Category: Disaster Risk Reduction

Switzerland And The Pacific Islands Region Cooperate On Climate Change And Migration

Switzerland And The Pacific Islands Region Cooperate On Climate Change And Migration

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) are pleased to announce Switzerland is contributing USD100,000 to build capacity on climate change and disaster related migration, displacement and planned relocation for resilient development in the Pacific.

Project partners, including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, are working under the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, endorsed by the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum PIF in 2016. Project funds are provided as co-financing under the EU-funded Intra-ACP GCCA+ Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (PACRES) which aims to deliver better regional and national responses to climate change challenges faced by Pacific ACP countries. PACRES is being implemented jointly by SPREP, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community and the University of the South Pacific.

The challenge of human mobility for Pacific Island countries was noted in the 2008 Niue Declaration on Climate Change, which recognised “the importance of retaining the Pacific’s social and cultural identity, and the desire of Pacific peoples to continue to live in their own countries, where possible”.

This new funding builds on a number of earlier Swiss investments that began under the Nansen Initiative Pacific Regional Consultation in 2013 and has continued under the Platform for Disaster Displacement. Switzerland’s Special Envoy for the Pacific Region Ambassador Yasmine Chatila Zwahlen said “The Pacific Islands Region is not only very exposed to Climate Change with its adverse effects on all aspects of Human Security, but it also harbours knowledge, tradition, solutions and best practices which the Blue Continent can share with the international community. I am proud that Switzerland can support the leadership in the Pacific Islands Region in this area of growing importance for the world.”

Project activities will include research to fill knowledge gaps to support policy development and enhancing coordination and communication to support the delivery of human mobility related programmes and policy development. Activities will be implemented by PIFS in the context of strengthening regional coordination in climate change and disaster resilience through the multi-stakeholder Pacific Resilience Partnership (PRP) for supporting resilience-building as guided by the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP). To that end PIFS will deliver the activities in close collaboration with the PRP Technical Working Group on Human Mobility.


This press release was originally posted on ReliefWeb.
Cover photo by Daniela Turcanu on Unsplash.
New UNEP programme to support climate resilience in Pacific Islands through early warning systems

New UNEP programme to support climate resilience in Pacific Islands through early warning systems

A transformative new programme initiated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) aims to establish climate and ocean information services and multi-hazard early warning systemsin Pacific Small Island Developing States, which are among the most vulnerable in the world when it comes to climate change, natural disasters and increasingly frequent or intense extreme climate events such as tropical cyclones, flooding and drought.

At its 27^th^ Board meeting on 10 November 2020, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved the submission of a US$49.9 million programme — of which USD 47.4 million represents the GCF grant — on Enhancing Climate Information and Knowledge Services for resilience in 5 island countries of the Pacific Ocean. This is UNEP’s first multi-country programmatic initiative in the GCF, and will cover the Cook Islands, Niue, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, countries with some of the world’s smallest and most dispersed populations surrounded by vast ocean areas.

Strengthening the resilience and capacity of Pacific Small Island Developing States to adapt to climate change cannot be achieved without scientific knowledge and data on climate and its impacts. The new programme aims to develop climate science and information services that are essential for sustainable development, environmental management, disaster risk reduction, food security, health services, water resource management and energy efficiency. Early warning systems facilitate effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, empowering populations at risk to initiate timely and appropriate actions to reduce the impact of climate-related hazards and extreme weather events.

“Climate services and early warning systems address an urgent need to provide an evidence base for planning, decision-making and responses that have the potential to save lives and livelihoods. Improved capacity to observe and predict the impacts of a changing climate will contribute to more effective environmental management, disaster risk reduction and food security in Pacific Small Island Developing States,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “The Green Climate Fund Board’s decision to invest in climate information and knowledge services in some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change is an important contribution to adaptation planning and science.”

The new UNEP programme will ensure reliable, real-time access to essential climate observation data, including the installation of a meteorological observation point on each inhabited island of the five countries, and deliver innovative approaches to disaster risk management through impact-based forecasting and forecast-based financing.

“I am pleased the GCF Board’s approval of USD 47.4 million will strengthen our partnership with UNEP to enhance climate information and knowledge services for resilience in Pacific Ocean countries. As a partnership organization, GCF operates through a network of accredited entities that work directly with developing countries to foster a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate resilient pathways. This programme will do this by improving capacities to monitor, model and predict climate impacts in the Cook Islands, Niue, Palau, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu,” said Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund

At least 80 per cent of the islands’ populations will directly benefit from the programme through the promotion of diversified, climate-resilient livelihood practices informed by improved climate observation data and risk knowledge. In addition, the programme aims to achieve a 15-30 per cent reduction in economic damage and losses incurred due to climate-related hazards, and to enhance the productivity of climate risk-informed sectors. Strengthened ocean services will support sustainable marine ecosystems management.

“Niue is highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards and extreme climate events. This GCF-funded programme will empower our island populations to initiate timely and appropriate actions to reduce the Impact of hazards and extreme events by using improved climate information, early warning and risk knowledge. I applaud the efforts by everyone and the hard work towards the successful outcome of the approved programme Enhancing Climate Information and Knowledge Services for Resilience,” said Hon. Dalton Tagelagi, Premier of Niue. “The benefits of this programme will impact greatly on the continued efforts of the Niue people to building a safer, more resilient Niue to impacts of Climate Change and towards achieving sustainable livelihoods for the Pacific.”

The programme is part of UNEP’s commitment as a founding member of the Alliance for Hydromet Development, launched in 2019 to ramp up action that strengthens the capacity of developing countries to deliver high-quality weather forecasts, early warning systems, water, hydrological and climate services. Since its launch, significant progress has been made by the Alliance Members convened by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in designing the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) to support countries to generate and exchange basic observational data critical for improved weather forecasts and climate services. This is will be important for the longer-term sustainability of the programme’s results.

“The GCF-funded UNEP programme will provide a major boost for the observational networks run by the national meteorological and hydrological services in the five Pacific Small Island Developing States, filling data gaps that are of national, regional and global significance. For the longer-term sustainability of these efforts, the creation of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) is critical. The SOFF will support Small Island Development States and developing countries in new ways to substantially increase sustained generation and international exchange of basic observational data,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General.

“As the GCF Nationally Designated Authority (NDA) for Tuvalu, I take this opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate all the work that UNEP has done that has enabled this programme to be considered by the GCF Board. The support and efforts put forth by the national team from the Tuvalu Meteorological Service and the Climate Change Department in the formulation of this project proposal is highly commended. At this opportune time I sincerely thank the GCF Board and its Secretariat for their intense work. We look forward to the timely implementation of the programme at the 5 Pacific Island Countries. The programme is envisaged to strengthen the provision of reliable, delivery of climate information to aid decision making for resilience building,” said Seve Paeniu, Tuvalu’s Minister for Finance and Climate Change.

“Pacific Small Island Developing States are highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards and extreme climate events, such as tropical cyclones, flooding and drought. This Programme will empower island populations to initiate timely and appropriate actions to reduce the impact of hazards and extreme events by using improved climate information, early warning and risk knowledge,” said Kosi Latu, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. “This is particularly timely as Pacific Island Countries face the double-edged challenge of climate change and a global pandemic. As secretariat of the Pacific Meteorological Council and host of the Pacific Climate Change Centre, we welcome this project to assist with addressing strategic priorities in the 5 countries and we look forward to supporting its implementation.”


About the UN Environment Programme

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

About the Alliance for Hydromet Development

UNEP is a founding member of the Alliance for Hydromet Development, which brings together major international development, humanitarian and climate finance institutions, collectively committed to scale up and unite efforts to close the hydromet capacity gap.

For more information, please contact:

Keishamaza Rukikaire, Head of News & Media, UN Environment Programme


Cover photo by Bora Bora Photos, 2015
Africa’s resistance grows as climate crisis worsens

Africa’s resistance grows as climate crisis worsens

By Kieran Cooke

Battered by storms and droughts during a tough 2019, Africa’s resistance to the climate crisis left no room for passivity.

Attempting to come to any general conclusions on the state of a vast, varied and complex continent may be a tricky business, but Africa’s resistance to the climate crisis shows it rejects any idea of settling for victimhood.

A new report, State of the Climate in Africa 2019, published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), makes that clear.

It reaches some grim conclusions. Increased temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and more extreme weather are threatening human health and safety across the continent, says the report.

“Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources”, says Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary-general.

“In recent months we have seen devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and now face the looming spectre of drought because of a La Niña event”, he says. “The human and economic toll has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Killer cyclone

Drought caused considerable damage in 2019, particularly across southern Africa. Much of East Africa also suffered drought but then, late in the year, there was torrential rain and serious flooding and landslides in the region.

The trend, says the report, is for continuing increases in temperature: 2019 was among the three warmest years ever recorded in Africa. The WMO predicts that rainfall is likely to decrease over northern and southern regions but increase over the Sahel.

There are also likely to be more weather-related extreme events. In March 2019 Cyclone Idai hit the coast of Mozambique and went on to devastate large areas of Malawi, Zimbabwe and surrounding countries.

Described as the most destructive cyclone ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, Idai killed hundreds of people and displaced several hundred thousand.

“Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest”

Sea levels are rising well above the global average in many parts of Africa, the report says. Coastal degradation and erosion is a major challenge, particularly in West Africa. More than 50% of the coastlines in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo are eroding – a trend likely to continue in future years.

The knock-on effects of these changes in climate are considerable. Approximately 60% of the total population of Africa is dependent on agriculture for a living.

Heat and drought, plus flood damage in some areas, are likely to reduce crop productivity. Changes in climate are also leading to pest outbreaks.

In what it describes as the worst case climate change scenario, the report says crop yields could drop by 13% by mid-century across West and Central Africa, 11% in North Africa and 8% in the eastern and southern regions of the continent. Rice and wheat crops would be particularly badly affected.

Combatting the crisis

Increased heat and continually changing rainfall patterns are also likely to lead to the spread of disease – and a fall-off in economic production in many countries.

But the report does point to some positive changes, showing Africa’s resistance to the crisis. Though the continent is responsible for only a small percentage of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, many countries in Africa are taking measures aimed at tackling climate change.

Solar power is becoming more widespread, with several large-scale projects planned. Early warning systems monitoring the approach of such cataclysmic events as Cyclone Idai are being installed across the continent.
Farm incomes in many areas are increasing, due to the application of more efficient cultivation methods, such as micro-irrigation. But good planning, based on reliable data, is essential, the report says.

“The limited uptake and use of climate information services in development planning and practice in Africa is due in part to the paucity of reliable and timely climate information”, says Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa– Climate News Network


This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Georgina Smith/CIAT (public domain), via Climate Visuals
Prioritising stakeholder engagement and securing funding for creating responses to climate change: Virtual structured dialogue for Belize’s Country Programme

Prioritising stakeholder engagement and securing funding for creating responses to climate change: Virtual structured dialogue for Belize’s Country Programme

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Belize is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Research indicates that climate change impacts could cost the twenty-four island nations of the Caribbean a total $11 billion by 2025, but these figures are likely to be an underestimate. The costs of inaction cannot be ignored. Exposure to rising sea levels and the increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes put the entire population and the future of the island at ever increasing risk. Their agriculture and tourism sectors are also highly sensitive to climate-related impacts, heightening vulnerability to rising temperatures and associated consequences on the country’s valuable natural resources. Any measures taken to address climatic impacts must make sure that they truly protect the vulnerable, and tailor resilience building to suit the needs of each community.

The world’s largest fund dedicated to taking action on climate change is the Green Climate Fund (known as the GCF). Currently capitalised at USD 9.7 billion, the GCF offers a life-line for these countries who have massive exposure to climate change impacts and little resource to adapt to them. But identifying the right actions for communities requires ensuring the sustained involvement from a range of stakeholders

Belize is receiving GCF-funding to support a variety of activities. As well as having projects like the  International Fund for Agriculture and Development’s (IFAD) project on climate-smart agricultural production, other projects exist to build the decision-making processes that Belize has, enabling them to continue to make participation accessible and sustainable for a whole range of stakeholders. Other projects, for example, seek to boost the country’s capacity for accessing international finance for investments in climate change projects, as part of the Fund’s Readiness programme, and is coordinated by the country’s National Designated Authority (NDA), the Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum (MEDP), in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). A Country Programme has also been developed to guide Belize’s engagement with the GCF, including an initial pipeline of project ideas that could be submitted to the Fund.

The second phase of Readiness activities sees new projects being implemented to strengthen Belize’s capacities to effectively and efficiently access, manage, disburse and monitor climate financing. One of these is a year-long project being delivered with Acclimatise, where a range of activities are being hosted, including virtual training events and structured dialogues, to help develop the country programme and develop sustainable ways for engaging with a range of stakeholders.

These Structured Dialogues start with presenting the Country Programme to range of stakeholders – from civil society, to private organisations, and other ministerial departments. Stakeholders are then encouraged to submit ideas for projects that could be funded by the GCF programme. Stakeholders, including the Belize National Climate Change Committee (BNCCC) then meet to gain a greater understanding of how the GCF works, and to discuss, refine, and prioritise the project ideas. The prioritised pipeline will be included in the Country Programme and validated in early 2021 through a second Structured Dialogue. By project completion, Belize will have developed a robust pipeline of projects and programmes for submission to the GCF as part of the fund’s first replenishment period of 2020-2023. Acclimatise is also helping Belize in their capacity for hosting these Structured Dialogues to help them facilitate their own stakeholder engagement in the future. The very first of these structured dialogues took place 20th-22nd October, 2020, and happened virtually due to the ongoing restrictions as a result of COVID-19.

Other on-going Readiness activities in Belize include support for the accreditation of the Development Finance Corporation and Social Investment Fund of Belize, readiness Support to the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT)- Capacity Building, and readiness Support for Strengthening Belize Private Sector Access to Climate Finance.


Image by James Willamor on Flickr.
How to reduce the impact of climate risks on business: takeaways from the Russian Chapter roundtable

How to reduce the impact of climate risks on business: takeaways from the Russian Chapter roundtable

The roundtable “Questions to Assist Non-Executive Director Oversight of Physical Risk Climate Management”, was held on 15 October 2020, hosted by the Directors’ Climate Forum Russian Chapter in cooperation with Deloitte CIS, Acclimatise and MinterEllison. Experts from Russia and the UK discussed with independent directors of the largest Russian and international companies how face new climate challenges, how to enhance risk management processes, as well as what procedures and practices need to be implemented today not to jeopardize the company’s activities in the near future.

Physical climate risks are currently one of major business concerns. Climate change affects productivity and asset values, increases the cost of capital, and changes the supply and demand curve of products and services. At the Russian Chapter roundtable, their views on this problem, as well as their experience in developing a sustainable business strategy were shared by:

  • Olga Pascault, Founder and Chair of Management Board at Russian Chapter, Member of the International Advisory Board at APQ Global, Independent Director at NESsT UK;
  • Elena Haykin (Sapozhnikova), Founder and Member of Management Board at Russian Chapter, partner of the Digital Horizon investment group, independent director of PJSC Inter RAO;
  • Ian Colebourne, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte CIS;
  • Andrey Yakushin, Head of Corporate Affairs Development Division at the Central Bank of Russian Federation;
  • Richard Bater, Climate Risk Analyst , Acclimatise (UK);
  • John Firth, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Acclimatise (UK);
  • Ellie Mulholland, Senior Associate, MinterEllison, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative.

Opening the event, Olga Pascault and Elena Haykin (Sapozhnikova) emphasized that in terms of the probability of occurrence and possible scale of losses, climate risk is among the most significant.

On the one hand, companies’ actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative impact on the environment help to avoid physical consequences, but at the same time lead to significant transitional risks – market, technological or regulatory. On the other hand, the inability to reduce emissions can limit transitional risks, but will aggravate climate change, and it is very important for the company to find a reasonable balance.

Ian Colebourne told the participants about Deloitte’s international initiative WorldClimate, which drives responsible climate choices within and beyond the company by focusing on four principles: Net-zero by 2030, operating green, empowering individuals and engaging ecosystems.

Ian noted that Deloitte also contributed by supporting its clients on their paths to a low-carbon future with climate risk assessment and management, and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

In his speech Andrey Yakushin emphasized how the Bank of Russia helped in financing sustainable development. In particular, special attention was paid to the Bank of Russia Regulation No. 706-P, “On Securities Issue Standards”, which provided a legal basis for issuance of labeled green and social bonds; Recommendations of the Bank of Russia on the implementation of principles of responsible investment, as well as creating in the Russian Federation a taxonomy of green activities and a verification system for green projects carried out jointly with the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia and VEB RF.

Dr. Richard Bater outlined the most likely physical climate risks facing the Russian Federation and noted that in our country the average temperature is rising at more than twice the global average rate and the number of climate-related extreme events also increasing. So, businesses ought to honestly answer themselves today if they have the right intelligence and knowhow to remain competitive and compliant in the face of a changing climate, when environmental adaptation has already become an important part of the political agenda at the federal level.

John Firth introduced the Guidance for Directors, prepared by Acclimatise, and set it within the context of wider global action by corporates, financial institutions and regulators to better manage and disclose physical climate risks. He also highlighted the role of the independent Board of Directors in shaping this agenda and tracking results.

Ellie Mulholland presented on the governance and liability issues that arise from a warming world, rising expectations of investors and regulators in global capital markets, responsibilities of independent directors in the context of climate change and how different warming scenarios in the future will impact resilience of assets and capitalization of the company.

In conclusion, the speakers answered the questions of the participants and invited them to the next Russian Chapter event – the webinar “Addressing Climate Change Issues: Impact on the Audit and Risk Committees’ Agenda”, which will be held on November 12, 2020.

The roundtable was supported by DLA Piper and international public relations agency PBN H+K Strategies. The recordings of the event can be found at the Russian Chapter’s site.

Download the report here.


Russian Chapter serves as the Russian hub for the global platform on climate change for board members, that operates under the auspices of the World Economic Forum. By implementing the Climate Governance Initiative (CGI), the World Economic Forum supports the growing awareness and competencies of boards of directors for effective climate governance.


Cover image by Michael Dam on Unsplash.
UNDRR’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020 Edition

UNDRR’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020 Edition

Tomorrow marks the UNDRR’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. Held every 13 October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.

This year’s edition continues as part of the “Sendai Seven” campaign, focusing on Target E: “Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.”  This year’s theme is about conveying that many disasters can be avoided if there are disaster risk reduction strategies in place to manage and reduce existing levels of risk.

You can find dedicated resources, stories, articles and events taking place around this day, here.

https://iddrr.undrr.org/
UCCRTF delivers COVID-19 patient transfer vehicles to Marawi City

UCCRTF delivers COVID-19 patient transfer vehicles to Marawi City

By UCCRTF Secretariat

Marawi City, capital of the Philippine province of Lanao del Sur, is still recovering from the five-month long armed conflict in 2017 three years onward.

​The Battle of Marawi, fought between Philippine Government forces and groups affiliated with Islamic State terrorists, left the city’s critical infrastructure systems in crisis. The city has therefore struggled to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck as its resilience was low. As part of ongoing reconstruction efforts in Marawi, ADB’s Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) has delivered patient monitoring and transport vehicles to Marawi City Health Office and Lanao del Sur Integrated Provincial Health Office on 27 February 2020 and 3 April 2020. The timely arrival of the vehicles is expected to strengthen the already weakened local health system to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

​Part of ADB’s “Emergency Assistance for Reconstruction and Recover of Marawi (EARRM)”, the initiative saw the ceremonial hand over of the vehicles’ keys at the Center for Health Development Northern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro City. According to Undersecretary Abdullah B. Dumama Jr., the vehicles will be used to create a more efficient community health service in the province. He added that the Department of Health (DOH) is also due to provide ambulances and mobile health clinics to improve patient access to health care, and strengthen disaster preparedness and response capacity.

​The Center for Health Development Northern Mindanao, along with the DOH Project Management Team, is committed to regularly monitoring the usage of these vehicles, making sure they are fulfilling the need that they have been provided for.

Marawi-Ligtas-COVID1901.jpg

The delivery of the medical vehicles – From left to right: Dir. Mar Wynn Bello, Dir. Leonita Gorgolon, Undesecretary Abdullah Dumama Jr., Dr. Ali Dalidig, Dr. Alinader Minalang, Dir. Adriano Suba-an, Dir. David Mendoza

The EARRM Project will also fund the construction of two local health units, with essential medical equipment and supplies, ensuring access to essential health services for the community. “The DOH have been with us since the start of the Marawi Siege,” said Dr. Alinader Minalang, IPHO Lanao del Sur Provincial Health Officer. He added: “They have been providing support to our health care operations, including through managing the fund assistance available from various development partners such as the Asian Development Bank”.


This article was originally posted on ADB’s Livable Cities Blog.
Cover photo of Marawi City from Wikimedia Commons.
How to protect communities from natural disasters – what research tells us

How to protect communities from natural disasters – what research tells us

By Ravindra Jayaratne

On the morning of August 29 2005, one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes hit the US Gulf Coast. With sustained winds of up to 140 mph, Hurricane Katrina killed over 1,800 people and caused $160 billion worth of damage.

The government at the time was criticised for its slow response, particularly its failure to involve local communities in decisions about preparing for and responding to the disaster. Almost 15 years to the day, another major storm bore down on the region. Half a million people in Texas and Louisiana evacuated to escape Hurricane Laura’s “unsurvivable” storm surge and, at the time of writing, and at least six people have been killed.

I study natural disasters in order to better understand how to save lives. One of the most important strategies for reducing the risk to everyone in a community is to engage with local people at every stage of decision making.

Communities in disaster-prone regions have developed strategies over generations for dealing with extreme weather. They’re more likely to spot the warning seasons early and know how best to respond.

The impacts of natural disasters can have a lasting effect on the lives of those in affected regions too, as anyone who has lived in New Orleans over the last two decades could tell you. It’s vital the input of these communities is taken into consideration if there is to be lasting trust in the institutions that organise disaster preparation and relief efforts.

A person wades through chest-high flood water towards an abandoned car.
The US government response to Hurricane Katrina was widely considered a failure. EPA/Shawn Thew

Early warnings

Some of my research has compared how academic experts and people living in disaster-prone areas think differently about these events. While experts studying natural disasters tend to focus on intense but infrequent events like tsunamis, there are communities around the world which have adapted to milder but more common problems like flooding.

We wanted to visit communities in both the UK and Japan, to compare how their community leaders and engineers developed counter measures to protect their local areas. These were categorised as “soft” countermeasures, like evacuation plans and early warning systems, and as “hard” solutions, such as flood defences and embankments.

Communities facing high-impact but low-frequency disasters, like tsunamis in Japan, tend to have strategies that prevent or reduce the scale of the damage with hard engineering, such as sea walls. For communities subject to low-impact but high-frequency hazards like flooding, such as those we studied in the UK, adaptation is what characterises most countermeasures, including community networks that keep vulnerable people alert to any threat.

The Joukumachi community in Hita City of Oita Prefecture, Japan was affected by torrential rain in 2017 and 2018. Though government measures were slowly enacted, with some residents evacuated to shelters and higher ground, it was interventions by local residents that allowed the community to recognise the risks early and respond quickly.

Most notably, local people people used handmade rain gauges with loudspeakers that could broadcast alerts to monitor the approaching danger. This early warning system helped people prepare before the government could launch a response.

Solar powered rain gauges attached to red loudspeakers.
Gauges measure rainfall and attached loudspeakers broadcast a warning. Ravindra Jayaratne, Author provided

Preparing for the future

But what makes an effective response to future disasters? Our research in Sturmer, a flood-prone village in Essex, England, showed that dedicated community organising is the best defence.

Sturmer was swamped with heavy rainfall in 2001 and 2014, causing floods that wreaked a lot of damage. But these events paled in comparison to the catastrophic storm surges that devastated the region in 1953. As climate change threatens more severe rain storms in the future, the community has developed its own ways to stay prepared.


A sturdy, white board with 'floodshield' written on it stands in a living room.
Portable flood defences like this are stored in vulnerable homes and can be deployed when the action group warns flooding is imminent. Ravindra Jayaratne, Author provided

Following the floods in 2014, a flood action group was formed in the village. The group is led by members of the community and it communicates flood risk through meetings, magazines and flyers. To keep local residents aware of flood alerts, some in the group are responsible for constantly checking the daily weather forecast, as well as flood depth gauges deployed in the stream. When flooding seems imminent, the houses most at risk are provided with portable flood gates that can be deployed as and when they’re needed.

This ongoing, bottom-up approach looks very different to a reactive disaster response led by central government agencies – which are often based far away. Even the best examples of top-down management are unlikely to possess the breadth of experience and local knowledge that makes communities so effective at preparing for natural disasters.

Central governments must learn from them and ask how best they can aid relief and recovery, rather than try and impose a one-size-fits-all approach.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover Image by Carol Colman from Pixabay
Acclimatise supports Macquarie to conduct climate risk heatmapping and scenario analysis exercises for TCFD disclosures and establishing materiality of physical and transition risks

Acclimatise supports Macquarie to conduct climate risk heatmapping and scenario analysis exercises for TCFD disclosures and establishing materiality of physical and transition risks

By Laura Canevari

Investors and asset managers are increasingly taking action to advance their transition to a low carbon, climate resilient economy and prepare for the financial impacts of climate change. Such is the case, for example, of Macquarie Group Limited, a multinational independent investment bank and financial services company headquartered in Sydney, Australia. As part of their continued efforts to align to the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), Macquarie conducted heat-mapping and climate scenario analysis on physical and transition risks in its holdings. The bank has released a new report reflecting on its progress to date against the four pillars of the TCFD (governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics).

Acclimatise deployed its HeatMapR toolkit to help Macquarie undertake a high-level analysis of physical climate risks on its global equity and lending portfolios against two climate scenarios. The heatmapping exercise used 1.5°C and 4°C warming scenarios*, representing good practice by selecting a high and low-risk scenario. The HeatMapR tool pulled climate hazards data for three time horizons, namely 2020, 2030 and 2050. A wide range of hazards were analysed in the exercise, including chronic climate change variables (e.g. temperature, precipitation, sea level rise) and extreme weather events such as bushfires. The results of these analyses were presented as a set of summary heatmaps, and a similar exercise for transition risk was conducted alongside Acclimatise’s physical heatmapping workstream.

As noted in Macquarie’s report, the Acclimatise HeatMapR outputs provide a strategic tool to identify potential areas of their holdings where more detailed analysis is needed; heatmapping can also be used to guide further analysis and investment decision making. The findings of the heatmapping exercise for physical climate risks show that most severe impacts are expected to occur after 2050, but also that climate vulnerabilities are different across sectors and sub-sectors and in particularly are highly dependent on the country of exposure.

Thorough its climate risk heatmapping and scenario analysis, Macquarie determined that physical and transition risks present in its holdings were not considered to be material. Reasons for this include the fact that the firm  has a sufficiently diverse portfolio, and the their exposures to counterparties at risk are short term, as compared to the time scenarios examined. Finally, the exercises revelated that Macquarie has  limited lending exposure to risky sectors.

Over the course of 2020 and beyond, Macquarie will continue implementing its guidelines on climate risk governance and continue to refine and embed climate change considerations within its existing risk management frameworks. In particular, it aims to continue refining scenario analysis and to further integrate these exercises into their existing risk procedures and stress testing. In addition, it also aims to assess the resilience of its business premises to physical climate risks in the coming year.

Click here to access Macquarie’s full report.

* scenarios are warming scenarios by 2100, above and a warming by 2100, relative to pre‐industrial levels.


Harnessing the knowledge of indigenous communities for DRR

Harnessing the knowledge of indigenous communities for DRR

By Rohit Jigyasu

Indigenous peoples know a lot about disaster risk. They have learned to read the signs in the sea, the skies and wildlife to predict hazards. Direct experience with disasters has taught many communities the duration, location, time, frequency, intensity, predictability, onset and possible behaviour of the hazards linked to these events. Traditional knowledge for disaster risk reduction lies in the accumulated experience that comes with the close relationship of indigenous communities to their environment, formed through successive trials and errors over generations.

Early warning

Take the case of Moken, a tribe of nomads living in the southern seas of Thailand and Myanmar. They spend at least eight months a year at sea, bartering fish and shells for rice and fuel. They tell the ‘legend of the seven waves’, which serves to perpetuate traditional knowledge of tsunamis. When the tsunami struck the coast of Thailand on 26 December 2004, they drew on this knowledge to warn tourists and others of the oncoming wave.  Similarly, the local knowledge of the indigenous tribes of Andaman Islands taught them that if the sea starts to recede, then they should also recede. This knowledge was instrumental in saving their lives, while many tourists drowned as they moved towards the receding sea.

In the Kutch region of Gujarat, I came across local knowledge on the prediction of drought based on the direction of winds. Farmers change their cropping pattern according to their predictions, based on this knowledge.

Originating from within the community, such a knowledge is passed on informally through narratives that remain in the collective conscience of the communities. The story of the Japanese village of Hiromura, struck by an earthquake in 1854 provided valuable lessons that continue to guide new generations of Japanese. A villager noticed that the well had run dry and alerted the village leader. Shortly after, a devastating earthquake struck. The leader realised that a tsunami would strike the coast and guided the villagers to higher ground. Following this event, the villagers built an embankment that has protected the village ever since, including when the Showa Nankai earthquake triggered a four-metre tsunami; the area protected by the embankment was undamaged. Japanese government continues to use this story to spread awareness of the need for preparedness against tsunamis.

Traditional technologies and construction practices

Likewise, traditional technologies and construction practices often reflect adaptations to the environmental conditions, to manage local hazards using local materials. There are many examples of survival of traditional buildings during disasters caused by earthquakes, floods, cyclones and other hazards thanks to the traditional knowledge embedded in them. During the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, typical bhunga dwellings of the local Banni tribe in the Kutch region in India survived remarkably well because of their design and construction technology, while many new constructions collapsed.

Typical bhunga dwellings of the local Banni tribe
Typical bhunga dwellings of the local Banni tribe in the Kutch region. Photo: Rohit Jigyasu

Social structures

Indigenous social, economic and institutional coping skills and capacities are also inherent part of the traditional knowledge systems. In every society, there are various internal social structures that help individuals and families through difficult periods. These coping mechanisms become collective instruments for organizing action on behalf of victims for disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, local communities came together to volunteer to save traditional windows from their damaged houses, repair small shrines and community buildings (Guthis) and restart rituals and festivals such as Macchendranath Yatra., even though the communities had lost their shelter and livelihoods. 

Similarly, the 2011 tsunami in Japan almost completely swept away the Shizugawa town in Minamisanriku cho. However, the main hall of the local Kaminoyama Hachimangu Shrine survived the disaster due to its location on higher ground. The shrine, through its priest, acted as the local anchor for affected communities. People got together for psychosocial support and to share community views on recovery and reconstruction. Reinstatement of rituals, festivals and crafts within a few weeks of the disaster served as the means for mutual support among community members.

The local priest of Kaminoyama Hachimangu shrine in Minaminsanriku organized many activities to bring together communities displaced after the Tsunami following Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Photo: Rohit Jigyasu

Driving innovation

Considerable research and publications exist on traditional knowledge for disaster risk reduction. However, there are much fewer practical examples that demonstrate to policy makers and practitioners the needs and perceptions of the people and how to harness this knowledge in the present social, economic and institutional context.  Traditional knowledge has always evolved in response to change. Experimentation and innovation are critical to ensure its continuity and relevance in present context. For example, during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake reconstruction, traditional artisans participated in developing innovative solutions for constructing vernacular Bhunga structures by replacing bamboo used in traditional wattle and daub structures with steel wires as the former was getting harder to find than before. In Japan, effective use of traditional social networks and management systems are common for fire prevention, including maintenance of water hydrants, regular monitoring and awareness raising.

New guidance under development

The Sendai Framework calls for governments to employ a people-centred approach and engage directly with indigenous peoples in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards, and to use traditional, indigenous and local knowledge and practices to complement scientific knowledge in disaster risk assessments. To provide practical guidance to countries and practitioners, UNDRR in collaboration with ICCROM[1] is developing a Words into Action guide on ‘using traditional knowledge for disaster risk reduction’. The guidance will focus on identifying, documenting and adapting traditional knowledge for the development of polices, programmes and innovative projects.

The world has a lot to learn from indigenous peoples.  Let us make sure we make full use of traditional knowledge to mitigate, adapt, prepare and respond to disaster risks. 


This article was posted on PreventionWeb.
Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons.