UN chief aims to build defences of poor against climate change

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 30 November 2015 19:06 GMT

Members of the Emergency Operations Committee monitor the trayectory of Tropical Storm Erika via satellite in Santo Domingo, August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

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New initiative will equip countries to better anticipate hazards, absorb shocks and reshape development

PARIS, Nov 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that climate-related disasters are taking an ever greater toll on the poor and can wipe out decades of development gains, as he launched a global partnership to boost the resilience of vulnerable communities.

The impacts of climate change - from intensifying droughts and floods to sea-level rise - are strengthening, as ecosystems and food and water supplies come under increasing pressure, he said.

Economic losses from disasters have increased by more than 50 percent over the past decade, he noted.

The hardest-hit are poor people, including small-scale farmers, fishing communities and indigenous people, he added.

"As climate impacts increase, we will see greater disruption to economies and international security," he told an event on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Paris.

"It is imperative that we strengthen resilience and build adaptive capacity, especially in small island developing states, the least-developed countries and most African nations," he added.

His new A2R initiative will equip countries to better anticipate hazards, absorb shocks like extreme weather, and reshape their development to reduce climate risks, the United Nations said.

It will bring together businesses, such as insurance companies, governments, U.N. agencies, research institutions and others to mobilise financing and knowledge, coordinate their activities and develop new tools.

Freundel Stuart, the prime minister of Barbados, said his island country needed access to low-cost financing, or it "can't strengthen resilience to climate change".

The Netherlands, a low-lying nation with much experience of defending itself against flooding, said it would contribute an additional 50 million euros ($52.8 million) to a programme to boost resilience in developing countries.

And France is backing the fledgling Climate Risk Early Warning System (CREWS), which aims to equip all the most vulnerable countries with warning systems by 2020.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation is working with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme on a common strategy to build resilience to climate impacts by acting before, during and after crises, it said.

That approach has so far shown promising results in Guatemala, Kenya and Niger, it said.

Ban's resilience initiative will also support the work of the Africa Risk Capacity insurance scheme and partners. By the time a new global climate deal enters into force in 2020, more than 30 countries should be provided with $2 billion in insurance coverage against drought, flood and cyclones, his office said.

The U.N. chief said the world had got "a little bit smarter and cleverer" at tackling climate impacts, with a new global framework to reduce the risk of disasters agreed in March and sustainable development goals adopted in September.

But much of the learning had come from "hard lessons", he noted.

Nick Mabey, CEO of environmental policy group E3G, said Ban Ki-moon had laid down a challenge to the international community to take climate risk more seriously.

"Now and beyond Paris, countries and the private sector will need to support the reforms to deliver resilience," he added.

($1 = 0.9471 euros) (Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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