Water’s Major Role in Disaster Not Reflected in Sendai Agreement

Circle of Blue news correspondent Codi Kozacek writes:

The [Sendai] agreement incorporates water into recommended actions under three of these four priorities. It lists water in directives to promote transboundary cooperation over shared resources, to take disaster risk into account when planning rural development, to increase the resilience of infrastructure, and to support efforts to raise awareness of water-related risks (see sidebar). The measures mark progress from the preceding 2005 Hyogo Framework, which mentioned water in two out of its five priority actions, but stopped short of strongly incorporating water.

“Things have changed a little bit since water obviously receives a little more space,” Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, chair of the Stockholm-based Global Water Partnership, told Circle of Blue the day before the Sendai Framework was finalized. “This means, in the framework draft, water is only mentioned in connection to how to achieve the priorities at national and local levels, and at global and regional levels.”

“We have to see this as a first step, still hoping that water, if not in this context, gets the appropriate attention in the sustainable development goals negotiations which will be concluded in September,” she added.

The Framework, however, does not reflect the outsize role that water plays in global disasters. Droughts and floods caused 70 percent of the $US 2.5 trillion in economic losses from disasters so far this century, according to the United Nations. A study released last week by the Food and Agriculture Organization found that, in the agricultural sector alone, droughts account for more than 85 percent of livestock damages and losses, while floods cause nearly 60 percent of crop damages and losses. Massive floods in the Himalaya two years ago and the severe droughts currently plaguing California and Brazilunderline water’s central role in some of the world’s most costly disasters.

The Sendai conference was the first of three major international negotiations on the docket this year and will give direction to the world’s efforts to curb climate change and usher in a more sustainable development model. The United Nations summit to adopt new Sustainable Development Goals will take place in New York this September. The year culminates with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Paris, where representatives could finally reach a global deal to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Water’s integral role as a medium through which communities experience short-term disasters and long-term climate change challenges alike make it a critical tool for coordinating action in these three areas.

“The disaster risk reduction community and the climate adaptation community have basically been separate,” John Matthews, coordinator of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), told Circle of Blue. “They have not –in terms of how they handle funds and how they envision projects, how they think about risk, how they are handled from a bureaucratic or administration perspective—they’ve been very separate worlds.”

So what is the water community looking for?

The Sendai conference was the first of three major international negotiations on the docket this year and will give direction to the world’s efforts to curb climate change and usher in a more sustainable development model. The United Nations summit to adopt new Sustainable Development Goals will take place in New York this September. The year culminates with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Paris, where representatives could finally reach a global deal to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Water’s integral role as a medium through which communities experience short-term disasters and long-term climate change challenges alike make it a critical tool for coordinating action in these three areas.

“The disaster risk reduction community and the climate adaptation community have basically been separate,” John Matthews, coordinator of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), told Circle of Blue. “They have not – in terms of how they handle funds and how they envision projects, how they think about risk, how they are handled from a bureaucratic or administration perspective – they’ve been very separate worlds.”

“There is also a feeling like, in many of those discussions, there is an attempt at staying away from climate change and an attempt to step away from thinking about water in a more systematic way,” Matthews said. “That is an area of real concern. What we want, what I want, and what I think many in the water community want, is that we have a sense of momentum that’s moving toward the Paris COP.”

 

To read the rest of the story, click here: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/waters-major-role-in-disasters-not-matched-in-new-framework-to-reduce-risk/