Decisive leadership, science-based disaster risk planning reduce impacts of climate change – Legarda

October 13, 2020

House Deputy Speaker and Antique Representative Loren Legarda urged national and local government leaders to strengthen the country’s disaster risk reduction planning through science to reduce the irreversible impacts of climate change, in observance of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“Our national and local leaders must implement an effective disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) scheme that requires action on several fronts such as good governance and institution building, social protection and anti-poverty effort, investment on augmented capacity and resilient infrastructure, and sustainable resource management,” said Legarda.

According to the latest report from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) entitled, “Human Cost of Disasters: An overview of the last 20 years, 2000-2019,” climate change is largely to blame for a near doubling of disasters caused by natural hazards in the past 20 years.

The UNDRR report also identified 7,348 major disaster events that occurred between 2000 and 2019, claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people, and costing the global economy some US$2.97 trillion. The figure exceeds the 4,212 major disasters recorded between 1980 and 1999.

In the Report, UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori remarked: “It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our planet into an uninhabitable place for millions of people.”

While the report focuses primarily on the staggering rise in climate-related disasters over the last 20 years, it is also backing the need to strengthen disaster risk governance for the entire range of both natural and human-induced hazards, including those related to environmental, technological, and biological hazards and risks.

“In the short-term, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) through the implementation of Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act has succeeded in saving many lives through improved preparedness and the dedication of its staff. But the odds continue to be stacked against them in particular by the business-as-usual case scenarios that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to levels commensurate with the desired goal of keeping global warming to 1.5˚C as set out in the Paris Agreement,” said Legarda.

She further emphasized that lack of awareness and understanding of DRRM and climate change continue to put those vulnerable sectors into the brink of devastation. “It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming. We must act collectively and educate people,” said Legarda.

Highlighting the importance of science, Legarda shared action points from UNDRR that could be adopted by local and national leaders, including focused studies on disaster risk communication to help residents interpret warnings, and would aid in steering communication strategies in the most effective forms. Flood control was regarded as a development issue in addition to a humanitarian concern, with a recommendation that priority should be given to cost-effective measures in poor regions at high risk of recurrent flooding, together with malnutrition prevention programs.

In addition, there are numerous proven life-saving measures for storm impacts, such as cyclone shelters, wind-resistant buildings, and preservation of protective ecosystems such as mangrove forests which also serve as carbon sinks, and coral reefs. Effective deployment of early warning systems supported by increasingly accurate weather forecasts have the potential to protect vulnerable populations worldwide and save thousands of lives.

Standardized methodologies are needed to collect comprehensive national data on deaths from all-natural hazards; and better data collection would improve appreciation and understanding of disaster impacts and improve analyses.

More in-depth data, such as disaster damage to buildings, disaggregated demographic and gender data, and impacts on local economies would help decision-makers prioritize and target new measures more effectively. This underlines the importance of a national disaster loss database which is vital to the development of national and local DRR strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

“This year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is all about risk governance, so that everything we do during and after this Covid-19 pandemic will ultimately define our country’s readiness and responsiveness to the challenges of the new normal. The only way forward is to heed the science and make decisive actions toward staging a recovery that will pave the way for a better normal for the Filipino people,” Legarda concluded. ###