An International Science-Policy workshop organized by the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR), the Centre for Natural Resources and Development (CNRD), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (UNORCID) brought together over 70 researchers, policymakers and practitioners to explore how a focus on ecosystem management can integrate disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) and guide development policies in the 21st century.
Climate and disaster losses have risen substantially over the past few years. The year 2011 saw the highest economic losses due to disasters in history, at USD 370 billion. These losses are expected to increase as climate change impacts intensify and development patterns expose more industrial assets and private properties.
This workshop comes at a time when many governments are seeking information, guidance and approaches that enable longer-term resilient planning and at a milestone period where the concepts of risk and resilience are being discussed in three major global policy agendas currently under negotiations: the post-2015 global framework on disaster risk reduction (HFA-2), the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, and the post-2015 global climate change agreement.
“The current dynamics within climate and disaster policy landscape means that the discussions and outputs from this workshop should play an integral role in informing the post-2015 policy agenda,” stated Fabrice Renaud of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security. “The research needs identified by the workshop will have direct relevance to policy and decision-making.”
It is of particular relevance that the workshop is being hosted in Indonesia, which ranks 12th among the most vulnerable countries to high mortality risk from multiple hazards. The country is situated in one of the most active disaster hot spots, where several types of hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides, droughts and forest fires frequently occur, putting 40 percent of the Indonesia population (more than 90 million people) at high mortality risk.
Environmental degradation is increasing people’s vulnerability towards natural hazards, and this driver is often not considered in most risk reduction strategies. “Maintaining healthy and well-managed ecosystems- such as coral reefs, mangroves, forests and wetlands- reduce disaster risk by acting as natural buffers or protective barriers” stated Muralee Thummarukudy from the United Nations Environment Programme in his opening remarks. “This important role of ecosystems is what needs to be reflected in the HFA-2”.
Ecosystem-based approaches to DRR and CCA integrate the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services into an overall strategy to reduce people’s vulnerability and increase their resilience to natural hazards and climate change.
In Indonesia, coral reefs in particular provide important coastal protection functions as they decrease wave energy by an average of 97 percent. Indonesia has the highest population in the world that might benefit from risk reduction services by coral reefs, with 41 Million people living below 10m and within 50 Km of a reef. “Losing this natural safety belt would pose additional risks to population and local and national development initiatives with potentially significant losses to industries, tourism, and trade” said Gondan Renosari, Marine Program Director of The Nature Conservancy in Indonesia.
“Strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation cannot develop in silos, but need to inform each other. Ecosystem-based approaches that provide multiple social, economic and environmental benefits, are one way to integrate the disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation spheres,” stated Karen Sudmeier-Rieux, a senior researcher from the University of Lausanne, who gave a keynote presentation.
“It is remarkable to have brought together so many researchers, practitioners and policymakers in one workshop, which will hopefully foster more informed research and policies that lead to more sustainable and resilient development” stated Udo Nehren, the scientific coordinator of the Center for Natural Resources and Development and lecturer at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences in Germany.
Participants delivered presentations related to the workshop’s four main themes: demonstrating the economic case for ecosystem-based DRR /CCA, tools for implementation, institutional arrangements and policies for scaling-up ecosystem-based DRR/CCA and promoting scientific research and technical innovations in this field. Workshop presentations emphasized that preventive measures and good land-use planning that maintain the protective services of ecosystems should be considered as a priority to reduce risks from natural hazards. Other benefits provided by healthy, well-managed ecosystems, such as livelihoods, food and water security, biodiversity, and cultural heritage, also contribute to the total economic value of ecosystems for building local resilience against disasters.
A policy brief will be published following the workshop that summarizes the main conclusions and emerging issues and recommendations for mainstreaming ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, which will be used as input to ongoing consultations on the HFA-2, UNFCCC, and post-2015 sustainable development agenda. A book publication is being planned for release in 2015.
“As extreme weather increases in frequency and intensity, it will crucial for communities to consider more ecosystem-based approaches in order to enhance climate resilient development and prevent disaster that erode human welfare,” concludes Imen Meliane from The Nature Conservancy.
Formally established in 2008, the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) is a global alliance of UN agencies, NGOs and specialist institutes. PEDRR seeks to promote and scale-up implementation of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) and ensure it is mainstreamed in development planning at global, national and local levels, in line with the Hyogo Framework for Action. It provides technical and science-based expertise and applies best practices in ecosystems-based DRR approaches. PEDRR is guided by its vision of: “Resilient communities as a result of improved ecosystem management for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA)”. Its objective is to pool expertise and advocate for policy change and best practice in ecosystem management for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, based on science, practitioners’ experience and indigenous knowledge.