Category: Disaster Risk Reduction

New report: Hydromet Gap Report 2021

New report: Hydromet Gap Report 2021

A new report from the leaders of the Alliance for Hydromet Development provides insight into how far we have to go to tap the benefits of effective weather and climate services and presents the challenges of the complex global and local undertaking required. Additionally, the report highlights priority actions to scale up support to developing countries to strengthen their capacity.

Investments in improved weather forecasts, early warnings and climate information are vital to build resilience to extreme weather. According to the report, only 40 percent of countries currently have effective warning systems in place, and large gaps remain in the vital underpinning observations data upon which these services depend, particularly in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Such investments are highly important and create a triple dividend that includes: first, avoided losses – reliable and accurate early warning systems save lives and assets worth at least ten times their cost; second, optimized production; and third, improved long-term strategic response to climate change.

The report was launched on 8 July 2021 by leaders of the Alliance for Hydromet Development at a high-level event on the hydromet solutions needed for effective climate action and sustainable development.

Download the report here.

The scale of the climate challenge facing Myanmar

The scale of the climate challenge facing Myanmar

By Georgina Wade

Today, Myanmar is in the midst of a fight that will determine the future of its democracy. While this inevitably demands the full attention and energy of the population, the future holds other challenges of its own. The military takeover came just as the government was preparing for a crucial year for climate change, culminating in the COP26 UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, UK, in November. According to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index, Myanmar is the world’s second most disaster-prone country, exposed to multiple climate-related hazards, including floods, cyclones, landslides, and droughts. Climate impacts will be felt through the whole economy and will touch all aspects of society. Building resilience will require the government to put climate change at the heart of its decision-making processes and development plans. Only an integrated approach that recognises the interconnected nature of climate risks will be effective.

Over the past decade, Myanmar has made some progress. The country had decreased its poverty rate from 48.2 per cent in 2005 to 24.8 per cent in 2017. Whilst this represents good progress, climate change threatens further development as it will impact all sectors in Myanmar, including agriculture, transport and energy.


Agriculture remains the backbone of Myanmar’s economy, employing over half of the labour force. Agricultural reforms have seen Myanmar reach a state of self-sufficiency in staple foods, and the country had experienced a rapid decline in malnutrition figures in just a few decades. For instance, the prevalence of stunting among children below the age of five had reduced from around 40 per cent in the 1990s to less than 30 per cent in 2016.

Despite this progress, seasonal food insecurity remains a concern across Myanmar. Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said in a speech in 2019 that “much work remains to be done for Myanmar to achieve SDG-2, the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030.” Climate impacts threaten to make this goal even harder to reach. 

Increased rainfall during the wet season and decreased rainfall during the dry season may reduce agricultural production for key crops. More frequent extreme heat and higher average temperatures may also lead to crop failures, reduce productivity, or alter staple crops’ nutritional content. Despite Myanmar’s economic progress, its reliance on the agricultural sector makes over half of the labour force highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. 


Productivity is linked to connectivity – efforts to improve transport connectivity in Myanmar present opportunities to boost trade, growth and regional integration. When transport systems are efficient and reliable, they provide economic and social opportunities and benefits that result in positive multiplier effects such as better accessibility to market and employment.

Research suggests that increased public spending on transport infrastructure over the next decade could reduce logistics costs by around 30 per cent and increase annual GDP by up to $40 bn. Energy, water and telecommunications infrastructure also face increased risk from physical damage and disruption caused by storms, floods and other hazards becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.


A reliable supply of energy is fundamental for Myanmar’s continued economic development. Myanmar has aggressively pursued hydropower as a way of meeting increasing demand whilst limiting its carbon emissions. Hydropower, the world’s leading renewable energy resource for electricity generation, accounted for 75 per cent of the country’s electricity consumption in 2017.

Over-reliance on hydropower holds its problems. Heatwaves and an increasing number of extreme heat days could increase energy demand for air conditioning and industrial cooling. At the same time, droughts and change in river flows due to erratic rainfall may affect hydropower energy generation. The costs of power outages will be felt across the whole economy, as industrial and commercial rely on a continuous power supply.

Diversified power systems that draw on multiple forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, are more resilient to climate impacts and can deliver energy closer to the communities that they serve. Nature-based solutions, such as reforestation, can also reduce the risk to hydropower by regulating water flow and stabilising the soil, preventing landslides and improving water quality.

When Myanmar is able to look towards the future once more, it must take steps to build its climate resilience to achieve its development objectives. An integrated approach is required to manage these interconnected challenges.

Climate change must be integrated into decision-making across all government departments. For it to be taken seriously, it must also be understood as a priority issue at the highest levels including within the Ministry of Planning and Finance. A broader process of engagement with Myanmar’s people is also required to ensure the country can move forward towards a future in which everyone can share. There is much reconciliation to do in the meantime to achieve this.

Cover image: Landslide in Myanmar. Climate change will make these events more common.  By Sukun, 2017

Infographic references:

i.Food Security Cluster (FSC); Myanmar

ii. The Myanmar Times (2020); Extreme weather in Myanmar’s Magwe breaks temperature record

iii. Frontier Myanmar (2019); The National League for Democracy’s power fail

iv. Global Witness (2020); Myanmar jade mine disaster highlights government inaction

The UN Women’s multi-hazard approach to disaster risk resilience in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The UN Women’s multi-hazard approach to disaster risk resilience in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

By Kyana Bowen and Sharon Carter-Burke

As we continue to operate in a COVID-19 environment, the UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) in the Caribbean is playing an integral role in strengthening gender-responsive disaster resilience across the region.

Since early March 2020, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has managed multiple disasters

It is managing the impact of COVID-19, prepared for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and is now faced with an active La Soufrière Volcano. COVID-19 has resulted in varying and disproportionate impacts on livelihoods and the economy, requiring the differing needs of women, men, boys’ and girls’ to be considered when developing policies to manage impacts from the pandemic. Moreover, the recent volcanic activity at La Soufrière has triggered more cohesive, proactive, and gender transformative preparedness.

At both the national and community levels, women and men have been impacted differently by multiple hazards

In terms of loss of income, more women work in the lower paid and informal segment of the tourism sector, one of the hardest hit sectors with closures and contractions. The many women small holder farmers in the Saint Vincent and Grenadines agriculture sector were also impacted by the closure of markets due to COVID curfews and restricted movement; and could not sell their produce. Men in the construction, agriculture and tourism sectors have also suffered loss of income. Effusive eruption of the volcano has also contaminated nearby agricultural fields, further threatening women’s livelihoods. Therefore, gender-responsive climate change and disaster resilience planning, is key at the various stages of sustainable development.

Gender-informed assessment and analysis is informing decision-making

UN Women Representative Tonni Brodber said “national assessments and feedback into their governmental planning from national partners on the different impacts of COVID-19 and hazards on women, men, girls and boys, are guiding decisions on the support being given to address the challenges being faced and build on the successes.”  In collaboration with the Gender Affairs Division, the UN Women MCO Caribbean has mobilised USD 26,350 for the procurement of 100 protection kits, 500 cloth masks and the provision of food/medication vouchers for 200 vulnerable women and families at risk.

She further noted: “who best to say what is needed than Vincentian women and men? We are always pleased to be able to collaborate with Ms. Quammie and the team at Gender Affairs to do what we can to meet the outlined needs. The impacts of COVID-19 and the volcano threaten to erode so much progress made, we will continue to collaborate with the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the development community to serve where we can.”

“We are cognisant of the differential needs and vulnerabilities of men and women which are further exacerbated during any emergency crisis.  Therefore, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of UN Women in building the capacity of our national gender machinery to assist the national emergency response and recovery so that the needs of women and other vulnerable groups are taken into consideration.”

Coordinator of the Gender Affairs Division, La Fleur Quammie

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also a beneficiary of the Canada and UK funded EnGenDER Project, which is being implemented across nine Caribbean countries by UN Women in collaboration with UNDP, CDEMA, and WFP.  With the Gender Affairs Division identifying need for immediate and direct support to women in agriculture who are being affected by the COVID-19 impact, funds from this project have been used to purchase agriculture equipment and provide psycho-social support for women, given the mental toll these hazards have taken on the population.   This initiative also incorporated an Advocacy and Awareness campaign which was focused on Gender-Based Violence against women.

The EnGenDER project supports an integrated approach and includes the integration of gender equality and human-rights based approaches into disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and environmental management frameworks and interventions, addressing the gaps to ensure gender-responsive and equal access to solutions.

This article was originally posted on Prevention Web.

Perspective of LDC youth: what COP26 outcomes will enhance global action on adaptation and resilience?

Perspective of LDC youth: what COP26 outcomes will enhance global action on adaptation and resilience?

By Thinley Choden

Young people from the LDCs have the energy and knowledge to drive climate action – but they need collaboration and investment from decision-makers at the national and international level.

“Young people are the future, and we need to hand over a better world.” Youth often hear such sentiments – and we are grateful. But in the run-up to the UN climate talks (COP26) in November, young people from all sectors and countries need actions: collaboration, binding agreements and funding. 

This year is the moment to reset and start building back better. As a main stakeholder, young people globally are doing what they do best: self-organising, disrupting and creating movements to drive collective global action to accelerate climate adaptation and build a resilient future.

But we are not homogenous. And more importantly, where we come from and are situated heavily influences our voice and agency.

This was the point I made as a speaker at a recent virtual event, hosted by IIED and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). Speakers from government, business and civil society each made their pitch for strong adaptation ambition at COP26, what they are doing about it, and how to judge what success will look like – for us all.

LDC youth still underrepresented in key places

While a growing number of youth climate initiatives are supported and brought into the fold by respective governments or international organisations, we hardly see representation from least developed countries’ (LDC) youth.

As an LDC youth representative, I have to speak truth to power, and demand that governments, organisations and leaders uphold the equity, inclusivity and diversity they speak of, and integrate LDC voices in youth initiatives. As the IIED-ICCCAD event emphasised, the time for asking has passed: it is now time to demand.

Two crucial COP26 outcomes that will support LDC youth

LDC youth want to be heard and to contribute to decisions that will affect our future. I would like to pitch two areas for urgent climate action and outcomes from the COP26 process that will empower LDC youth. 

1. Embed LDC youth leadership in decision-making

The absence of young people’s voices in decision-making is deafening, and even more of an issue for LDC youth. Globally, young people are largely relegated to advocacy roles. While these roles are valuable, they do not provide the platforms for providing meaningful input and action.

Young people face systemic and structural barriers, and more so for LDC youth due to political, economic and socio-cultural contexts. If you are poor, your priority is survival – not climate change; you do not have the bandwidth and means to think beyond your struggle to survive.

Even with knowledge about the climate crisis, you may not have the safe space or capacity or enabling environment to act, because larger and more overwhelming powers are at play. LDC youth fall short in scaling up and sustaining climate solutions due to lack of influence, funds or other forms of support.

We want LDC youth councils or groups established at national and international platforms to recognise us as a key stakeholder in decision-making. We are not looking for tokenism. We want global alliances between the developed, developing and LDC youth groups. We need to lift each other up.

2. Support social entrepreneurship and innovation for LDC youth

The young are on the frontline of disrupting systems to find solutions. Social entrepreneurship and innovation are largely youth driven. Reports suggest eight out of 10 people in the developing world will need to create their own jobs, illustrating that entrepreneurship is the solution.

We want impact funds, accelerators and mentoring programs targeted at social climate entrepreneurs. This is an opportunity for all world governments (including LDCs), international bodies and businesses to show responsible leadership and to join youth in building a social contract based on trust, collaboration and opportunity.

We are not asking for charity, we are asking that you invest in us. We ask you to work with us, to brainstorm with us, design and implement youth inclusive climate actions for adaptation.

My role in driving this change

Here in Bhutan, in addition to being a youth ally and advocate, I am a Climate Reality Leader, founding curator of Global Shapers Thimphu Hub, a consultant and entrepreneur ecosystem enabler.

We hold dialogues on climate change and climate education, building our narrative and call for action. I also work with entrepreneurs for nature positive and social enterprise start-ups. Climate change and the green economy are business opportunities – especially for youth as the job market shifts as economies decarbonise.

But we do this largely in a vacuum with no real collaboration and investment for growth, scale and impact. This restricts us to taking only a step or two when we could be making leaps and bounds. We are not in the boardrooms of corporates, nor cabinets of political parties nor policymaking rooms of governments.

We need these decision-makers to join us and let us join them, to meet each other where we are, and learn from each other. We need intergenerational allyship to solve these intergenerational challenges.

If we are the future, let us work together for that future.

This article was originally posted on IIED blogs.
Cover photo by Curt Carnemark/World Bank, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The Sahelian Great Green Wall: start with local solutions

The Sahelian Great Green Wall: start with local solutions

By Camilla Toulmin and Ian Scoones

The regreening of the Sahel region through a ‘Great Green Wall’ appears to be an ambitious plan to roll back the ‘advancing deserts’ of the Sahara. However, the expertise and interests of local farmers and pastoralists inhabiting the drylands seem to be absent (yet again) from this strategy.

Cattle herds settle on village fields.
Cattle herd settle on village fields during the dry season (Photo: copyright Camilla Toulmin)

On 11 January at the One Planet Summit, President Macron of France announced US$14 billion dollars of funding for the Sahelian ‘Great Green Wall‘. Stretching across 8,000kms and 100 million hectares, the ‘advancing deserts’ of the Sahara are to be rolled back through the planting of trees and greening of landscapes across the Sahelian region.

Visible from space and pronounced a ‘wonder of nature’, the symbolism of a wall reversing environmental degradation, quelling insurgency and conflict and stemming the flow of migrants is dramatic. Following the announcement, press releases, media coverage and celebrity endorsements sang the praises of the initiative as a ‘game-changer’ for Sahelian development.

It is certainly a lot of money, offered by France, the World Bank and others. But how will it be spent, and can it make a difference? This is not the first time the Great Green Wall has been announced, of course. It was originally launched in 2007, again with much fanfare, but the track record since then has been less than impressive.

While the websites list glowing achievements across the region, the statistics behind these leave many questions unanswered. There have been many trees planted, but how many have survived, and what are the gains for the farmers and pastoralists inhabiting the drylands of the Sahel? Is such a grandiose, continental strategy the right approach?

Questioning simplistic narratives

Debates about desertification in the Sahel go back a long way. The narratives of encroaching deserts, deforestation by farmers and overgrazing by pastoralists have a long history. As described so well by Jeremy Swift, in 1934 colonial scientist E.P. Stebbing first claimed that the Sahara was expanding year on year.

This was based on faulty analysis, but at the time it fed into the doomsday idea of environmental degradation, provoked by the experience of the American dust bowl. Huge efforts were made in top-down soil conservation measures along with the regulation of farming and livestock-keeping populations.

This pattern of ‘the expert knows best’ has persisted, with even greater imperatives now added to the agenda. Popular perception sees mass migration being provoked by over-population and climate catastrophe, while armed insurrection is attributed to environmental degradation and the collapse of local livelihoods.

Local people – their expertise, interests and history – are absent from the analysis. The story is much more complex: simplistic Malthusian narratives are widely disputed, and labour shortage may be more of a problem than population growth.

The simple storyline that the Sahara is expanding and in need of a ‘Great Green Wall’ to stop its spread has been thoroughly challenged. Dryland degradation emerges through a complex interaction of processes, and does not expand in a single direction.

Satellite imagery and archaeological evidence from these dryland regions show wet and dry periods, with the greening and drying of landscapes occurring in phases over time. These are highly variable settings, where attempts at stability and control are futile, and livelihoods are best served through diversification, risk spreading and mobility.

Trees have always been integral to Sahelian farmed landscapes and, although many have been cut as farming expands, most fields retain trees for fruit and shade. This in turn offers livestock a resting place during the midday heat, and deposits of dung help replenish soil fertility and nourish crop yields. In the wider landscape, there are more trees than had been thought. 

recent study found 1.8 billion trees in the Sahara and Sahelian regions of West Africa that had not been picked up by earlier assessments. Planting new trees may not be the solution if regreening can occur through natural regeneration of trees and shrubs.

Beyond tree planting to livelihood regeneration

How then can the noble ambitions of the ‘Great Green Wall’ initiative of tackling poverty and improving the sustainability of livelihoods be realised? As the publicity material around the effort makes clear, it is not just about planting trees, although this is clearly a central feature.

The broader involvement of bodies like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) suggests a shift in emphasis towards small-scale farming and support for local community initiatives.

Twenty-five years ago, with Chris Reij we co-edited ‘Sustaining the soil‘, which contained multiple cases of locally-generated practices for managing soil and water in a dryland farm settings, with many of the examples taken from the Sahel.

One of the most famed is the traditional ‘zai’ planting pit, improved and popularised by Burkinabé farmer Yacouba Sawadogo, and a practice long-used to conserve moisture and preserve soils across the Sahel. The expansion of such techniques has since become standard practice for NGO and government programmes alike.

As our book pointed out, it is not the technology alone that’s important, it’s how it well it fits within a complex social and ecological setting.

Looking back over 40 years of work in a Sahelian village in central Mali, a book by one of us – ‘Land, Investment and Migration‘ – provides an insight into how livelihoods and landscapes shift in concert over time, and how the entire farming system can be put in jeopardy by ill-judged, large-scale government interventions.

Two men and an oxen drawn plough

Oxen drawn ploughs are a critical part of farming systems in the Sahel region (Photo: copyright Camilla Toulmin) 

Alternatives driven from below

Moving beyond the glamour of big announcements from the Elysée Palace, can this moment offer a window for an alternative approach for Sahelian development?

Sadly, there are many forces set against this. Standard narratives about desertification persist, promoted by many, despite sustained empirical challenge. Climate change can become a catch-all explanation for failures in governance, while in the Sahel security and counter-terrorism agendas can get wrapped up with ‘development’.

The political obsession with targets – so many trees, this number of hectares, such-and-such an amount of money to be disbursed – can create huge distortions. Large amounts of aid money for cash-strapped governments can also result in  distorted incentives, and sometimes corruption.

Too often, decisions are made on a map in a far-away office about an area deemed to be ‘empty’ and suitable for ‘regreening’. Across the Sahel, dryland farmers and mobile livestock keepers have kept a wary eye on each other’s strategy. Conflicts may emerge, when land is constrained – for example by huge blocks of irrigated agriculture, tree planting or soil conservation investments.

Pastoral herders may be unable to move their animals to the dry season grazing they could formerly negotiate with settled villagers, in exchange for manure, milk and other livestock products. A green wall risks becoming a further barrier to people’s livelihoods, not just a symbolic wall against a mythical advancing desert.

A focus on regenerating landscapes and promoting livelihoods through a sensitive, locally based approach to sustainable development is the way forward, and likely will cost less than $14 billion.  

Most important is the recognition that there are numerous existing practices – of soil conservation, water control and tree management – that already constitute ‘nature-based solutions’ generated from local initiatives.

Yes, these need support, but giving agency to local voices, strengthening rights over land and water, emphasising grounded practices, and ensuring accountability will be more likely to create the sustainable mosaic of green patches across the Sahel that one day may be seen from space.

This blog was originally posted on the IDS website

Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Seeing Uttarakhand disaster from an institutional lens. Where do we go from here?

Seeing Uttarakhand disaster from an institutional lens. Where do we go from here?

By Anu Jogesh,

The latest Uttarakhand tragedy has been devastating to watch. Current reports estimate 32 deaths and nearly 200 missing as a result of an avalanche that has destroyed dams and bridges, and trapped workers at the base of Nanda Devi, India second highest peak.While the exact reasons for the disaster are still being mapped, it is critical for this ecologically fragile Himalayan state to re-evaluate prevailing policy and institutional processes to better coordinate disaster planning and long-term resilience. Over the last six years Acclimatise has spent some time in Uttarakhand engaging with the Department of Environment and Forests to operationalise the state’s climate plan. Here are six key take-aways from our work there:

  1. State authorities have a relatively clear picture of current disaster risks as a result of Uttarakhand’s topography and its socio-economic and ecological circumstances. That knowledge needs to be concretely applied in the operationalisation of sectoral policies and strategies that determine development and infrastructure growth in the state. Projects linked to land-use planning, hydro power development, and road construction need to be consciously tied to local ecological and climate imperatives. Multiple benefits-based development planning can capture political drivers while also factoring community-led socio-economic needs and considerations of climate risk.
  2. The State’s current climate plan, which was approved in 2016, provides generic sectoral recommendations and has had limited resources. This is true for most state climate plans in India, Adaptation has been attempted through isolated projects, supported by some central funds and multilateral agencies. Initiatives have been rolled out as part of short-term technical assistance projects (a few of which we have been a part of). In developing its new climate plan, the state has an opportunity to address some of these gaps. Sectoral recommendations can be cognisant of the current political economy and political ecology of the state. The government can focus on investments and solutions that are scalable and can ensure a better management of physical risks.
  3. Persistent political and bureaucratic shifts tend to impact how the climate and resilience agenda is perceived and adopted across Indian states. Re-establishing a permanent body like the State Climate Change Centre in Uttarakhand can ensure continuity of action, provide much needed institutional memory, and build local capacity for mainstreaming adaptation.
  4. While there is some climate data (based on model-based projections) for Uttarakhand at the district level, there is limited capacity among departments and agencies to interpret and apply the information to plan projects and policies. This is a prevailing challenge globally among governments and the private sector. In addition, sectoral departments and non-government agencies possess rich socio-economic and ecological data that isn’t always aggregated. Efforts to unpack technical climate information into Agendas for Sectoral Action, as well as map-based tools to visualise risks, need to be built on and disseminated for better decision-making under uncertainty.
  5. The state disaster management agency has historically focused on current disaster risks. With its funds and fair degree of political traction, there is an opportunity for the organisation to invest time and resources to evaluate future risks to better inform disaster planning and preparedness in the state.
  6. The current disaster in Uttarakhand comes at a crucial juncture, as India leads a multi-stakeholder global partnership under the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. India has an opportunity to bring global expertise and experiences to bear in developing practical solutions to ensure infrastructure assets and services are more resilient in Himalayan states. These lessons can in turn inform policies and solutions in other countries.

Even as the current tragedy in Uttarakhand unfolds, parallels to the 2013 flash floods, that claimed 6000 lives, are being drawn. Back then I had written about the newly developed state climate plan that needed to be better heeded and operationalised. Eight years on, and some standalone projects later, the state is faced with the challenge many governments and organisations need to address, which is how can institutional pathways be re-engineered to better manage disasters and enable long-term climate resilience.

Cover image from DNA Explainer – India.
Climate Adaptation Summit: Invest in early warnings and early action

Climate Adaptation Summit: Invest in early warnings and early action

News and Press Release

Geneva, 26 January 2021- As climate change leads to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, the need for effective early warnings and early action took centre stage at the Climate Adaptation Summit on 25-26 January.

The online event, hosted by the Netherlands, convened global leaders and local stakeholders. It launched a comprehensive Adaptation Action Agenda and heard of new financial pledges to initiatives to make the world more resilient to the effects of climate change.

“According to the World Meteorological Organization, there have been more than 11,000 disasters due to weather, climate and water-related hazards over the past 50 years, at a cost of some US$ 3.6 trillion,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the opening session.

“Extreme weather and climate-related hazards have also killed more than 410,000 people in the past decade, the vast majority in low and lower middle-income countries. That is why I have called for a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience,” he said.

Although the global death toll has fallen, the poor remain disproportionately exposed.

Guterres further stated at the opening that as “one person in three is still not adequately covered by early warning systems, and risk-informed early approaches are not at the scale required, there is a need to work together to ensure full global coverage by early warning systems to help minimize these losses.”

Disaster Risk Management

A special Anchoring Event on Disaster Risk Management — one of the action themes of the Climate Adaptation Summit – addressed the urgency of greater investment in early warning systems. It also focussed on the need to translate early warnings into risk-informed early action in advance of hazards striking.

The event, Getting ahead of the climate curve: Investing in early warning and early action, was co-hosted by the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) through the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). It featured leaders and decision-makers, including from countries on the frontline of climate change.

The event heard of new financial commitments from France, Finland and the European Commission to CREWS to build early warning systems capacity. Luxembourg Minister for Climate, Environment and Sustainable Development Carole Dieschbourg presented Luxembourg’s climate finance strategy that is doubling over the next five years, with support to the most vulnerable countries, such as small island developing states.

Capacity gaps

Early warning systems are a highly effective way of adapting to climate change and building resilience to extreme weather. It is estimated that investments in these services can save lives and assets worth at least ten times their cost.

Only 40% of WMO Members report having an early warning system in place. Furthermore, the WMO State of Climate Services 2020 report showed that there is a global incapacity for translating early warnings into early action.

“There are new levels of awareness and political commitment at the highest levels to tackle the impacts of climate change. Early warning systems and risk-informed action is one of the most effective ways to adapt to climate change and to reduce the number of casualties and reduce economic losses from extreme events,” says WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

“We need more impact-based forecasting to help bridge the gap between early warning and early action, by warning for not just what the weather will be, but what the weather will do,” he said. “But to provide good early warning services you need good observations. Gaps in data in Africa and some other parts of the world have a negative effect especially in data sparse areas, but also globally,” said Prof. Taalas, explaining the rationale behind a proposed Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF).”

Juergen Vogele, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, stressed the need to ramp up investments in adaptation and voiced support for SOFF.

Reach the last mile

According to the Global Commission on Adaptation, a 24-hour advance warning of a coming storm or heatwave can cut the ensuing damage by 30 percent. Expenditure of US$ 800 million on such systems in developing countries would potentially avert losses of US$3–16 billion per year.

The IFRC World Disasters Report 2020 found that while the number of people affected by climate-related disasters have increased, the numbers of deaths from these disasters have decreased.

“This is a good indication of our progress, and a sign that disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation efforts are working,” says Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General.

“But progress is not happening fast enough, especially in places hardest hit by climate change. Most people who have been killed or are directly affected by climate-related disasters live in low and lower/middle-income countries. As extreme weather events increase, we must prioritize support to people most exposed and most vulnerable to climate hazards and stresses, even if they are the hardest to reach,” he said. Mr Chapagain took the occasion to launch the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership’s Framework for Action, which sets out how partners aim to take risk-informed early action to scale, making 1 billion people safer from disaster in the coming years.

The event heard of effective initiatives that are improving climate resilience of vulnerable populations. One such example is the DARAJA project, meaning ‘bridge’ in Swahili. In informal settlements in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, DARAJA has successfully built bridges between communities and weather and climate information providers. It is financed and developed under the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Met Office-led Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) Programme.

In the Caribbean, 8 countries are now receiving CREWS funding and strengthening coordination against a common threat — hurricanes, said Arlene Laing from the Caribbean Meteorological Organization.

CREWS commitments

The CREWS Initiative was launched at the Paris Climate Change conference in 2015, with a target of raising US$ 100 million dollars to build resilience, especially in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States,

It is estimated that an additional 10 million people are being protected thanks to these early warnings systems, through 13 projects covering more than 50 countries in the world.

European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič announced a first Euro 10 million contribution to CREWS,

Finland’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Ville Skinnari, announced that Finland was joining CREWS and committed Euro 5 million to the Trust Fund as part of the country’s scaled-up commitment to climate change adaptation. The Minister mentioned that this engagement goes towards the targets of the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP).

Stéphane Crouzat, France’s Climate Ambassador announced a new Euro 4 million contribution to CREWS bringing their total contributions, since 2016, to Euro 26 million.

UN Special Climate envoy Selwin Hart said he was encouraged by the ambitious commitments to scale-up action on early warning and early action through CREWS and REAP, which aims to make 1 billion people safer from disasters by 2025.

“The partnership we have seen today between CREWS and REAP is exactly what is needed to help bridge the early warning to early action divide, to protect lives and livelihoods from the climate crisis,” said Mr Hart.

Climate Change adaptation will be a key platform of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, according to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience & Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, United Kingdom.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction commit governments to substantially reduce global disaster mortality and increase access to and availability of early warning systems by 2030 and to measure their progress towards that target.

View the original article here.
Bangladesh calls for a resilient recovery from COVID-19 as it becomes Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum ahead of COP26

Bangladesh calls for a resilient recovery from COVID-19 as it becomes Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum ahead of COP26

By Will Bugler

Decisive action on climate change must be at the heart of any resilient recovery from COVID-19, according to the Government of Bangladesh. In comments made in its capacity as the new chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group of Ministers of Finance, Bangladesh called on leaders to ensure that recovery spending targeted at the pandemic also builds resilience to wider systemic shocks created by climate change.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had broken through the thin veneer of our security to the type of global risks we all faced today,” said H.E. Dr. A K Abdul Momen, MP, the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. “It has revealed just how vulnerable society had become and climate change has an even greater potential for disruption, especially for those of us on the frontline”.

Under Bangladesh’s leadership, the CVF indicated it would continue to call for delivery of strengthened contributions to the Paris Agreement. To reinforce this commitment, it confirmed that the country’s Prime Minister, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, will serve as Chair of the CVF.

Bangladesh indicated that its work within the V20 would continue to mobilize the economy and financial resources to fight climate change and ensure international financial institutions are better positioned to respond to climate threats and provide the right support to the most vulnerable. Several innovative financing initiatives under development by the V20 were also highlighted, including the “Accelerated Financing Mechanism”, which aims to address higher capital costs that hold back climate investments in the V20, and the “Sustainable Insurance Facility”, which aims to expand financial protection against climate risks.

“Already reeling from the economic shock of the COVID pandemic our economy was struck by a second tragic event with Cyclone Amphan. This situation of extreme vulnerability is dangerous and unsustainable,” said Ms Fatima Yasmin, Secretary of Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division. “In leading forward the V20, Bangladesh, therefore, aims to work tirelessly, at home and with all our partner countries and institutions, to ensure today’s economic systems adjust to the realities we face. We will promote all efforts towards urgently reinforcing climate and economic resilience.”

This article was originally published on the Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities blogsite.
Photo by Syedsazzadulhoque on Wikimedia Commons.
European Commission publishes the new report on disaster risks in the EU

European Commission publishes the new report on disaster risks in the EU

The European Commission has published the ‘Overview of Natural and Man-made Disaster Risks the European Union May Face’. The 2020 edition presents the latest available evidence on disaster risks, such as floods, wildfires or diseases, that threaten the EU, drawing on the national risk assessments developed by the EU Member States and on the Commission’s cross-sectoral policy and scientific work.

The report recognises that the coronavirus pandemic is the worst emergency seen in EU history and also warns that disaster risks are not limited to infectious diseases.

Experience shows that even with the high level of protection attained in the EU, multiple natural and man-made hazards can and have brought loss of life and high economic and environmental cost.

Based on available data, disasters caused by natural hazards only cost the EU nearly 100,000 lives and more than €500 billion of economic losses between 1980 and 2017. Infectious diseases and heatwaves were the biggest ‘killers’, while storms, floods and earthquakes were the costliest natural hazards in terms of economic loss.

Top risks

The review of national risk assessments suggests that the top 5 disaster risks of concern to national authorities across the EU are floods, extreme weather events such as heatwaves, industrial and nuclear accidents and wildfires.

Other risks that receive considerable attention in national and the Commission’s reports include epidemics, disruption of critical infrastructure, terrorism, cyber threats, seismic risks and animal and plant diseases.

Prevention for the future

The overview cautions that in future, we can expect more extreme events and increasing damage.

Climate change is bringing along more extreme weather events, technological developments are changing the face of man-made threats. Urbanisation is one of the factors behind the growing exposure to hazards, while environmental degradation and ageing societies contribute to reduced resilience.

Growing instability abroad, geopolitical tensions and diversification of hostile groups are behind the increasing security threats such as terrorism, cyber and complex hybrid threats.

Against this complex backdrop, it is crucial to have arrangements in place for effective prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery from disasters. Understanding disaster risks and monitoring their development is the first step towards effective risk reduction.

The report also highlights the importance of further action to address major risk drivers, increase cooperation across borders and sectors, sustain investment in risk reduction and resilience, boost the EU’s collective capacity to respond to large-scale disasters, build resilience of critical infrastructure and improve risk financing strategies.


The previous overviews of disaster risks in the EU were published by the European Commission in 2014 and 2017. Regular monitoring of disaster risks is an important risk prevention measure under the Union Civil Protection Mechanism.

This practice is also in line with the priorities of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 which promotes good understanding of disaster risks as a basis for risk management policies.

As disasters defy borders, the EU supports national action and promotes cross-border cooperation on disaster risk management. A wide set of EU policies and funds aim to strengthen the collective safety and resilience against disasters in the EU and beyond, with the Union Civil Protection Mechanism being at the heart of this work.

Read the original story here.
Keeping it local: Engaging communities in climate resilience projects in Yangon

Keeping it local: Engaging communities in climate resilience projects in Yangon

By PhyoPhyo Wai, APDC, Jose Arianne Gonzales, Oxfam and Marino Deocariza, Oxfam

Building community resilience to the impacts of climate change is essential in ensuring that vulnerable cities can thrive and survive but involving the community in the process is equally critical.

Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, is vulnerable to several types of disasters, including cyclones, floods, drought, and heatwaves. These events are likely to get worse with climate change as Yangon will also experience increased temperature, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise resulting in saltwater intrusion on coastal areas. The impact of these hazards, shocks, and stresses is exacerbated by unregulated urban development and the loss of green spaces and vegetation cover in the city. In addition, poorly maintained urban infrastructure and inadequate urban service provisions (such as water supply, solid waste management, drainage, and sanitation) increase risk exposure to the residents of the city, limiting their ability to be resilient to impacts and lowering their quality of life.

In July 2020, the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) and Oxfam Great Britain, along with local partner Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), launched the ADB-RETA 9329: Promoting Urban Resilience in Selected Asian Cities–Developing of Pilot Activities and Project Development Support (Subproject 3) or the Community-Led Project (CLP) – in Yangon, Myanmar. This project aims to support poor urban communities through an inclusive resilience planning process – especially women, youth and vulnerable groups – to enhance their well-being even in the face of the impacts caused by disasters and climate change shocks and stressors.

Inclusive and participatory planning

The UCCRTF project is piloting approaches to integrate community-led projects into ongoing or planned ADB projects. The inclusive and participatory workshop brought together city stakeholders to select a climate-vulnerable community in which to pilot the project implementation. Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) plays a significant role in building climate-resilient and sustainable urban systems in Yangon with support from the regional and national government. Thirty-one city stakeholders from the YCDC attended, as well as other Yangon Regional Departments and development partners, and 21 online participants from ADB, UCCRTF, Oxfam GB, and ADPC.

Through the consultation process, stakeholders were able to share their experience and expertise, which guided project design and pilot community selection. City stakeholders and government representatives expressed a strong commitment to the project after the workshop.

 “Normally we, as government personnel, are only approached after organizations have already decided upon the project areas themselves – without hearing local voices and without getting any ideas from us. This is my very first experience participating in this kind of inclusive and transparent workshop, and having a chance to select the project’s areas with having our ideas,” said Daw Saw Sandar Oo Deputy Director, YCDC Urban Planning Authoritym.

The workshop also enabled city stakeholders to identify people to sit on the Community Stakeholders’ Group (CSG). The CSG will lead the implementation of the project in the pilot community, as well as establish agreed criteria for selecting the implementation actions for a community-led project that will be delivered as part of the project.

Zaw Win Aung Assistant Director, YCDC Water Resources and Water Supply Authority, who was one of the participants, stressed the importance of community-led initiatives for developing capacity and ownership of urban development processes. “Community-led projects have the potential of bringing knowledge and skills to the community,” he said. “This can enable them to become accountable leaders and result in innovative ideas that build the capacities of community stakeholder groups”.

Bringing hope to Dala Township

Dala Township has been selected by city stakeholders for the pilot project after being voted as the most vulnerable township in Yangon. Dala has also been considered the most suitable project site by scoring highest in five of the six selection indicators.

Dala Township is located on the southern bank of Yangon River and is prone to regular flooding and riverbank erosion. In 2008, 83 percent of Dala was inundated by Cyclone Nargis. The community also regularly suffers from water scarcity, lacking in a reliable source of potable and domestic water. The township is also known to have high poverty rate and has several informal settlements.

The people of Dala have been experiencing the impacts of climate change. But these hardships will soon be turned into opportunities after being identified by the government and YDCD as an area for future development. Dala Township is expected to experience positive changes in the coming years as the community, assisted by UCCTRF, will work to build climate resilience and improve the lives of its people.

This article was originally posted on the Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities’ blog.
Cover photo by ArkkrapolA on Pixabay.