Loss and damage | Blogs

  • What if preparedness action was informed by forecasts?

    Imagine if we had forecast information that a flood disaster was likely to strike a particular location and we could anticipate the rain coming but were unable to do anything in that small window of opportunity. It would make sense if we were able to take early action and help vulnerable communities prepare before a disaster event based upon the available forecast information. Forecast based Financing (FbF) is a niche concept in the humanitarian sector that allows us to take actions based upon the best science ahead of time when it is not too late to respond.

    FbF combines disaster management and climate research where scientific weather forecasts are used to anticipate possible impacts in high risk areas and predefined plans automatically mobilizes resources before a disaster event.

     

     

    Current preparedness plans are often normative and based upon the average level of risks though there is a huge potential to scale up humanitarian actions when science indicates the increased level of risks regarding impending hazards. So far the policy directives have increasingly spurred investment in improving preparedness, enhancing existing early warning systems and response initiatives. But it has clearly overlooked much needed linkages between early warning and early actions for improved preparedness and response.

    FbF triggers early action based on forecasts, bridging the gaps between preparedness, disaster risk reduction and emergency response. Likewise, FbF also supports the Sendai Framework’s emphasis on the paradigm shift towards risk management and mobilizing investments to avoid new risks.

     

    Practical Action Consulting (PAC) is currently providing Technical Assistance (TA) to the World Food Programme (WFP) Nepal  in reviewing climate risks and flood early warning systems of Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Surkhet, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts  in Western  Nepal. The engagement will seek to develop dynamic Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) where thresholds triggers flood preparedness actions in the aforementioned districts.

    With contributions from Madhab Uprety – DRR Consultant at PAC

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  • Now we have ratified the Paris Agreement what next?

    Colin McQuistan

    November 18th, 2016

    Today, the UK ratified the Paris climate agreement[1]. This means that we join a group of over 110 countries that have so far ratified a global agreement in record time, less than one year since its inception[2].

    The UK delegation stand at the recent COP22 in Marrakesh

    The UK delegation stand at the recent COP22 in Marrakesh

    Last week on the 14th November, the Prime Minister, made a call. She said “Britain has ‘historic chance’ to give leadership to world[3] Today, in Marrakesh, the climate change negotiations enter their final day, with the negotiations having been laboured unlike in Paris and Lima before them. In Marrakesh there has been a lack of urgency, leadership and as a result the negotiations have stalled in lengthy discussion around protocol and rules. Bogged down around difficult issues such as Loss and Damage, or how to respond to the immense challenge of climate change particularly for those who are least able to respond themselves. This is an issue that chimes well with the PMs words last week, “To be the true global champion of free trade in this new modern world, we also need to do something to help those families and communities who can actually lose out from it”. I know she wasn’t specifically referring to climate change, but we have long recognised the link between climate change and the economy and how our collective failure to act on climate impacts the global economy.

    Loss and Damage was added as a third pillar under Article 8 of the Paris Agreement. In responding to the Prime Minister’s call for leadership, in the climate arena there is no better issue where our collective skills could deliver real progress. This is something we have done before. In 2006 the government of the day published the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change[4]. For the UK government to take leadership – climate leadership – we could be instrumental in breaking the log jam on Loss and Damage. Currently Loss and Damage is stuck in a blame game between developed countries seen as responsible for causing the problem and developing countries seen as suffering from the problem – we must move away from this polarisation, but how?

    TheresaCurrently the UK provides 5.8 Billion pounds in global assistance to tackle climate change. According to policy, half of this is for mitigation. Investment in developing countries to deliver renewable energy, energy efficiency and transform the power sector. This leaves 2.9 billion to respond to the very real threat of climate change, half should be invested in adaptation to changing climates and the remainder dedicated to support the most vulnerable people for who climate change adaptation is already too late.

    For many people in small island states losing their land to sea level rise is a real problem; or to the multitude of small holder farmers forced to give up on agriculture due to seasonal shifts in climatic conditions, and we must not forget the voiceless the species, habitats and the ecosystem services they provide, upon which our daily lives depend; for food, freshwater, clean air and recreational space. The poorest and most vulnerable are running out of choices, these people are driving political and social change around the world and as we see reported in the news daily they form the climate migrants threatening to imbalance global systems as they seek refuge around the globe.

    On Africa Day, 

    This situation could be reversed if we could progress with the Loss and Damage debate. This is where the UK could take decisive action and be recognised for our bold commitment to not only act on climate change but also to provide a long term resilient solution to a global problem, one our close economic and political partners are struggling with too. Here at the negotiations we hear on an almost daily basis the challenge of how to unlock the missing trillions of global investments and how can they be diverted to drive climate smart investment?

    First demonstrate UK commitment to the Loss and Damage debate by taking forward the proposal for a centre of excellence in the City of London on climate insurance, but broaden this away from purely insurance based solutions to more holistic investments. Insurance we know is unaffordable to the people that Loss and Damage needs to help. Now is the time for leadership, come up with some innovative suggestions on how to finance Loss and Damage with the deadline for submissions the 27th February 2017. We know if it’s not led, the process will move slowly and could be framed under a context we are not comfortable with.

    Secondly – this is why a clear distinction between Loss and Damage and Adaptation and Mitigation is urgently needed. The UK has significant leadership in the thought debate related to climate change, so we are well placed to influence. A definition of a clear space for Loss and Damage would halt the waste of time spent arguing about “what it is” and “what it is not”. This would focus efforts on developing solutions. Defining the space for Loss and Damage brings together what are currently different perspectives. Different perspectives imply different priorities so coherence on Loss and Damage would help consolidate action.

    Session photo

    And finally, the missing piece of the jigsaw the missing trillions. Current UK investment exposure is considerable, especially in respect to retirement and insurance funds exposed to increasing climate, social and political risk. These funds well directed could be catalytic in transforming the role of private sector investment in driving climate smart development. Exploring innovative finance by eradicating outdated fossil fuel subsidies or from new sources from the aviation or shipping industries. We need a global finance system that works for the planet. The UK could contribute to develop pro poor and climate smart investment principles, which deliver for the planet and for the poorest, therefore building the ecological and social stability we all need.

    The UK Is well placed to contribute to moving forward the Loss and Damage debate as we have the technical and thought leadership necessary to explore the debate in detail. This was something that Practical Action along with the MET Office, Oxford University, Lund University and IIASA did in Marrakesh last week in our side event titled “Loss and Damage; Perspectives and options”. We have the global skills in innovative financing, insurance and investment necessary to unlock the missing trillions, and finally whatever we recommend, Loss and Damage has got to be about more than just insurance.

    [1] http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38014611

    [2] http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9444.php

    [3] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-37966519

    [4] https://web.archive.org/web/20081211182219/http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/stern_review_final_report.htm

     

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  • Insurance is no silver bullet

    Colin McQuistan

    November 16th, 2016

    Parties will be leaving Marrakech with plenty of work ahead to enhance action and support in order to address loss and damage. With key decisions now reached, let’s take a moment to look at the main tool in the loss and damage toolbox: insurance.Marrakesh COP

    The ability to cope with loss and damage from climate change is going to involve financial mechanisms, including insurance. ECO hopes and expects that many more vulnerable communities will be supported in their efforts to cope with the losses and damages they are already facing. Such support must be guided by pro-poor principles including accessibility, participation of affected communities in designing the support, and the integration of insurance within a comprehensive risk management approach. Importantly, those who have contributed fewer emissions to global carbon pollution cannot and should not be expected to pay for protection against mounting climate risks. In other words, an equitable and rights-based approach to insurance must include financial support to make premiums affordable.

    flooding in SiragonjBut let us get one thing straight: it’s not possible to insure ourselves out of the climate change problem!

    So whilst ECO strongly welcomes efforts to expand climate risk insurance, we urge Parties to waste no time in developing a comprehensive approach to loss and damage that includes raising finance, addressing slow-onset events and non-economic losses, and a long-term, rights-based approach to migration, mobility and displacement, in the context of climate change.

    The framework for the Warsaw International Mechanism’s five-year work plan shows us where we need to start. ECO urges Parties to give the WIM the resources and support it needs to expedite its work, and become an effective tool for addressing loss and damage in all its dimensions. 2016 very sadly gave us many examples of loss and damage, so it’s now vital for the world to get cracking!

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  • Climate change is fuelling extreme weather events

    Colin McQuistan

    October 13th, 2016

    On International Day for Disaster Reduction, Hurricane Matthew is a timely reminder of the consequences of inaction on climate change. Changing climates exacerbated by years of ineffective development generates risk for everyone, especially the poorest and most vulnerable those least responsible for the climate change problem.

    We have all seen the news of the devastation that Hurricane Matthew has wrecked on the Caribbean. Matthew, which spawned late in the hurricane season, first struck Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba before turning its attention to the more prepared population in the south eastern United States, and despite diminishing in intensity it has still caused massive devastation and resulted in huge losses.

    Empty shelves as in the US as people stock up on supplies

    Empty shelves as in the US as people stock up on supplies

    So what was so special about Hurricane Matthew? Matthew was a multiple record-breaking weather event. Matthew first became a Category 3 (major hurricane) on September 30, and maintained that status for a remarkable period of time. Making it the longest-lived category 4-5 hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean. Not only did Hurricane Matthew end a nine-year streak without an Atlantic basin category 5 hurricane, it did so at an unusually far south latitude. Its rapid intensification was not forecast by any model, highlighting the need to revise our models based upon climate uncertainty and recognition that warming is making storms more intense and less predictable. Matthew along with the developing storm Nicole both showed very rapid rates of escalation, totally unexpected for storms so late in the season.

     

    Impacts in the USA and Haiti following Hurricane Matthew

    Impacts in the Haiti and USA following Hurricane Matthew

    We need to start thinking seriously about reversing climate change and we need to start preparing for the worst. This is why Disaster Risk Reduction is vital. Preparedness and response should be a last resort, we must focus on preventing disasters before they happen. We have got to get better at assessing risk and we have got to stop building things in the wrong way and in the wrong place. Despite uncertainty about the consequences of climate change one thing we do know is that sea levels are rising. We know that increases in sea level caused by climate change result in higher and more destructive storm surges so why do we continue to build houses and critical infrastructure on the coast and alongside rivers? This is placing lives and assets in harm’s way.

    Sea level rise 1992 to 2016

    While we fail to act effectively on climate change the world will continue to warm, with more moisture in the atmosphere and higher seas, and it’s hard to dispute that won’t have significant implications for our disaster risk, whoever we are and wherever we live.

    http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2016/10/07/hurricane-matthew-and-climate-change-what-we-know-so-far/
    https://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/?mr=1
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  • Natural Capital the basis for effective flood protection?

    The year has been marked by a number of unusual climate events. Not only was 2015 the hottest year on record[1], with 2016 appearing on track to exceed this[2], but the year has also been unusually wet. In the US state of Louisiana, 13 people died and large areas are still struggling to cope when a “no-name storm” dumped three times as much rain onCan you swim Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina[3]. This disaster manifested despite the US having the largest global disaster emergency organisation and associated budget on the planet. But in countries with limited resources the challenge of flooding is more severe. Northern India went from extreme drought to flooding in 45 days[4] with the poorest and the elderly struggling to survive as a scorching summer gave way to an above-average monsoon; people who were praying for rain are now fleeing from it.

    So how can we respond to this increasing flood risk in a way that doesn’t waste valuable resources? For example in Assam state, India, the state government depends on embankments to protect communities from the routine flooding of the Brahmaputra River. This year the Narayanguri embankment in Baksa district was washed away, this is the third time this has happened since 2004. Each time it is rebuilt to protect the local communities. Despite the presence of the embankments, villagers in Assam report losing their houses on multiple occasions[5]. Why have successive governments in Assam continued to rely on hard infrastructure as the only solution? Especially when the local development needs are huge and local government budgets are limited. Embankments are not cheap with an estimate that for the last three years Assam has spent £56 to £80 million, building and repairing flood embankments each year.

    Flooding India

    People forced to flee when the Narayanguri embankment failed

    How can local governments and communities maximise their investment in flood resilience building in the face of a changing flood situation. Clearly floods are getting worse, more people are living in flood prone areas and money alone does not seem to be the solution. So how can we maximise investment in floods management to minimise the negative consequences? Last week I was fortunate enough to join colleagues from a number of global organisations to explore the potential that nature based solutions offer in the face of this challenge.

    This workshop brought together experts from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), WWF, Asian Institute of Technology, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) with Zurich flood project staff from Practical Action. We gathered to explore how natural and nature-based methods can minimizing flood risk while maximizing social, environmental, and economic co-benefits of flood management approaches[6].

    One of the sessions explored the question, “if nature based solutions are relatively cheap and freely available why aren’t they used more often”?

    Why are we not seeing more natural and nature based techniques in flood risk management

    The underlying logic of two of the groups are presented above. Based on these examples, clearly, political will, entrenched positions and understanding are vital obstacles to the mainstreaming of nature based solutions. As one participant eloquently put it, local politicians are unwilling to risk nature based solutions, fearing the question “How will planting trees protect me from a flood event, what am I supposed to do, climb the tree when the flood comes?”

    There is clearly a knowledge gap. We need to do more to highlight not only the potential that nature based solutions offer in the face of increasing flood risk, but also the economic potential of nature based options to expand flood resilience to greater populations. The knowledge gap of appropriate nature based solutions, understanding of how nature based and more traditional approaches can be combined and a lack of evidence of how they can work and the benefits they can deliver. Nature based options are locally available and in many cases much cheaper then hard infrastructure. They can be managed using existing traditional practices and can therefore be maintained and repaired using local knowledge and local materials. Without even realising the workshop was making a great case for why Technology Justice[7] must be central to deliver effective flood resilience building efforts for current and future generations.

    “The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.” E.F Schumacher

    [1] http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2016/2015-global-temperature
    [2] http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/climate-trends-continue-to-break-records
    [3] http://news.trust.org/item/20160822234817-jobqu/
    [4] http://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2016/08/03/drought-floods-45-days/
    [5] http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/assams-embankments-crores-washed-away-1440868
    [6] http://envirodm.org/post/need-a-new-approach
    [7] http://policy.practicalaction.org/policy-themes/technology-justice
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