What to expect in the upcoming Climate Action Summit? «Climatisation» and Disaster Risk Reduction

Umwelt, Energie & Verkehr

The United Nations Secretary-General has picked the theme «A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win» for the upcoming climate summit in September. Heads of State and Government will meet in New York to agree on transformative outcomes with respect to climate mitigation, climate finance and public mobilisation, to mention a few. To get the readers in tune with what lies ahead, this blog series aims to provide insights on the summit by expounding on «climatisation» of disaster risk reduction frameworks. 

Climate-related disaster risks are compounded by socio-economic, political and infrastructural vulnerabilities, which is why there is greater acknowledgement of the need for integration of climate action, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. The fact that disasters erode developmental gains is increasingly translating into policies, strategies and programmes that focus upon assimilating disaster risk reduction into developmental planning, as seen in the case of Disaster Risk Management initiatives introduced in Bangladesh. In a similar fashion, any form of climate action needs to take into consideration socio-economic deprivation/inequities, recurring political instabilities, and a dire lack of physical and financial infrastructures that compound disaster risks equally, if not more than climate change.

Climatisation of Disaster Risk Reduction Frameworks

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) refers to the «concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters», including socio-economic vulnerabilities. From a legal perspective, DRR and international climate action have mostly been governed under separate regimes, albeit they have several complementarities, especially between climate change adaptation and DRR. The call for integration between these frameworks has strengthened owing to the scientific evidence that reinforces the role of climate change as a multiplier of disaster risks and losses.

This was emphasised at the recent meeting of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Geneva in May 2019, which reiterated that «action on climate and disaster risk, including integrated national policies, strategies and planning, innovative financial and social instruments for climate and disaster risk reduction, including gender considerations» would be «highly relevant» for the climate summit.

The discourse on DRR is gradually being «climatized», with more emphasis on climate change adaptation and mitigation at the local, national, regional and international levels, as a means of tackling disaster risks. «Climatisation» in this context could be seen mainly in the way in which the international climate order/regime is being used as a platform to drive policy discussions and international action on DRR. In addition, «climatization» is also manifesting itself through integration of climate concerns into the DRR frameworks.

Is «climatization» an effective move?

On the one hand, «climatization» has helped several countries, especially small island states, to address the policy gaps between intensifying disaster risks and resilience. On the other hand, it also poses the risk of shifting the attention to mitigation (reducing emissions) as in the case of the international climate regime that continues to be mitigation-centric, in terms of both financial and technological provisions.

While climate mitigation could indeed help reduce vulnerabilities (for example, by investing in low-carbon technologies), one needs to realise that even if emissions are brought to zero, these risks would continue to linger, especially for countries that have weak infrastructure (political/governance, socio-economic, and so on). For instance, the global movement towards alternative meat products for mitigation would leave a large section of vulnerable populations in the developing economies even more vulnerable (to various forms of disruptions), if they are not provided alternative nutritional and livelihood options.

Even in the case of adaptation that is more closely linked to DRR, the larger emphasis is on physical changes in the socio-ecological systems and not as much on transformational changes (within the systems). In most developing countries that are firmly anchored in the path of development, transformational systemic changes (in relation to the factors mentioned above) are required to develop resilience. Transformational changes could only happen when ecological and disaster risk considerations are aligned with development policy planning, socio-economic risk assessment, budget allocation and other governance mechanisms.

Building synergies is the way forward

There may be greater recognition of the need for building synergies between the Paris Agreement (on climate change), the Sendai framework (for disaster risk reduction) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but in action, there are little efforts being made by nation states, international organisations (including the UN and donor/aid agencies) and other actors to achieve it in practice.

Given these circumstances, the upcoming climate summit needs to address the pitfalls of «climatization» of other domains of governance and help streamline the process of integration and coordination of the three agendas (mentioned above) internationally, without hierarchising issues. This is of essence to all countries, particularly the island countries, which are at the forefront of facing and addressing climate risks.


This blog post is the first of a series on climate change and Disaster Risk Reduction, check our website in a few days to read the next blog post focusing this time on Small Island States.

Source Image: photo retrieved on pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/high-water-park-bench-flooded-red-123222/. Photo in the public domain.