Addressing climate change through the lens of ecosystem based risk reduction

During the second week of COP21, I attended a panel discussion event named “ecosystem based disaster-risk reduction: tools, processes and good practices” in IUCN Pavilion.

The keynote speaker was Erik Solheim from OECD. He gave two examples, Bangladesh and Indonesia, to illustrate that after catastrophic events, people learn to be more prepared and become more adapted to extreme weather. Climate change is a huge amplifier of tendency. People have always been adapting to climate change. The new element is that things happen much faster. A strong civil society could make climate change adaptation possible.

Four panelists were invite give presentations and share different perspectives on the topic. Jacqueline McGlade, a chief scientist from UNEP, pointed out that Eba is already pervasive in UNEP’s projects now. However, we should be conscious that they might not be operating the way they used to know. She summarized several ways they conduct on the ground projects: pilot demonstrations and capacity building through online courses and graduate curriculum. The challenge, however, is how to update the local community with knowledge to react. From her perspective, self-reliance is fundamental to risk reduction. Last but not least, she noted that it is clear that women are long-term reliable mechanism. We need to fix micro finance and micro insurance for them.

Keith Anderson from FOEN in Switzerland shared the history of Eba in Switzerland. Eba started in 1951 with the first attempt to create hazard maps as a result of avalanches. By 2014, most of the Swiss cantons got their own hazard maps. In the meantime, planning has transformed from defense against hazards to integrated risk management. Switzerland is particularly vulnerable as temperature has increased since the 1860s. He highlighted multiple aspects of their system: structural safety, serviceability and durability. Their experience and concept can be useful to specific conditions.

Anne Hammil, director of resilience from IISD introduced software called Cristal Park to the audience. This tool was developed to help those working on the ground understand livelihood and support community level risk management. Lastly, Meeta Pradham fomr The Mountain Institute in Nepal talked about their experience and challenge dealing with Nepal 2015 earthquake. The catastrophic earthquake had been expected for many years. However, not until it actual happened did they realize how little prepared they are. Some major issues embedded in the society made the earthquake even worse: 1.Ineqaulity; the earthquake affects poor in the rural area most. 2. Social dimensions; it exacerbated preexisting inequity in gender and class. 3. Mountain vs. plain; the community in mountain area is doubly affected.


Meeta’s presentation on vulnerability in disasters in Nepal  

This event presented a balanced view on Eba with abundance of examples from both developing and developed countries. However, as one audience member noted, it is hard to change people’s perception on disaster. We are unlikely to be fully alert about disaster until it actual takes place. Jacqueline gave a potential solution to this problem – community leadership. The focal point is the community leaders who speak in power. We need to invest time and efforts on them. “Sometimes, even just giving them a cheap phone is helpful. Local change is the precursor to the wide change. “

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