Author: Omar Amach

Disaster resilience emerges as a key theme in the Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2021

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific
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As the most disaster-prone region, the Asia-Pacific Climate Week (APCW) 2021 wrapped up on Friday 9 July with a strong recognition of the region’s potential to lead on resilience building against the impacts of climate change in conjunction with an increased commitment to shift to low-carbon economies.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific was active throughout the APCW because of the centrality of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 to supporting the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In particular, UNDRR highlighted throughout the APCW that there was a need to increase coherence between climate change adaptation efforts and disaster risk reduction through an integrated approach.  Such coherence would not only break silos and synergize ongoing efforts but would equip countries to better manage complex climate and disaster risks and safeguard development.

On 6 July, the first day of the APWC, UNDRR co-led with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) an inter-Issue Based-Coalition on resilience building and climate change mitigation session under APCW’s Track 2 on “Integrated approaches for climate-resilient development.” The session brought together some of the key UN agencies involved in development and climate change, along with representatives from governments and stakeholder groups.

With a recognition that the climate crisis is a human rights crisis, the session focused on addressing the needs of groups that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change within the context of promoting integrated science-based risk management solutions, including resilient infrastructures, sustainable energy and green job growth that addresses drivers of disaster, climate risks and socio-ecological vulnerabilities. The session also highlighted the need to protect these development gains against the full spectrum of hazards through more integrated mitigation and adaptation solutions which are embedded into a climate and disaster risk comprehensive risk management system.

“To address climate action failure and mitigate the risk of extreme weather and infectious disease, as highlighted by the WEF Global risk report, we need to break the artificial dichotomy among climate change adaptation and mitigation action and support holistic and well-sequenced climate actions at all levels and sectors,” said Mr. Stefanos Fotious, Director, Environment and Development Division, at UNESCAP, who delivered the keynote presentation.

To elaborate on how comprehensive risk management can be achieved, UNDRR organized on 8 July an APCW-affiliated event, aptly titled “Comprehensive Risk Management: The How-To for Achieving Coherence.” The event aimed to showcase practical ways coherence could be integrated into existing planning processes.

“At the heart of coherence building is having a common understanding and assessment of risks, including their comprehensive and systemic nature and how this understanding feeds into policy development, planning and budgeting processes,” said Mr. Marco Toscano-Rivalta, Chief of the UNDRR Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, who opened the event.

Around 200 participants attended the event which included breakout group discussions that examined practical ways of strengthening coherent planning and implementation at national and local levels towards more risk-informed development.

Real-world examples of how a coherent approach can be integrated into national planning were provided as well. This included leveraging the National Adaptation Plan (NAPs) process, which was explained by the UNFCCC National Focal Point for Timor Leste, Mr. Adao Soares Barbosa, and the integration of climate action objectives into the national disaster risk reduction strategy, as was presented by Lieutenant Colonel Bazarragchaa Duudgai of Mongolia’s National Emergency Management Agency.

The event also included the sharing of expert insights from both climate change and disaster risk reduction fields, which were provided by Mr. Quamrul Chowdhury, the Lead Climate Negotiator for the Group of 77, which represents developing countries, and Dr. Kimio Takeya, who participated in the Sendai Framework negotiations on behalf of the Government of Japan in 2015.

UNDRR also contributed to APCW side events, including one titled “Unifying Climate Risk Data at the Country Level,” which UNDRR co-organized with the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII) and the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

This unique side event took a deep look at coherence from an analytics perspective to articulate recommendations for the development of standardized systems to collect, process, and analyse climate-related risk data.

Representing UNDRR on the panel of experts, Ms. Iria Touzon Calle, Risk Knowledge and Analysis Programme Officer, presented an overview of how UNDRR supports countries to develop and strengthen standardized risk, damage and losses data collection and reporting systems to enable risk-informed decision making. 

“Risk-informed development can be achieved through the adoption of a comprehensive risk management system that leverages both disaster and climate-related data,” said Ms. Touzon Calle.

By the end of APCW, a consensus emerged in the statements made by senior officials at the closing sessions around the need for Asia-Pacific to address both the drivers of climate change and its immediate and future disastrous impacts.

“The Asia-Pacific region should play a leading role for the world’s decarbonization and enhancing its resilience as a key driver of the world’s economic growth in the coming decades,” said Ms. Keiko Segawa, Deputy Director General at Japan’s Environment Ministry, which hosted this year’s APCW.

The 6-9 July APCW is one of the four regional climate weeks leading up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which will be hosted by the United Kingdom and held in the city of Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021.

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