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Article

Climate Change as a Transboundary Policymaking Natural Hazards Problem  

Elizabeth Albright

Throughout the world, major climate-related catastrophic events have devastated lives and livelihoods. These events are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity across the globe, as greenhouse gas emissions continue to accumulate in our atmosphere. The causes and consequences of these disasters are not constrained to geographic and political boundaries, or even temporal scales, increasing the complexity of their management. Differences in cultures, governance and policy processes often occur among jurisdictions in a transboundary setting, whether adjacent nations that are exposed to the same transboundary hazard or across municipalities located within the same political jurisdiction. Political institutions and processes may vary across jurisdictions in a region, presenting challenges to cooperation and coordination of risk management. With shifting climates, risks from climate-related natural hazards are in constant flux, increasing the difficulty of making predictions about and governing these risks. Further, different groups of individuals may be exposed to the same climate hazard, but that exposure may affect these groups in unique ways. Managing climate change as a transboundary natural hazard may mandate a shift from a focus on individual climate risks to developing capacity to encourage learning from and adaptation to a diversity of climatic risks that span boundaries. Potential barriers to adaptation to climate risks must not be considered individually but rather as a part of a more dynamic system in which multiple barriers may interact, impeding effective management. Greater coordination horizontally, for example through networks linking cities, and vertically, across multiple levels of governance (e.g., local, regional, national, global), may aid in the development of increased capacity to deal with these transboundary risks. Greater public engagement in management of risks from climate change hazards, both in risk mitigation and post-hazard recovery, could increase local-level capacity to adapt to these hazards.

Article

Natural Hazards and Their Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa  

Dewald van Niekerk and Livhuwani David Nemakonde

The sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, along with the rest of the African continent, is prone to a wide variety of natural hazards. Most of these hazards and the associated disasters are relatively silent and insidious, encroaching on life and livelihoods, increasing social, economic, and environmental vulnerability even to moderate events. With the majority of SSA’s disasters being of hydrometeorological origin, climate change through an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events is likely to exacerbate the situation. Whereas a number of countries in SSA face significant governance challenges to effectively respond to disasters and manage risk reduction measures, considerable progress has been made since the early 2000s in terms of policies, strategies, and/or institutional mechanisms to advance disaster risk reduction and disaster risk management. As such, most countries in SSA have developed/reviewed policies, strategies, and plans and put in place institutions with dedicated staffs and resources for natural hazard management. However, the lack of financial backing, limited skills, lack of coordination among sectors, weak political leadership, inadequate communication, and shallow natural hazard risk assessment, hinders effective natural hazard management in SSA. The focus here is on the governance of natural hazards in the sub-Saharan Africa region, and an outline of SSA’s natural hazard profile is presented. Climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, thus influencing the occurrence of natural hazards in this region. Also emphasized are good practices in natural hazard governance, and SSA’s success stories are described. Finally, recommendations on governance arrangements for effective implementation of disaster risk reduction initiatives and measures are provided.

Article

Linking Hazard Vulnerability, Risk Reduction, and Adaptation  

Jörn Birkmann and Joanna M. McMillan

The concepts of vulnerability, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are interlinked. Risk reduction requires a focus not just on the hazards themselves or on the people and structures exposed to hazards but on the vulnerability of those exposed. Vulnerability helps with the identification of root causes that make people or structures susceptible to being affected by natural and climate-related hazards. It is therefore an essential component of reducing risk of disasters and of adapting to climate change. The need to better assess and acknowledge vulnerability has been recognized by several communities of thought and practice, including the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) communities. The concept of vulnerability was introduced during the 1980s as a way to better understand the differential consequences of similar hazard events and differential impacts of climate change on different societies or social groups and physical structures. Since then, the concept gradually became an integral part of discourses around disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Although the history of the emergence of vulnerability concepts and the different perspectives of these communities mean the way they frame vulnerability differs, the academic discourse has reached wide agreement that risk—and actual harm and losses—are not just caused by physical events apparently out of human control but primarily by what is exposed and vulnerable to those events. In the international policy arena, vulnerability, risk, and adaptation concepts are now integrated into the global agenda on sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and climate change. In the context of international development projects and financial aid, the terms and concepts are increasingly used and applied. However, there is still too little focus on addressing underlying vulnerabilities.

Article

Planning Systems for Natural Hazard Risk Reduction  

James C. Schwab

Planning systems are essentially a layer of guidance or legal requirements that sit atop plans of any type at any governmental level at or below the source of that guidance. In the case of natural hazard risk reduction, they involve rules or laws dealing with plans to reduce loss of life or property from such events. In much of the world, this is either unexplored territory or the frontier of public planning; very little of what exists in this realm predates the 1980s, although one can find earlier roots of the public discussion behind such systems. That said, the evolution of such systems in 21st century has been fairly rapid, at least in those nations with the resources and technical capacity to pursue the subject. Driven largely by substantial increases in disaster losses and growing concern about worldwide impacts of climate change, research, technology, and lessons from practice have grown apace. However, that progress has been uneven and subject to inequities in resources and governmental capacity.

Article

Climate Adaptation Governance in Pakistan  

Syed-Muhammad Ali, Akhtar Naeem Khan, and Hamna Shakeel

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the security of water, food, and energy in Pakistan. Pakistan has seen increased visibility of direct and indirect impacts of climate change since the early 1990s. Pakistan’s government achieved a milestone in 2012 when the first National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) was proposed. In response to dynamic climate trends, it provided a broad set of adaptation measures for vulnerable sectors such as power, food, water, and health. In 2014, a more precise follow-up framework was developed which proposed strategies to achieve the objectives of the NCCP. The government is also cooperating with national and international organizations and societies to make vulnerable sectors and local communities resilient against water shortages, flash floods, cyclones, and temperature extremes. Analysis of the existing state of adaptation actions and systems exposes several deficiencies. There is a huge knowledge gap between researchers and policymakers which needs to be bridged. Stakeholders, local communities, and experts from relevant fields need to be involved in the process of policy making for the development of a comprehensive adaptation plan. Educational and research institutes in Pakistan are deficient in expertise and modern tools and technologies for predicting future climatic trends and the risks they pose to various sectors of the country. Lack of awareness in the general public, related to climate change and associated risks, is also an obstacle in developing climate-resilient communities. The government of Pakistan is giving due importance to the development of policies and capacity building of relevant implementing departments and research institutes. However, there is still a need for a strong enforcement body at the national, provincial, and municipal levels to successfully implement government strategies.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance Practices and Key Natural Hazards in Latin America and the Caribbean  

Ivis García

Along with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is among the geographic regions most exposed and vulnerable to the occurrence of disasters. The vulnerability is explained by geography and climate, but also by prevailing poverty and inequality. Year after year, multiple disasters such as landslides, hurricanes, floods, rains, droughts, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, among others, threaten the region. Natural disasters reveal the deficiencies of infrastructure and essential services. In particular, they highlight the lack of an institutional framework for effective governance with clearly defined goals of how to prevent, respond to, and reconstruct after a natural catastrophe. One of the priorities of governments in the region is to achieve resilience—that is, to strengthen the capacity to resist, adapt, and recover from the effects of natural disasters. To be able to accomplish this, governments need to prepare before a natural disaster strikes. Therefore, disaster risk management is critical. A fundamental element in the strategy of increasing resilience is good planning in general—that is, to reduce inequality, manage urbanization, and invest in necessary infrastructure such as energy, sewage, and water management. Because climate change increases the risk of disasters, it is generally understood that good governance practices can prevent further global warming. Governments might achieve this, for example, by investing in renewable energy and financing other environmentally friendly initiatives. Unfortunately, most current governance models in Latin America and the Caribbean are characterized by bureaucratic structures that are fragmented into different sectors and whose actors do not have much interaction between them. With technical assistance from organizations, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean are learning how to develop plans that encourage the collaboration of multiple sectors (e.g., transportation, housing) and improve the working relationships between various institutions (e.g. local associations, NGOs, private and public organizations). To be adequately prepared for a disaster, it is necessary to establish a network of actors that can engage quickly in decision-making and coordinate effectively between local, regional, and national levels.

Article

Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in South Asia  

Mihir Bhatt, Ronak B. Patel, Kelsey Gleason, and Mehul Pandya

Both the impact and the frequency of natural disasters and extreme events in South Asia are steadily increasing due to growing exposure and vulnerability. These vulnerabilities are compounded by fast economic growth and an increase in natural disasters across the region. Disaster losses in South Asia are rising and are felt across many domains. From the formal to the informal economy, natural disasters have increasingly strong impacts in terms of lives lost, social impact, and impediments to growth. New challenges in disaster risk reduction are emerging due to an increase in the duration and frequency of natural disaster events attributable to climate change. Though both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts exist to some degree throughout South Asia, integrating climate change adaptation into disaster risk reduction is critical to successful and inclusive growth of economies in the region. Challenges remain, and national and subnational governments are making some progress in policies aimed at both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. However, many of these efforts are planned, designed, and implemented separately, with limited understanding of how disaster and climate risk are linked. Moreover, progress is hindered by poor understanding of how integration of these concepts can result in better governance of risk in South Asia. Additionally, political will, capacity constraints, and institutional barriers must be overcome. Efforts by the international community are making progress in unifying these concepts, yet gaps and challenges still exist. The benefits of converging climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Asia are significant, from minimizing climate-related losses to more efficient use of limited resources and more effective and sustainable development.

Article

Managed Retreat in Practice: Mechanisms and Challenges for Implementation  

Christina Hanna, Iain White, and Bruce Glavovic

Managed retreat is a deliberate strategy to remedy unsustainable land use patterns that expose people, ecosystems, and assets to significant natural (and socio-natural) hazard and climate induced risks. The term is all-encompassing, broadly capturing planned relocation in the fields of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, as well as managed retreat or realignment in coastal management and environmental planning practice. Managed retreat helps to ensure that people and the resources they value are no longer exposed to extreme events and to the adverse impacts of slow-onset environmental change. Distinct from migration and displacement, managed retreat is the strategically planned withdrawal from development in risky spaces. It can be applied at a range of spatial scales, in an anticipatory, staged, or reactive manner. Unlike traditional risk management alternatives, managed retreat affords space to natural processes and minimizes long-term maintenance and emergency management costs. While it has great promise as a sustainable disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategy, there are a number of socio-political-cultural, environmental, economic, and institutional barriers affecting its implementation, particularly in contexts with extensive existing development. There may also be significant challenges in integrating relocated and receiving communities. In practice, people are deeply connected to, and reliant upon, the security, networks and cultural values of their lands, homes, communities, and livelihoods. To realize the long-term benefits, managed retreat needs to be considered as an integrated approach that uses information, regulation, and various financial levers in a strategic manner, and recognizes the need to work alongside communities in a fair, transparent, and inclusive way.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Zambia  

Mitulo Silengo

Zambia, like many other developing nations, is grappling with the challenges of development in the context of climate change. The development–climate change–disaster nexus has emerged as one of the most intractable problems that countries such as Zambia are currently facing. The most common hazards are usually hydro-meteorological in nature. These are floods and droughts. Climate change is responsible for causing weather-related disasters and in making communities more vulnerable to the effects of disasters. Zambia, like many developing economies that are dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture and natural resources, is very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In responding to the challenges of climate change, the government has developed adaptation strategies and plans. The Zambian government has made strides in aligning development planning with disaster risk management. The mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction has been outlined in the Zambia Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans. The National Climate Change Response Strategy was developed to respond to the challenges that climate change and variability pose on the Zambian economy. It offers a coordinated response to climate change issues in the country, envisaging Zambia as “a Prosperous Climate Change Resilient Economy.” The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit under the Office of the Vice President is the institution responsible for disaster risk reduction and management in Zambia. It responds to natural, human-induced, and complex hazards. The legal framework for disaster risk management (DRM) in Zambia is provided by the Disaster Management Act No. 13 of 2010 (GRZ, 2010). Its provisions are operationalized by the Disaster Management Policy of 2015 and the Disaster Management Manual of 2015. As a way of domesticating the Sendai Framework, the government has development a National Disaster Risk Management Framework. The goals of this framework are to prevent and reduce existing risks in the country through the implementation of integrated and inclusive economic, social, cultural, health, legal, education, political, environmental, structural, and institutional measures. Although major achievements have been made in setting up the legal and institutional frameworks for disaster risk governance, gaps in the localization of DRM programs, especially at local and community levels, still exist. The absence of such programs and lack of awareness of disaster risks contribute to the vulnerabilities of communities at the local level. In order to reduce their vulnerability, strengthening local-level structures is necessary. Such structures can only be articulated by a robust disaster risk governance framework that is decentralized to local levels.

Article

Lessons on Risk Governance From the UNISDR Experience  

Sálvano Briceño

In the context of this article, risk governance addresses the ways and means—or institutional framework—to lead and manage the issue of risk related to natural phenomena, events, or hazards, also referred to popularly, although incorrectly, as “natural disasters.” At the present time, risk related to natural phenomena includes a major focus on the issue of climate change with which it is intimately connected, climate change being a major source of risk. To lead involves mainly defining policies and proposing legislation, hence proposing goals, conducting, promoting, orienting, providing a vision—namely, reducing the loss of lives and livelihoods as part of sustainable development—also, raising awareness and educating on the topic and addressing the ethical perspective that motivates and facilitates engagement by citizens. To manage involves, among other things, proposing organizational and technical arrangements, as well as regulations allowing the implementation of policies and legislation. Also, it involves monitoring and supervising such implementation to draw further lessons to periodically enhance the policies, legislation, regulations, and organizational and technical arrangements. UNISDR (now known as UNDRR) was established in 2000 to promote and facilitate risk reduction, becoming in a few years one of the main promoters of risk governance in the world and the main global advocate from within the United Nations system. It was an honor to serve as the first director of the UNISDR (2001–2011). A first lesson to be drawn from this experience was the need to identify, understand, and address the obstacles not allowing the implementation of what seems to be obvious to the scientific community but of difficult implementation by governments, private sector, and civil society; and alternatively, the reasons for shortcomings and weaknesses in risk governance. A second lesson identified was that risk related to natural phenomena also provides lessons for governance related to other types of risk in society—environmental, financial, health, security, and so on, each a separate and specialized topic, sharing, however, common risk governance approaches. A third lesson was the relevance of understanding leadership and management as essential components in governance. Drawing lessons on one’s own experience is always risky as it involves some subjectivity in the analysis. In the article, the aim has, nonetheless, been at the utmost objectivity on the essential learnings in having conducted the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction—UNISDR—from 2001 to around 2009 when leading and managing was shared with another manager, as I prepared for retirement in 2011. Additional lessons are identified, including those related to risk governance as it is academically conceived, hence, what risk governance includes and how it has been implemented by different international, regional, national, and local authorities. Secondly, I identify those lessons related to the experience of leading and managing an organization focused on disaster risk at the international level and in the context of the United Nations system.