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ESCWA Water Development Report 7: Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction in the Arab Region

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Executive Summary

This seventh issue of the ESCWA Water Development Report focuses on climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) within the context of scarcity in the water sector in the Arab region as a whole. A number of global frameworks and strategies have called for an integrated approach to DRR and CCA, since the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe in 2005, and the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali in 2007. The issue gained greater prominence in 2015, as this was a landmark year for the international community, with the adoption of three main and interrelated agendas, namely the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) and the Paris Agreement on climate change. While the Sendai Framework includes ambitious targets, and aims to secure the commitment of countries to DRR strategies, the Paris Agreement calls for addressing “loss and damage” in cases where impacts are beyond the limits of adaptation. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressing all aspects of development, including the management of natural resources, the challenges of climate change and the impacts of natural hazards.

Even though the CCA and DRR communities have followed separate paths, there are numerous challenges and opportunities to be found in bringing the two communities together, stemming from differences and similarities in their methodologies and approaches, and in their means of implementation. While there are clear synergies between DRR and CCA processes that must be exploited, there are also some mutually exclusive elements, which need to be addressed separately. The key similarities between the two processes lie in managing disaster risks related to climate variability and weather extremes, and preparing for risks related to climate change.

Significant differences can also be noted between the two communities, in particular in terms of terminologies, approaches, organizations and institutions, international platforms and mandates, assessment tools, strategies, and funding mechanisms and sources. In that regard, the climate change community has, in the past year, focused on extremes, vulnerability, resilience and adaptation, while the DRR community has addressed disasters, risks, hazards and disaster management or risk reduction. Thus, there is a need to achieve synergy between the two communities in dealing with all aspects of weather-related hazards, particularly in terms of impact modelling and risk assessment.

Several challenges hinder the achievement of integrated approaches in this respect. There is the lack of integrated and common databases on disaster loss and climate-related hazards, insufficient access to information, inadequate understanding of data related to social vulnerability, and insufficient science-based analyses and projections of climate change scenarios. Disaster loss databases are based on observed historical data, whereas climate change databases focus on future projections based on different scenarios. However, information on disaster losses, while it only reflects the historical record, can be used to show the vulnerability of certain areas and regions to future climate change impacts, using regional climate models as tested in this report.

This will help prioritize actions based on evidence, and provide strong justification for investments in CCA and DRR, in certain locations, in national development plans.

Climate projections and vulnerability maps can be used to identify future risks of weatherrelated disasters. Thus, a better understanding of the patterns, trends and quantitative indicators of disaster risk can contribute to improving the process of planning, and enhance the efficiency of investments allocated for megaprojects, such as dams or storage and flood protection infrastructures.

CCA and DRR are managed by different institutions at the global, regional and national levels. This can be attributed partly to their different thematic agendas and related investments by donors, and partly to existing silos within governments. For instance, CCA usually falls under the mandate of the ministry of the environment, while DRR responsibilities usually lie with the cabinet, the ministry of the interior and civil defence. A lack of institutional interaction and integration between DRR, CCA and national development plans may lead to redundant or conflicting policy responses.

Furthermore, CCA and DRR strategies, when they exist, are developed nationally with limited downscaling activities targeting the local, city or community levels.

With respect to the means of implementation for achieving an effective linkage between CCA and DRR, the role played by science and technology, finance, and capacity-building, is increasingly being recognized. Advanced technological equipment is needed to undertake pre-disaster risk assessment, to formulate decisive actions before, during and after a disaster, in order to save lives, reduce losses and support recovery.

The development and transfer of technology are also important for strengthening climate change resilience, establishing early warning systems for different hazards, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In terms of financial resources, both processes call for their mobilization from all sources, public and private, domestic and international, and promote alternative sources of financing, in particular blended finance.

Furthermore, both frameworks stress the importance of capacity-building in dealing with climate change issues and disasters. For instance, the Paris Agreement focuses on enhancing adaptive capacity, while the Sendai Framework focuses more on building anticipatory and absorptive capacities. Capacitybuilding is a cross-cutting issue between DRR, CCA and sustainable development processes at large.

In order to improve policy coherence across CCA and DRR communities in the Arab region, there is a need for increased regional and country-level efforts to overcome the challenges related to climate change, natural hazards and water security, which hinder the achievement of sustainable development in the region. The main recommendations of this report are:

• Adopting an intersectoral approach to respond to climate change impacts and disaster risks; • Establishing and continually maintaining a single online database of past, current and planned DRR, CCA and related issues;

• Developing a comprehensive risk assessment process, based on both climate change modelling and disaster loss surveys, specific to the Arab region and/or to countries making use of the outputs and databases of the Regional Initiative for the Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region (RICCAR);

• Promoting technological innovations and the use of global platforms, using geographic information systems (GIS) and innovations in information and communications technology;

• Making the best use of global platforms while formulating and submitting proposals to, for instance, the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), and linking it to regional mechanisms, such as the ESCWA Technology Centre (ETC), and national technological institutions and research centres;

• Establishing regional scientific platforms to jointly address the issues of CCA and DRR;

• Developing a DRR and CCA regional comprehensive action plan that could serve as a set of guidelines for developing national strategies and plans in Arab States;

• Mainstreaming gender into disaster risk assessments and climate-related policies, by considering gender disaggregated data and indicators in related vulnerability assessments, as followed in RICCAR;

• Clearly identifying the roles and responsibilities of national institutions and stakeholders with respect to risk assessment, risk management and the implementation of DRR and CCA policies and actions, and enhancing governance and institutional settings to facilitate the development of integrated policies and joint programmes and projects;

• Supporting the adoption, at the national level, of advanced tools, such as GIS and remote sensing techniques, for the development of hazard maps and early warning systems for different hazards;

• Mobilizing financial resources from all sources, public and private, domestic and international, and promoting alternative sources of financing;

• Calling upon international and regional support, and mobilizing resources to help national and local governments develop tailored financing mechanisms that can respond to national needs and specificities;

• Exploring the full potential of blended finance, and mobilizing official development assistance (ODA) from regional and international sources;

• Supporting the efforts of the League of Arab States, and other organizational and capacity-building efforts by Arab countries, to implement the Sendai Framework by pursuing the Arab Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy (2015-2030);

• Enhancing public awareness of disaster risks, and of ways to reduce vulnerability and risks at all levels, to build resilience;

• Developing capacities to deal with climate change issues and disasters in the Arab region in an integrated manner.

This seventh issue of the ESCWA Water Development Report is structured into six chapters, covering the above-mentioned topics and issues. The first chapter presents an overview of CCA and DRR discourse, emphasizing the main similarities and key differences between the two. Chapter two focuses on the Arab region and discusses the technical and institutional challenges facing the integration of CCA and DRR there. Chapter three introduces climate change and disaster risk assessment tools and presents the main findings of disaster loss databases in the Arab region. This chapter also attempts to link historical disaster loss databases with RICCAR’s projected extreme indices hotspots and vulnerable areas. Chapter four undertakes a comparative analysis of DRR, CCA and waterrelated SDGs, and examines their references to gender and vulnerable groups. Chapter five tackles the means of implementation of the CCA and DRR agendas, namely technology, financing and capacity-building. Chapter six concludes with a number of recommendations and key messages that aim to improve policy coherence across CCA and DRR communities.