters such as wildfires and sea-level rise
  •  Projects empowered women to be more effective agents of climate action
  • Salaries increased, productivity jumped and new jobs were created on and off the farm.
  • Local and national governments created unique measures to set the enabling environments needed to achieve Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement with specialized support to build medium- and long-term plans for climate change through joint programmes with FAO and UN Environment.

Accelerating toward Paris

Building on the lessons learned from over a decade pioneering adaptation in Africa, a new generation of climate change adaptation initiatives are coming on board with support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the chief global fund established to service the Paris Agreement, as well as other vertical funds, multilateral development banks and bilateral donors.

GCF-financed climate change adaptation projects supported through the UNDP are now underway in the sub-Saharan African region in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. To support UNDP’s signature solution for effective, inclusive and accountable governance, GCF-financed National Adaptation Plans projects were recently approved for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Niger.

“Under this vision for mainstreamed and accelerated climate actions across the continent, UNDP is working as a broker to connect the United Nations Development System to improve baseline resilience to climate variability,” said Eziakonwa. “This will require transformational system-wide changes across the UN system, governments, the private sector and society as a whole. It’s a monumental task that requires people from across the globe to come together to rise to the monumental challenges presented by climate change.”

Extended Resources

For additional information, please contact Lamine Bal at

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

Cover photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash: Cassava farmer with her baby on her back, Sierra Leone.
World Bank announces that its adaptation spending will match mitigation for first time

World Bank announces that its adaptation spending will match mitigation for first time

Will Bugler

During the first week of the UN climate change conference in Poland, the World Bank announced that it will significantly boost its spending on climate change adaptation for the period 2021-2050. The Bank will double its current level of climate spending, committing US$ 200 billion to support countries to take ambitious action on climate change. The new plan significantly boosts support for adaptation and resilience, putting adaptation spending on a par with mitigation for the first time.

The extra finance for adaptation comes in recognition of mounting climate change impacts on lives and livelihoods, especially in the world’s poorest countries. “Climate change is an existential threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.” Said World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim. “These new targets demonstrate how seriously we are taking this issue, investing and mobilizing $200 billion over five years to combat climate change. We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same.”

Importantly the bank will ramp up direct adaptation finance to reach US$ 50 billion over the 5-year period, the first time that adaptation finance will be equal to investments that reduce emissions. World Bank Chief Executive Officer, Kristalina Georgieva, said that the move is important to protect people from the worst impacts of climate change. “People are losing their lives and livelihoods because of the disastrous effects of climate change,” she said, “we must fight the causes, but also adapt to the consequences that are often most dramatic for the world’s poorest people”.

The new financing will ensure that adaptation is undertaken in a systematic fashion, and the World Bank will develop a new rating system to track and incentivize global progress. Actions will include supporting higher-quality forecasts, early warning systems and climate information services to better prepare 250 million people in 30 developing countries for climate risks. In addition, the expected investments will build more climate-responsive social protection systems in 40 countries, and finance climate smart agriculture investments in 20 countries.

“There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet,” said IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou. “Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment. We will do much more in helping finance renewable energy, green buildings, climate-smart agribusiness, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management.”

The new finance will be supported by increased efforts by the World Bank to provide technical support to integrate climate considerations into policy planning, investment design, implementation and evaluation.

Cover photo AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0): The World Bank Group headquarters buildings in Washington, D.C.
Iraq’s climate stresses are set to worsen

Iraq’s climate stresses are set to worsen

By Kieran Cooke

Iraq’s climate stresses are worsening, raising the prospect of a hotter, drier future for a country which has already seen widespread devastation.

It’s been invaded and bombed, had a third of its territory taken over by terrorist groups, hundreds of thousands have been killed and much of its infrastructure has been destroyed.

Now Iraq and its 39 million people are facing the hazards of climate change; a prolonged drought and soaring temperatures earlier this year ruined crops. Swathes of land in what was, in ancient times, one of the richest agricultural regions on Earth are drying up and turning into desert.

“Iraq is one of the Middle East’s most climate-vulnerable countries”

A recent report by the Expert Working Group on Climate-related Security Risks – made up of academics including members of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) – paints a stark picture of what’s happening in Iraq.

“Climate change is currently manifesting itself in prolonged heat waves, erratic precipitation, higher than average temperatures and increased disaster intensity”, says the report.

Its authors say that over the past summer Iraq suffered from its worst water shortage crisis for 80 years. They say flows of water in many rivers have decreased by up to 40% over recent decades.

The outlook is grim; the study says that due to climate change, average rainfall across the country is likely to decrease by 9% by mid-century, though the intensity of storms is set to increase. Temperatures in Iraq, which regularly reach more than 40°C in the summer months, are set to rise further – by an average of 2°C by 2050.

Livelihoods at risk

“Iraq is one of the Middle East’s most climate-vulnerable countries”, says the Working Group.

“The combination of its hydrological limitations, increasing temperatures and extreme weather events puts pressure on basic resources and undermines livelihood security for Iraq’s population.”

Oil revenues account for more than 80% of Iraq’s gross domestic product (GDP), but a majority of the workforce is involved in agriculture and has been hit hard by the drought and worsening climate conditions.

One of the regions of the country that has suffered most from shifting weather patterns and drought is the marshlands of the south, near the city of Basra.

Unique community

The marshlands, where the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers which flow through Iraq meet and divide into dozens of channels, formerly covered an area of more than 20,000 square kilometres and were once home to up to half a million people – widely referred to as Marsh Arabs – with a unique way of life.

In the early 1990s, Saddam Hussein, the country’s former ruler, dammed and drained the marshes after tribespeople in the area backed an uprising against his regime. After Saddam was toppled, locals tore down the dams and dykes and brought life back to the region.

Now, once again, the dense channels and waterways of southern Iraq are under threat.

Cross-border impacts

Reductions in rainfall and other climate-related events are only one part of what is a disaster unfolding in one of the most diverse and ecologically rich areas in the Middle East.

Misuse of upriver water resources by the Baghdad government and dams constructed across the Iraqi border, in Iran and Turkey, are severely reducing water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates.

As water levels have plummeted, salinity has increased dramatically, particularly in the south of the country, due to evaporation and saltwater intrusion from the Gulf. Often, because of salinity and pollution, there is little or no drinkable tap water in Basra, a city of more than 2 million.

During the drought last summer, thousands were hospitalised with water-borne diseases.

Corruption threat

Buffaloes, bird life and fish are dying. Reeds and other plant life are being destroyed.

Several people have been killed as protests have erupted over government ineptitude and the lack of basic infrastructure and jobs in what is Iraq’s most oil-rich province.

The Working Group’s report says generally poor governance is exacerbating an already precarious set of circumstances. Civil unrest and terrorism could further destabilise the country.

Widespread corruption is a serious problem. “This factor severely reduces the Iraqi government’s capacity to address security risks and stabilisation strategies, including those relating to climate change”, says the report.

Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues.

This article originally appeared on Climate News Network.

Cover photo by Hassan Janali, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Wikimedia Commons (public domain): Marsh Arabs poling a traditional mashoof in the marshes of southern Iraq.
Putting a price on resilience

Putting a price on resilience

By Matthew Savage

Policymakers, investors and practitioners implementing resilience projects, strive to achieve the greatest impact for their investment.

However, estimating the benefits arising from a project aimed at increasing resilience is difficult. The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) is working to put a price on the urban resilience benefits of the bank’s infrastructure loans and technical assistance programs.

Quantifying the economic benefits of resilience at the city-level can help drive new investments in infrastructure, improve the efficacy of urban development and planning, and demonstrate the benefits of existing resilience strategies. However, it is a task that is fraught with challenges. So how can we begin to put a value on urban resilience?

Investing in climate resilience at the city level can significantly reduce the social and economic costs of climate change for vulnerable communities. Resilient infrastructure also underpins the shift towards more efficient and better functioning cities and can encourage wider economic development and growth. However, limited access to finance and the increasing threat of climate change mean it is important to identify and prioritize those investments likely to offer greatest value for money.

The socioeconomic benefits of resilience can arise from both hard investments in resilient infrastructure (e.g. improved drainage, flood protection, access roads, storm shelters) as well as from climate-smart planning approaches (e.g. improved land use and zoning policies). These, in turn, can give rise to a range of benefits associated with reduced economic costs of climate change. Examples might include reduced damage to buildings and property, lower levels of injury and loss of life, and avoided loss of incomes and livelihoods.

Breaking new ground

Several previous studies have sought to value the costs and benefits of investing in resilience.  These studies cover a range of sectors and draw from the fields of both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. They generally report positive benefit-to-cost ratios (BCRs) with economic returns usually at least 3 times those of the original investment and some projects delivering BCRs of up to 50:1.

However only a few of these studies are directly relevant to the urban context (for example those relating to urban flood management, set back zones, and cyclone shelters). Such studies tend to be far fewer in number than those for other sectors (e.g. agriculture, social protection).  In addition, only limited analysis has been undertaken on the benefits of improved resilience planning and capacity on economic outcomes. What evidence exists is also often derived from developed country contexts.

While urban resilience incorporates benefits associated with both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, it also incorporates wider set of economic benefits (spillover effects) associated with improved urban planning and function, and positive linkages to livelihoods and growth. Greater overall economic resilience can underpin the ability of impacted communities to cope with and respond to external shocks and stresses.

The value of pricing resilience

While delivering resilience can often be achieved by integrating principles in urban planning and development, it often requires new investment compared to a business-as-usual scenario. This may include building additional infrastructure (such as embankments to protect against changes in flood levels) or upgrading the specification of existing infrastructure to meet higher climate thresholds (such as raising road levels or increasing drainage).

Putting a price on resilience to ensure value for money is therefore a central focus of the UCCRTF.  This involves not only understanding the costs of UCCRTF investments (and their additionality from a climate perspective), but also the benefits of these investments in terms of averting the economic damages associated with climate change.

These insights create value for the UCCRTF itself and help assess the effectiveness of the program. They also extend the evidence base that underpins the quality of urban resilience programing, investment, and project appraisal approaches.

The UCCRTF has the ambition to reduce the costs of climate change by 15%.

Overall, the UCCRTF project has the ambition to reduce the costs of climate change by 15% in those urban communities where it makes investments. There are, however, several practical challenges in monitoring and/or measuring the benefits of resilience:

  1. The evidence base for the historic economic costs of climate shocks and stresses in UCCRTF cities is limited, particularly at the catchment level of individual infrastructure investments;

  2. The resilience benefits of UCCRTF investments are likely to arise after the program has been completed and will accrue over infrastructure lifetime (potentially up to 50 years or more);

  3. The scale and/or frequency of climate shocks in a given city is unpredictable and will likely change over time, reflecting the trajectory of global warming (which is itself uncertain);

  4. UCCRTF cities are undergoing rapid socioeconomic change in terms of urbanization, population and infrastructure growth, thereby increasing the economic value of exposure over time;

  5. Not all economic impacts can be easily captured by market values (e.g. loss of life, eco-system impacts), requiring more nuanced approaches to valuation.

Modeling economic benefits of resilience

For this reason, UCCRTF is adopting a modeling approach to estimate the economic benefits of resilience. As part of the model, UCCRTF is ‘ground-truthing’ its assumptions – undertaking primary research around the UCCRTF portfolio of investments – as well as drawing upon secondary evidence from the UCCRTF cities and similar urban contexts. The following are important areas of socioeconomic research that are being undertaken as part of the UCCRTF program:

  • Building a profile of climate risks in UCCRTF cities (and similar urban contexts) and exploring how return periods for such events might evolve over time given future climate change;
  • Identifying economic costs associated with identified climate shocks through a combination of desk research and engagement with key, city-level stakeholders and communities;

  • Looking at the likely socioeconomic development pathways of UCCRTF cities in terms of changes in population and asset exposure;

  • Reviewing the evidence base for avoided damages associated with typical UCCRTF-type infrastructure investments and planning interventions;

  • Identifying emerging climate shocks and stresses during UCCRTF implementation to support real-time assessment of damage costs and the potential for avoided impacts.

Using this data, we are modeling a range of scenarios that will allow the UCCRTF program to identify the potential scope and scale of resilience benefits over time that are associated with its investment portfolio and capacity building activities.

These insights will be applied to explore ways of integrating the economic costs and benefits of resilience into the more mainstream appraisal of infrastructure projects. They will also help broaden understanding of the potential of resilience to underpin wider economic development in the urban context.

This article as originally published on Livable Cities – Asian Development Bank and is shared with kind permission.

Matthew Savage is a leading international expert on climate change economics policy and finance. He is currently working with the UCCRTF on measuring economic loss of shocks and stresses in cities. A visiting lecturer at the Universities of Oxford and Copenhagen, Matthew has worked in more than 30 countries across 5 continents, including roles at the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Finance Corporation.

Cover photo by Livable Cities – Asian Development Bank.
African Development Bank launches climate risk management plan

African Development Bank launches climate risk management plan

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Last week, the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced the launch of its first climate risk management initiative. The Africa Disaster Risk Financing programme (ADRiFi) will run from 2019 to 2023 with the aim to improve the bank’s ability to assess climate risks, respond to disasters, and review adaptation measures.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal have expressed interest in taking part in the programme, which is said to save $4.40 in future relief measures for every $1 invested in resilience measures today. Countries will receive initial financing to help them assess their climate risks and associated costs.

“Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change, prone to a wide variety of natural disasters including droughts, floods and tropical cyclones. However, disaster risk management suffers from inadequate financing and challenges in the deployment of available funds”, said Atsuko Toda, Bank Director for Agricultural Finance and Rural Development.

ADRiFi will promote such mechanisms as index-based insurance, which allows for pay-outs being disbursed automatically when pre-defined risk thresholds are exceeded. The insurance schemes shall help poor communities reduce their vulnerability to climate change in order to protect their lives and livelihoods.

In order to ensure cooperation in preparing, developing and implementing climate change resilience projects, AfDB signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Risk Capacity, an agency of the African Union using finance mechanisms such as risk pooling and risk transfer to enable a pan-African climate response.

Cover photo by Oxfam/Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0): Residents of Beletweyne, Somalia, wade through the muddy water.
Landslides are growing risk to poorest

Landslides are growing risk to poorest

Waterlogged hillsides are dangerous. For those who live on them, or further downhill, they can be deadly. The global risk from landslides is rising.

Lethal landslides are on the increase. Between 2004 and 2016, sudden cascades of rock, rubble and mud have claimed at least 50,000 lives. And fatal slips down unstable hillside slopes have steadily increased this century, according to new research.

British geographers report in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences that they had amassed a database of 4,800 fatal landslides since 2004 and found that at least 700 of them had what they call a direct human fingerprint: they happened because people built on unstable soils, they mined, legally and illegally, they cut into hillsides, and they allowed pipes to leak.

In addition, heavy rainfall, earthquakes, explosions, dam collapses and freezing and thawing also set the earth moving at ever greater speeds, with deadly consequences.

The researchers also report that they found that other catalogues of natural disaster consistently under-estimated the toll exacted by landslides.

“It was surprising to find clear trends within the database that fatal landslides … were increasing globally during the period of 2004 to 2016”

One study found that the International Disaster Database, maintained by the international disaster community, under-estimated the number of fatal landslides by between 1400% and 2000%, often because the death tolls from such events were lumped in with other forms of disaster that might precipitate landslip: among them volcanic eruption, earthquake and flooding.

“We were aware that humans are placing increasing pressure on their local environment, but it was surprising to find clear trends within the database that fatal landslides triggered by construction, illegal hill-cutting and illegal mining were increasing globally during the period of 2004 to 2016,” said Melanie Froude, of the University of Sheffield, who led the study.

All the countries in the premier league for fatal landslides were in Asia: one in five of these happened in India, but Pakistan, Myanmar and the Philippines also suffered increasing losses.

Poorest in the shadows

Such findings are no surprise. First, there are more people on the planet, looking for new places to live and new ways of making a living, and the poorest are always more likely to be forced to the margins, to live on or in the shadow of dangerous, unstable slopes.

Second, the world is warming: for every extra degree Celsius the moisture-holding capacity of the atmosphere increases by about 7%, so more rain is likely to fall with ever greater intensity to saturate more soil and dislodge more rock. The researchers found that 79% of all landslides could be linked to rainfall.

And, with greater warming, there is a greater hazard of devastating superstorms, along with hurricanes and tropical cyclones that deliver the conditions for catastrophic floods not just in Asia but in Europe and the US.

Paradoxically, extremes of heat and drought can also create dangerous slopes: dangerous wild fires can remove the tree cover that stops hillsides from slipping, and drive people from their homes to places that could later be just as hazardous.

Applying knowledge

Research like this is never just academic: the point of such studies is to draw attention to natural disasters that need never have happened, and identify the communities most at risk.

And these, the scientists say, are more frequently in poor countries, with the poorest of all disproportionately at risk. The point the scientists make is that there is nothing inevitable about a “natural” disaster. Human error, heedlessness and ignorance all contribute to loss, suffering and death.

“With appropriate regulation to guide engineering design, education and enforcement by regulation by specialist inspectors, landslides triggered by construction, mining and hill-cutting are entirely preventable,” Dr Froude said.

This article was originally published on Climate News Network.

Cover photo by Peruvian Ministry of Defense/Flickr (CC BY2.0): A 15 March 2018 image of a landslide near Cusco, Peru.
Gender-sensitive efforts crucial to tackling climate change

Gender-sensitive efforts crucial to tackling climate change

By Melanie Sison

Injecting gender sensitivity in climate change interventions is cost-efficient in the long-run.

This was the overarching message in the workshop by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) held 16 October, and part of the week-long Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum.

“Gender transformative design results in cost-effective outcomes when building resilience to climate change through increased awareness and adoption of resilient practices”

Amy Reggers, UN Women

“Gender transformative design results in cost-effective outcomes when building resilience to climate change through increased awareness and adoption of resilient practices,” said Amy Reggers, gender and climate change programme development and research, UN Women.

Reggers said that the amount of investments poured into climate change and gender may be difficult to determine given that both thematic areas cut across various sectors. “Gender is a crosscutting issue. Climate change is a crosscutting issue. It’s very hard to say how much of what we are spending goes into climate change or gender,” she said.

Nisha Onta, Asia coordinator for Women Organising for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, Bangkok, agreed that it was important to conduct economic assessments of gender integration in climate change interventions. “If things don’t get measured they are not valued,” she said.

The question, however, is whether an economic assessment is the most critical aspect in terms of gender mainstreaming in adaptation. For Onta, while looking at the financing is important, human rights should not be ignored. “If there are no gender interventions, we would be overburdening women.”

At the same time, there are costs that may not have monetary value. Laurence Levaque, gender focal of ADB, pointed out that there will always be costs in gender mainstreaming, and these may come in the form of time and setting up mechanisms to provide women a platform for participation.

According to Srinivasan Ancha, principal climate change specialist of ADB, climate change interventions do not affect men and women equally and various studies have shown that women are more vulnerable to the effects of disaster than men. An IUCN fact sheet suggests, for example, that deaths in disasters were directly linked with gender — particularly women’s economic and social rights.

A study presented by UN Women indicates that incorporating gender sensitivity in climate change initiatives may be cost-efficient in the long run. The study mapped three climate change adaptation projects in Bangladesh on a “gender-aware continuum” to find that gender mainstreaming measures may result in lower financial investments.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk. This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Cover photo by Thomas Young on Unsplash

UNDP: Addressing Gender in Climate Change Policies for Agriculture

UNDP: Addressing Gender in Climate Change Policies for Agriculture

By UNDP Climate

Men and women often have different roles and responsibilities in society and therefore experience climate change impacts in different ways. This video shows what Colombia, Uganda and Viet Nam are doing to develop gender-responsive national adaptation plans for the agriculture sectors. This country-driven work is carried out under a global programme known as Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag), jointly coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of the material in the maps do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO and UNDP concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers.

Cover photo by FAO/Matthias Mugisha (CC BY-NC 2.0): Ugandan farmer.