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United Nations Environment Program Report: Green infrastructure nature’s best defence against disasters

Green infrastructure nature’s best defence against disasters


from UN Environment Programme

Published on 17 May 2019View Original

  • Member States and the private sector should increase investments in ecosystem restoration and protection, particularly water-related ecosystems, to reduce the disaster risk and impacts of climate change.
  • Ecosystems play a vital role in reducing the impacts of natural hazards and climate change and ecosystem-based approaches should be an integral part of disaster preparedness, emergency response, post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.
  • The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Geneva, Switzerland from 13 to 17 May 2019 is the world’s foremost gathering on reducing disaster risk and building resilience.

17 May 2019 – UN Member States today called for increased investments in ecosystem-based solutions for disaster prevention. Healthy ecosystems play a crucial role in preventing environmental disasters and mitigate climate change as well as reducing their harmful impacts.

Extreme weather patterns such as prolonged drought, flash floods and cyclones ­contribute to food insecurity, instability and migration. The latest devastating cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which hit Mozambique last spring, are cases in point. According to the UN Development Programme, “more than 100 million people could fall back into extreme poverty due to climate change [by 2030], while over 200 million people could be displaced due to more frequent and severe climatic disasters.”

The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Geneva, Switzerland from 13 to 17 May 2019 is the world’s foremost gathering on reducing disaster risk and building resilience. It provides a platform for Member States to share knowledge and report on the implementation process of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted in 2015.

UN Environment is a co-founder of the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction, a global alliance of 24 organizations that promotes ecosystem-based solutions to disaster risk reduction. The alliance calls for increased investments in ecosystem restoration and protection, with particular attention to lakes, swamps and peatlands to reduce the impacts of water-related disasters.

“Water is life, but water can also be a threat to life,” said Dr. Han Seung-Soo, former Prime Minister of South Korea, during his keynote speech. Water-related disasters account for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most disastrous events that have taken place since 1990.

As part of the Global Platform, UN Environment and the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction co-organized a high-level working session on integrating risk management of ecosystems and water-related risks, where participants identified key areas for substantial policy improvements and investments. UN Environment also launched Opportunity Mapping, a geospatial tool that helps Member States identify areas where large-scale ecosystem restoration and protection initiatives could take place. The tool also helps with reporting on green infrastructure, in compliance with international agreements such as the Sendai Monitor.

Another session focused on the role of green, blue and grey infrastructure in reducing disaster risk. A concrete measure put forward by the global disaster risk reduction community is the investment in resilient infrastructure, including meadows and forests (green infrastructure), and lakes, swamps and peatlands (blue infrastructure), which can be combined with dykes and seawalls (grey infrastructure) for cost-effectiveness and greater protection.

“Seventy per cent of the world we imagine in 2050 is yet to be built. We have a tremendous opportunity to build infrastructure that goes hand in hand with protecting nature. When we achieve this balance, we will reduce the risk of disasters and increase the resilience of communities,” said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “integrated coastal zone management should recognize the importance and economic expediency of using natural ecosystems such as mangroves and tropical coral reefs to protect coastal human communities.” Time and again, these natural buffer zones have proved invaluable to reduce the impacts of rising seas and intensifying storms.

Driving finance to ecosystem restoration and conservation is another important, much-needed pathway to reduce disaster risk. Innovative financial instruments for climate and disaster risk reduction are one of this year’s key topics at the Global Platform. Through its Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative, UN Environment has been promoting innovative insurance schemes such as the Restoration Insurance Service Company for Coastal Risk Reduction, a social enterprise that finances the restoration and conservation of mangrove habitats in vulnerable coastal areas in the Philippines.

A central element of the Sendai Framework is precisely the emphasis on addressing the underlying causes of disaster risk and preventing new risks, in addition to investing in disaster preparedness. The Sendai Framework – a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement – gives governments the leading role in reducing disaster risk, a responsibility they share with other stakeholders such as local authorities and the private sector. Launched in early 2018, the Sendai Monitor helps Member States to report on their progress in achieving the global targets of the Sendai Framework.

UN Environment encourages Members States to recognize green and blue infrastructure as critical infrastructure, by enhancing national reporting in economic loss (Sendai Monitor target C) and critical infrastructure and services (target D).

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the global environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

Book Review: “Resilience Matters – Strengthening Communities in an Era of Upheaval” Edited by Laurie Mazur

This review reflects the independent thinking of the author.  Although the Diva may not agree with the perspective offered, she is willing to include postings and articles that provide other points of view, as long as they as they are thoughtful and polite.

recoverydiva | April 10, 2019 at 3:14 am | URL: https://wp.me/pQAVk-63o

Resilience Matters; Strengthening Communities in an Era of Upheaval.

This 188 page ebook issued by Island Press may be downloaded at no charge.
Reviewer: John Plodinec, Associate Director, Resilience Technologies
I read a book like Resilience Matters – Strengthening Communities in an Era of Upheaval, edited by Laurie Mazur, to find solutions I can use or recommend for increasing community resilience. I suspect she would agree that that is one of the primary purposes of publishing this collection of essays. I strongly suspect we might not agree on much else.
The Introductory essay by Sawin and Smith sets the tone for much of the rest of the book: “At this moment of climate desperation, investments that link health, equity and human well-being with climate protection are our best hope.”
The other 48 essays echo this to a greater or lesser extent. They are organized into four sections:
I. Climate Adaptation; Climate Justice
II. Resilient and Equitable Systems: Energy, Water, Health, Food
III. Sustainable Cities for All
IV. Policy Regulations and Finance
I found the first section spotty. The essays in this section that are focused on the organizing and planning aspects of becoming more resilient were not very helpful at all. While these are important – perhaps even essential – steps along the path to greater community resilience, the essays were more polemic than practical. Too much anti-capitalism (“A healthier planet requires an overhaul of our economic system,” “policymakers and large philanthropies are too wedded to the capitalist economy to be able to imagine anything outside of it, and the consolidation of wealth, spurred by white supremacy and patriarchy, is the foundation of a capitalist system whose growth-at-all-costs philosophy is killing the planet.”) and too little “Here’s what needs to be done to successfully organize.” For me, success is defined by action – not by how many are included, not by a plan but by real action.
One exception in this section well worth reading is Gibbons’ Three Myths about Climate Adaptation Work. She points out that climate change is not just an urban problem; we can’t afford to forget suburbia and rural areas. She also notes that there are no universal solutions to climate change; just as its manifestations vary from locale to locale, so must its solutions. Earl’s essay on Washington DC’s unpreparedness for a Florence-like hurricane was also informative, as was Woodside’s on how institutions of higher education can adapt to climate change.
I found the second section’s fifteen essays to be the most valuable. The essays on both water and energy offered real solutions relatively uncolored by polemics or politics. Mosley’s Developing the Energy Efficiency Workforce: A Collaborative Approach highlighted an important issue that’s often overlooked by those enamored with the promise of renewable energy. I found myself intrigued enough by Wodder’s depiction of Community Water and Energy Resource Centers to read further about them – there are real advantages to distributed systems in terms of community recovery. Unfortunately, she glosses over the capital requirements and ignores their workforce needs.
Bohan’s article on how public schools could adapt was also interesting. Its central argument of the public school as the hub for assuring the health and safety of the whole child – not just their education struck a chord with me. I have seen the success of this kind of thinking in housing for the homeless (dealing with all of their problems, not just providing temporary shelter) and believe it could be just as successful in schools.
The third section starts with Wilson’s What Democratic Design Looks Like. I really love the opening quote by Sandra Turner-Handy:
“The word empower, I truly hate it. No one can empower you. We have the power already. It’s just about utilizing the power, and I think in the City of Detroit, the people have been so misled that they no longer think they have this power to really move the city forward. A lot of the work that we have done at this table, in certain communities, we have reenergized that power with the residents. And that is what it’s about—reenergizing the power residents already have.”
This essay talks about Detroit’s metamorphosis from a city without hope to one with a vision for the future, and its first step to realize that vision. It’s a 50 year framework; too often we forget that resilience takes time. As Wilson says, Detroit’s success “will be measured with longer time horizons,” city government a part – not the whole – of the solutions. Alan Mallach’s following essay also highlights that Detroit has made a start but has much left to do. Two articles on urban transit were also informative as were those on parks, walkable suburbia and urban flood control. The others in this section – not much.
The last section was marred by several political essays blaming Mr. Trump for seemingly all of the world’s ills. If you are inclined to accept their assertions at face value these essays may not bother you; in those cases where I either knew the facts or was able to access independent information the essays badly mis-represented the Administration’s positions. The polemic against the EPA’s proposed “transparency rule” is a good example. According to the essay, the proposed rule would require exposure of patients’ private information – absolutely false! The operative part of the proposed rule requires that the EPA “ensure that the regulatory science underlying its actions is publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation. Where available and appropriate, EPA will use peer-reviewed information, standardized test methods, consistent data evaluation procedures, and good laboratory practices to ensure transparent, understandable, and reproducible scientific assessments.” I suppose you can argue with the proposed rule (although I’m not sure on what basis) but I defy the author to explain how the EPA’s rather innocuous proposal leads to her allegations of potential violation of patient privacy (It is truly unfortunate that the Tweeter-in-Chief lends himself to caricature so well. His public statements – and essays like these – don’t help us have some of the adult conversations we should be having.).
The section was redeemed by two articles relating to finance – Environmental Impact Bonds and “Pay for Success.” Too many of today’s politicians seem to forget that somebody has to pay for the politicians’ well-intentioned ideas and that those ideas need to work. Organizing and singing kumbaya are great but don’t fix any problems.
Previously I reviewed an earlier edition of Resilience Matters for the Diva (Long may she reign!). I can best summarize my views on this edition the way I summarized that one. “I can neither condemn nor recommend this tidy collection (this one’s not as tidy). If the polemics don’t bother you, there are some valuable nuggets here. If you’d prefer pronouncements on policy independent of partisanship, then you might not want to bother.”

FEMA Lunch & Learn Webinar, May 2, 2019 @ 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time – “Higher Ground: A Clinic to Support Flood Survivors and their Communities”

“Higher Ground: A Clinic to Support Flood Survivors and their Communities”

by FEMA’s Resilient Nation Partnership Network


Thu, May 2, 2019

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT


Grab your lunch and join us for an hour of learning during the Resilient Nation Partnership Network’s May virtual Lunch & Learn with Anthropocene Alliance.

Harriet Festing, co-founder and Executive Director, will be discussing “Higher Ground: A Clinic to Support Flood Survivors and their Communities” on Thursday, May 2 at 12:00 PM ET.

Since the program launched in March 2017, Higher Ground has grown into the largest flood-survivor network in the country. Furthermore, Higher Ground also serves as a clinic that draws upon well-tested community empowerment strategies such as grassroots community organizing, leadership training, and peer-to-peer learning. It adds specialized and highly effective science, counseling, and policy and design expertise so that communities can more successfully convey the complex challenges they face and advocate for the best solutions to government officials. These solutions include green infrastructure, grey infrastructure, regulatory change, home elevation, home buyouts, and large-scale managed retreat or “climigration.”

The Lunch & Learn will cover the following topics:

  • Grassroots leadership from low-income or historically marginalized communities;
  • Innovative methodology that standardizes, and facilitates the building of climate resilience, working across four domains: 1) science guidance, 2) policy and legal services, 3) communication and fundraising support, and 4) coalition building;
  • Collaborative partnerships with five organizations that offer pro bono guidance across the four domains;
  • Adoption of a range of government and non-government tools and programs;
  • The creation of a growing, nationwide coalition of flood victims. The fact that these leaders and communities are diverse in every respect, means our coalition may be able to garner national, political support even in our intensely polarized times.

Anthropocene Alliance (Aa) combats climate change and environmental abuse by building grassroots coalitions in the communities most badly affected by them. It provides support and training to community leaders and connects them to the government agencies, nonprofit programs, and pro bono experts who offer help.

The session will be held virtually from 12:00 – 1:00 PM ET.

Webinar: https://fema.connectsolutions.com/rnpn-ll/
Conference line: 1-800-320-4330
Participant code: 520341

For questions, please contact Sarah Coleman at sarah.coleman@ogilvy.com.