A new initiative to build climate resilience in the world’s most vulnerable countries was launched today by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 13 members within the UN system at COP21, the Paris Climate Conference.  The new initiative will strengthen the ability of countries to anticipate hazards, absorb shocks, and reshape development to reduce climate risks.

Statistics from the ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development show Lake Chad has dwindled from over 24.000km2 in 1960 to less than 10000 km2.

Statistics from Cameroon’s Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development show Lake Chad has dwindled from over 24.000km2 in 1960 to less than 10000 km2.

The newly announced initiative, the  UN Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience  Initiative — Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape — will help address the needs of the nearly 634 million people, or  a tenth of the global population who live in at-risk coastal areas just a few meters above existing sea levels, as well as those living in areas at risk of droughts and floods.  The world is now experiencing a strong El Niño event, which could place as many as 4.7 million people at risk from drought in the Pacific alone.

Bringing together private sector organizations, governments, UN agencies, research institutions and other stakeholders to scale up transformative solutions, the SG’s Resilience Initiative will focus on the most vulnerable people and communities in Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries, and African countries.

Over the next five years, the Initiative will mobilize financing and knowledge; create and operationalize partnerships at scale, help coordinate activities to help reach tangible results, catalyse research, and develop new tools.

The Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience

Initiative will support the work of partners, such as the Africa Risk Capacity, to ensure that by the time the new climate agreement enters into force in 2020,  over 30 countries are provided with $2 billion in coverage against drought, flood and cyclones,  including $500 million in adaptation financing.  150 million Africans will be indirectly insured.

While much of the attention at Paris is focused on reducing emissions in a bid to keep global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, many climate impacts will continue to increase—including rising sea level and more extreme weather events—even if greenhouse emissions cease, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A recent report issued by the UN shows that over the last twenty years, 90 per cent of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “These are the people who did the least to cause climate change, yet they stand to lose their homes, their jobs, and even their lives because of the growing impacts of climate change.  That is why I have asked the UN system to put together a package of initiatives to address this urgent need.”

“The Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience Initiative signals a new era in how the United Nations and its agencies think about our global future,  said Dr. Judith Rodin, author of The Resilience Dividend and president of The Rockefeller Foundation, which has made pioneering investments of more than a half-billion dollars to build resilience globally over the past decade. “Crisis is the new normal, and our world demands that we seek solutions that solve multiple problems at once, for the greatest number of people, while strengthening the fabric of their communities, economies, and lives.”

The 13 UN entities participating in the Initiative are FAO, UNEP, UNFCCC, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNOPS, UNISDR, WFP, OCHA, WHO, and WMO.

The Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience Initiative brings transformative projects from different agencies in several areas, including for example:

Early warning systems and preparedness: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN will continue to build on its various early warning systems to ensure early action is triggered to reduce impact on agriculture-based livelihoods and develop comprehensive early warning-early action systems, including for El Niño affected countries.. The World Food Programme will launch FoodSecure, financially and programmatically support community-centred action by using forecast-based financing to enable community resilience building and preparedness before climatic shocks occur. “UNEP currently invests US$20 million annually in supporting Ecosystem-based Adaption in 47 countries as part of its EbA Flagship Programme and will catalyse further action to strengthen EbA as part of overall national adaptation planning.

Insurance and social protection:  WFP and Oxfam America, with support from the reinsurance company Swiss Re, are already helping 31,000 vulnerable rural households increase their food security by integrating disaster risk reduction, micro-insurance, livelihoods diversification, credit and savings into productive safety net programmes.   Over the next 10 years, the programme aims to reach an additional 500,000 farmers in 10 countries.   UNEP’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), the largest collaboration between the UN and the insurance industry, has a global membership approaching 100 organizations, including insurers representing 20% of world premium and US$14 trillion in assets. PSI will create a Sustainable Insurance Policy Forum to scale up policy progress by insurance regulators in addressing climate and sustainability risks.

Decision making: To better build physical and natural infrastructure,  UNOPS launched Resilience Pathways, a tool to help countries integrate resilience planning across multiple sectors of their hard and soft infrastructure. It will be progressively implemented across 30 countries by 2020. UN Habitat is currently leading an initiative to help build urban resilience in sub-Saharan Africa. UN-Habitat is leading a global resilience initiative, the City Resilience Profiling Programme to build resilience of the most vulnerable urban populations. The Agency also deployed the CityRap tool in African cities to train city officials to produce their own City Resilience Action Plans in Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar, Cape Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe, Guinea Bissau and the Union of Comoros.  At least 300-400 municipal officials will be trained and the tool will concern at least half a million people cumulatively until mid 2016.

The private sector also has an important role to play, for example, Global Adaptation and Resilience Investment Working Group, launched by Siguler Guff & Co., will mobilize private sector investment in climate adaptation and resilience.  The Working Group is evaluating the potential for a $1 billion investment vehicle that could invest in both developed and developing countries around climate adaptation and resilience.  ING has committed to allocate at least 20 per cent of the proceeds from the issuance of a five-year EUR 500 million and three-year US$800 million green bond to fund new projects, including for resilience.

Governments also pledged support to the initiative. Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, ‘We need to strengthen the resilience of people if we want them to develop. We therefore fully support the Secretary General’s Climate Resilience Initiative and are proud to contribute. The Netherlands will support better decision making and national dialogues on resilience through the ‘Partners for Resilience’ programme.’

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