Pacific states urged to do better on climate schemes

A man sifts through the debris of homes destroyed Typhoon Haiyan
Copyright: Adam Dean / Panos

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  • Report is part of series that looks 25 years ahead to opportunities and risks
  • Retrofitting buildings can help slash expected losses from future cyclones
  • Flexibility in designs for coastal protection urged amid climate uncertainty

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[MANILA] The Pacific small island developing states (SIDS) need to do a better job of incorporating climate and disaster risk management into their planning and development, says a new report.

The report, launched by the World Bank at the Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific Region in Lautoka, Fiji (28 July), provided various examples of how incorporating climate adaptation activities into infrastructure development will reduce potential damage in future years.

“To make decisions about the future, it’s important to have access to rigorous analysis and figures detailing what the future may look like.”

Denis Jordy, World Bank

For instance, retrofitting existing buildings to withstand future cyclones can be expensive, but it can also decrease expected losses by half. Buildings can be retrofitted by installing cyclone shutters for windows to help prevent breakages caused by flying debris or bracing walls and roofs to help them withstand strong winds. These measures will be more cost-efficient in countries that face higher cyclone risk, such as Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The report also suggests that to manage uncertainty in a future governed by climate change, flexibility should be incorporated into the design of coastal protection works through a range of options, including land use planning and planting mangroves.

“Pacific island countries face unique development challenges shaped by their small size, remoteness and vulnerability to economic and natural shocks,” Denis Jordy, a senior environmental specialist at the World Bank, tells SciDev.Net. “To make decisions about the future, it’s important to have access to rigorous analysis and figures detailing what the future may look like.”

The report is part of a series called Pacific Possible, which looks 25 years ahead to potentially transformative opportunities and challenges for the Pacific region. The series includes seven reports, each focusing on a different topic such as non-communicable diseases and deep sea mining, which have been identified as crucial to the future of the Pacific region.

Since 1950, natural disasters have affected approximately 9.2 million people living in the Pacific SIDS, causing about 10,000 reported deaths and incurring roughly US$5 billion in associated damages.

“We welcome the report as there is an ongoing need to highlight the costs associated with climate change and disasters,” Scott Hook, an economic infrastructure advisor at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), tells SciDev.Net.

The key policy issue in the Pacific right now is how to manage risks and how to build climate and disaster resilient development for the whole region. Hook says the PIFS has been developing a regional policy framework that seeks to bring this together in an integrated manner for the Pacific.

“Many countries already have this approach, but there are clear regional benefits [to be gained] from acting to support resilience,” he notes.

Pacific island countries are already implementing some of the adaptation measures recommended by the report, says Jordy. The report, he notes, also emphasises the need to scale up adaptation investments in targeted sectors and areas like climate smart agriculture and flood mitigation.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.