Rich countries should invest more to reduce impacts of extreme weather in developing world

Posted on 7 Jun 2011 in

Rich countries should be investing more to help the developing world to reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, rather than relying heavily on post-disaster aid, as part of plans to adapt to climate change, according to a new policy paper published today (7 June 2011) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science.

The policy paper, by Nicola Ranger, Swenja Surminski and Nick Silver, points out that new figures from Munich Re show 1.4 million people have been killed by weather disasters around the world over the past 30 years, and that 83 per cent of deaths have occurred in low and lower middle income countries. By contrast, only 26 per cent of US$2310 billion in economic losses caused by extreme weather events over that period have occurred in low and lower middle income countries.

The authors argue that post disaster aid does not prevent fatalities or damage, and that measures to reduce or share risks from extreme weather events is a “far more cost-effective, sustainable and humanitarian” approach. Whilst measures to lessen the impacts will not eliminate the need for post-disaster assistance for developing countries that are hit by extreme weather events, they will significantly reduce the amount of loss, damage and suffering that occurs.

The paper draws attention to a recent report acknowledging that Mozambique had been turned down when it requested £2 million in 2006 from the international community to better prepare for floods, yet had received £60 million a year later in disaster aid after severe flooding in the country.

The paper was prepared for the Subsidiary Body for Implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is meeting today (7 June 2011) in Bonn, Germany, to discuss a work programme on loss and damage. The programme was set up as part of the agreement at the last United Nations climate change conference in Cancún, Mexico in December 2010, which highlighted the need to “address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”.                  .

The paper indicates that “climate change is likely to affect the frequency, intensity and geographical distribution of extreme weather events and in some areas this will lead to greater risks”. It adds: “Even if efforts to mitigate climate change, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are successful, the world is committed to some further warming which means that people across the world will need to adapt to increasing impacts of climate change. The reduction and management of risks from extreme weather events must play a major part in adaptation strategies and financing.”

Among the measures highlighted by the paper to reduce the impacts of extreme weather are tackling the underlying social drivers of risk, through for instance, poverty reduction and economic development, as well as improving access to healthcare, social protection and education.

The paper also highlights the need for early warning systems and disaster preparedness, including weather monitoring and forecasting, and evacuation and emergency response plans. Structures such as flood defences and the implementation of better building codes and preventing construction in high risk areas are also important, as well as measures to enhance financial resilience, such as insurance and other risk sharing mechanisms.

The paper notes that several different types of risk reduction measures need to be used together, rather than relying on just one. It states: “For example, measures, such as sea walls, can significantly reduce risks from more frequent, smaller-scale extreme weather events, but can not substantially limit the consequences of rarer, more severe and large-scale disasters which can often overwhelm them. For these disasters, preparedness coupled with financial resilience can be a cost-effective way to limit impacts on people and the economy, and to speed recovery.”

Notes for Editors

  1.  The Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) was established in 2008 to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research. The Centre is hosted jointly by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and Munich Re.
  2. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.