Philippines eco-towns  framework

Delegates from the typhoon-devastated Philippines told the UN climate change conference in Warsaw yesterday about their country's Eco-town Framework, the day after the World Bank warned the world to invest now to protect itself from climate change risks in the future.

“In disaster-prone areas, we’ve learned that there has been an increase in migration from rural to urban, lack of jobs in rural areas, vulnerability in the area and lack of job opportunity. We are seeing that now in Tacloban where there is an exodus of people,” said Manila's Climate Change Commission Vice-Chair Lucille Sering.

She was speaking as her country is still reeling from Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), which has left over 4,000 people dead and still counting, with many injured or missing; and millions homeless.

She described the Eco-town Framework, which was set up last year, as "a demonstration of ecologically and economically stable communities." It currently embraces five pilot towns throughout the Philippines and includes "climate-smart" plans that feature a vulnerability assessment for each area and a natural resource assessment.

The process involves strengthening intergovernmental coordination amongst local councils and strong partnerships set up between government, private sector, academia and civil society coordinated by local government.

Sering said that there had been a 210% increase in funding between 2008-12 with more than half of that allocated for flood control infrastructure.

“We believe that with these projects, our vulnerability to risk and exposure to risk will be minimized. We still believe that the local government should be the one pushing for local climate change initiatives. If we want to build back better, it should be based on our vulnerabilities. We are ready to scale-up best practices on mitigation and adaptation to climate change,” said Sering.

She added: “We wanted to show that addressing climate change cannot be done in such a short term. However, the guidelines now for the climate change and disaster risk in all planning and regulatory boards has been approved by the government. This will change the landscape in our development agenda because there will be some areas that [will be deemed] no longer suitable for development [owing to climate change projectios],” she said.

World Bank warns of $1 trillion losses

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Also at the conference the World Bank released a report urging more action to help poor countries adapt to climate change, build resilience and prepare for more weather-related disasters.

The report on Building Resilience: Integrating Climate And Disaster Risk Development was launched by World Bank Vice-President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.

Kyte said that the growing cost and damage from more extreme weather are staggering. Over the last 30 years, the world has lost more than 2.5 million people and almost $4 trillion to natural disasters.

“Economic losses are rising — from $50 billion each year in the 1980s, to just under $200 billion each year in the last decade. Three quarters of those losses are as a result of extreme weather,” Kyte said. She added that climate change is intensifying the severity of extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan and that the World Bank is mobilizing $500 million in financing and deploying global disaster experts to support the Philippines in recovering from the devastation caused by the typhoon.

The report says that the largest coastal cities of the world could experience combined losses of US$1 trillion by mid-century. It observes that "despite its cost effectiveness over the long term, climate and disaster resilient development can require substantial start-up costs. Safer structures require design changes that typically cost 10 to 50% more to build, and even more if transport or water networks deed to be relocated."

But Kyte added a positive note: "The World Bank believes that climate-related disasters can be reduced and investment costs curtailed. But this requires us to work across disciplines with different partners to make climate and disaster resilience part of our day-to-day development work. The good news is, many of these interventions make sense for development and they help all of us—developing and developed nations alike—prepare for a warmer and more unpredictable world."